In The Garage

How to fix a pothole in your gravel driveway

Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways?

-Dad

I realize this article may not be for everyone, because

A. not everyone has a gravel driveway and
B. not everyone has access to a tractor with a blade.

For those who this situation applies to however, I will show you how to quickly and easily fix a pothole in your gravel driveway.

fix pothole in a gravel drive

It is a fact of life for those of us that live in more rural areas. We have gravel driveways. Gravel driveways do not last forever and get potholes after a year or two that require filling. These driveways also tend to get humps in the middle that need to be bladed down and the gravel pushed back into the area where the tires roll. The ideal solution to these two problems is to push the raised middle of the driveway into the potholes to fill them.

fix pothole in gravel drive

I usually take my tractor and attach the blade to the 3-point connection on the rear. I set the blade to about a 30 degree angle for the first pass. This will allow me to push the gravel from the hump in the middle off to the side as I drive down the center of the driveway.

fix pothole in gravel drive

Once I have made the first pass, the hump in the middle of the drive has been pushed to the side where the potholes were. As you can see in the photo above however, it is not exactly smooth and we have just traded one problem for another. The solution for this is to change the angle on the blade so that it is perpendicular to the driveway at this point and make one more pass to smooth things out. For the second pass, I usually set the blade to not ride quite as low as the first time, so that it will slide over the top of and smooth out the freshly moved gravel.

fix pothole in gravel drive

As you can see, with some proper maintenance, you can extend the life of your gravel driveway. This maintenance took less than a half hour and made our drive much smoother to drive on. Remember, a small pothole is easier to fill than a large one, so perform your maintenance early and don’t wait until a small problem becomes a big one.

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In The Garage

Why won’t my tractor start (pt. 3)

What makes more noise than a tractor?
2 tractors!

-Dad

For those who have not read about my on-going struggles with “Blue”, my 1964 Ford 2000 tractor, you can catch up by reading PART 1 and PART 2 by clicking the links.

Picture this: You have just spent hours on the tractor, brush hogging a field. You are nearly done and you run out of gas. No big deal. You get your spouse to bring a can of gas out to you and you fill up the tractor. You hop back on and hit the starter. Nothing happens. What could be the problem? That’s the scenario I faced yesterday and had to troubleshoot yet another problem with Blue.

Since there was no attempt from the starter to start the engine at all and the tractor was just running, I felt safe to assume that we should begin by looking at the ignition system. Remember that word… assume… it will come back to haunt us later.

I began by taking a look at the starter button on the tractor. Everything looked normal there. There was no corrosion on the connection under the boot.

starter button on a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

I then moved on to the starter solenoid. I looked at it and didn’t see any corrosion on the connection points.

Starter solenoid on 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

I decided that since the starter was not even attempting to start the tractor, I would check out the solenoid with the multi-meter. I hooked it up and saw that there was no continuity from one side to the other. This is as it should be because the starter button was not being pressed. I tried again with the starter pressed and still saw no continuity. Now this is a problem. A solenoid works by taking a small amount of power (from the starter button) and closing a switch to allow a larger amount of power to flow through it (from the battery to the starter). When I pressed the starter, the small amount of power from the starter button should have closed that switch and allowed power to flow through the solenoid.

testing the starter solenoid on a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

I had found my problem. The solenoid was bad. I called up the local parts shop and asked if they had any in stock. After a few minutes the clerk who had answered the phone came back and said that they did and that they were only 12 dollars. I thanked him and hung up. Great news for me I thought. I will just bypass the solenoid to start the tractor in order to get it back to the barn where I can work on it more easily. To accomplish this, I took a piece a wire and touched the top pole of the solenoid to the bottom pole, effectively creating a new circuit around the solenoid instead of through it.

bypassing the starter solenoid on a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

There was only one small problem. Nothing happened when I did this. I was confused at this point, as power should have been flowing from the battery directly to the starter at this point. It should have done something at least. Time to back up and punt. Just on a whim, I decided to test the battery with my multi-meter. It showed less than one volt. Apparently my battery had been completely sapped while I was in the field this afternoon. I removed the battery and took it to the barn to put it on the charger. I had assumed for the whole time I was troubleshooting that the battery had power. You know the old saying about the word assume (it makes an ASS out of U and ME).

The moral of this story is never to assume anything as it can lead you down the wrong path. In this case, it led me down the path of checking the starter button and solenoid. Had I not made this assumption and started checking the electrical system from the battery first, I could have saved myself an hour of sitting out in a field in the hot sun working on Blue, trying to figure out what was wrong.

Be sure to like and share this so I know you guys are out there.

In The Garage

Why won’t my tractor start? (pt. 2)

What sort of robot turns into a tractor?
A trans-farmer

-Dad

So for those who haven’t been reading along about my struggles with “Blue”, my 1964 Ford 2000 tractor, you can read part one of this series here.

A few days after working out the issue with the points inside the distributor, I went back out to work on my tractor. I remembered that it started right up, ran for a few seconds, then died. I went back to the barn to see what the issue was. I turned the key and hit the starter button. To my surprise, it fired right up. I cautiously stood there and listened to it for about 5 seconds before I began to cheer internally. “It must just have been one of those things”, I thought to myself. Right about the time I got lulled into a false sense of security that Blue was indeed fixed, it unexpectedly and suddenly died.

Now after 2 easy start ups, followed by 2 sudden deaths, I began to formulate a theory of what was going on with the tractor. I suspected that what was happening was that initially, the tractor started and ran fine as it was using the gas inside of the carburetor. When that gas was used up, it died as the engine was getting no more gas. It seemed to me like this was going to be a fuel flow problem.

As I am not a mechanic, I began searching the internet for ideas on what could be causing the problem. I began listing the potential problems in my head as I tried various things to get Blue to start.

  • vapor lock in the fuel tank causing the fuel not to flow? – Just open the gas cap
  • is there fuel in it? – double check the fuel level before I look REALLY dumb
  • it the fuel turned on? – double check to ensure that I had not turned the fuel off to the carb and didn’t remember doing it
  • is the gas old? – no, just picked up fresh gas at the beginning of summer

After checking the easy stuff, I began to read a bit more on the internet about what could be the problem. This is where the limits of my mechanical aptitude would be pushed to the max and I was heading deeper and deeper into unknown territory.

  • Could there be varnish in the jets inside the carb causing them not to spray fuel out? – not likely, but possible. This would require a breakdown of the carb and good cleaning and replacement of the jets.
  • Are the needle floats in the carb stuck? Once again, this requires tearing into the carb and giving it a good cleaning, something I have never done. One old time farmer suggested that a quick couple of raps on the side of the carb with a hammer would fix the issue… HA HA HA, that’s right! I’ll just give old Blue a whoopin’ until it starts!
  • Blocked fuel line? – once again, this problem seemed like a bigger job than I wanted to tackle right away.

Running out of options, I was left with only one easy thing to try. I was going to have to beat Blue until it started.

tapping on the carburetor of a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

I grabbed my hammer out of my toolbox located on the wheel well and walked up to the carb. Giving it a couple of good taps from multiple directions, I thought there is no way this can work. I walked back up to the starter and while rolling my eyes at the “dumb” thing I had just done and pressed the starter. Blue started right up. Blue kept running. I was humbled and have decided not to discount those “old timer” tricks so quickly next time.

driving a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

We live in a digital world, where things are either 1s or 0s. On or Off, they either work or they are broken. There are still things around from a time before all of that, such as this tractor, where we have to remember that sometimes you CAN fix things with a hammer. Sometimes, it pays to listen to your elders (even if you are more grey than not like me) when it comes to getting these things to work. They had experience and knowledge dealing with these mechanical wonders full of moving parts and not a computer chip to be found in them.

So, I decided to take Blue out to do some brush-hogging. Below are the before and after pictures of a “field” that had almost gone back to oak trees.

brush hogging – before
brush hogging – after

I was out working on the tractor for a few hours when Blue died suddenly. “Are you kidding me?” I thought. I climbed down and began to to diagnose the problem again. Let’s start with the simple stuff. Is there gas in it? I open the gas tank and sure enough, I have run Blue bone dry. Simple fix! I call my wife and ask her to drive me a gas can out to the back 30 where I am at. After fashioning a makeshift funnel (because she forgot one) out of an old water bottle, I was able to get most of the gas in the tractor and only a little bit on myself. I hopped up on Blue and hit the starter. Nothing. No solenoid click, no engine turn over, nothing.

It appears that now there is an issue with either the starter or the solenoid getting too hot and refusing to work until it cools down. I *almost* had you working just right, Blue! It is getting late and I am tired. I will work on it tomorrow.

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In The Garage

Why won’t my tractor start?

How did the farmer find his missing cow? He tractor down.

-Dad

As promised, I am writing to tell you of what my daughter and I found while diagnosing my 1964 Ford 2000 tractor on Father’s Day. It wouldn’t start. I tried starting it with the choke in. I tired starting it with the choke out. I tried starting it until the battery died and had to be recharged. I even tried cursing it up one side and down the other. Nothing I did would even make Blue (as my tractor is so affectionately known by) even attempt to turn over on its own.

spark plugs on a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

My daughter and I sat down on the right side of the tractor and began the task of diagnosing the tractor. I told her that we will start with the ignition system as it has given my problems in the past. The ignition systems on these old tractors are really quite simple. You will not find anything like them in today’s modern engines. So, like any good mechanic, we decided to work from one end of the system and work our way back until we found the problem.

removing the spark plug on a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

We pulled the wire off of the first spark plug and removed it to check for signs of fouling or burning.

PRO TIP: Unless you mark the wires and the position on the distributor cap, it is best to leave the rest of the wires on if possible. Putting the wires back on it the wrong order can cause the pistons of the engine to fire out of order and will cause the engine to not run correctly, or perhaps even damage it.

spark plug

Now that the spark plug was out, we took at look at it. It didn’t look damaged, nor was it too junked up to be firing, so I began to suspect that the problem was actually electrical in nature. I had my daughter hop up on the driver’s seat for the next step.

screwdriver stuck in s spark plug wire

I stuck a screwdriver into the boot of the plug wire that we had taken off of the spark plug. I held the shaft of the screwdriver near a piece of exposed metal on the body of the tractor. While making sure to grip the screwdriver by the handle and not the metal, I asked my daughter to turn the key and hit the starter. Hmm… no spark. There should have been a spark jump from the screwdriver to the metal of the tractor frame. This tells me that no electricity is getting to the spark plugs. It is time to dig a little deeper.

distributor on a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

If you follow the spark plug wires back, they will lead you to a distributor. This is what distributes the power going to the spark plugs. I checked the outside of the cap for any visible damage and finding none, decided to proceed with removing it by simply flipping the two little blue clasps on it. (you can see one of them pictured above) I know I have said it once, but I will say it again, save yourself some headache from having to go look up a distributor wiring diagram and leave the wires hooked up if you can when removing the distributor cap.

rotor bug on a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

Underneath we saw the black rotor bug. The rotor bug spins around in a circle and delivers power to the 4 (or 6 or 8) connection points on the inside of the distributor cap one at a time. These connection points are what the spark plug wires are hooked up to. We inspected the rotor bug for signs of corrosion and then removed it and the cap covering the internals of the distributor.

distributor on a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

Once again, I had my daughter hit the starter so I could watch the points and see if there was a spark passing between the points when the arm opened and closed as the distributor turned. Hmm… something it odd here. The arm holding the points is not moving back and forth as the distributor turns. Therefore, the points are never touching together to let electricity pass between them. It appears something has moved out of place here.

points on a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

Well, this should be an easy fix. I had my daughter bump the starter until the distributor stopped at the flattest point on the shaft. I then loosened the 2 screws holding the arm into place and let the points rest upon each other. I then tightened the screws down and put everything back together in the reverse order that I had taken it apart.

A few moments later we turned the key, hit the ignition and we had a running tractor! Well, for a little bit at least… Great! Now it sounds like it may need some carburetor adjustments. It will start now. It just won’t STAY running. More on that in the future.

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In The Garage

Checking the oil in a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

Where does oil come from?

A Slick-a-saurus Rex

-Dad

Here is an often overlooked skill that should be preformed on vehicles of every kind. I check the oil in our car, our truck, our UTV, our mower, etc. Running low or even (gasp) out of oil is VERY bad for an engine. It can cause damage or even destruction of the engine.

For Father’s Day, my daughter and I decided to go work on our old tractor one last time to see if we could get it to start before we called a mechanic. I will write another post about that, but while we were working on it, my daughter asked me how to check the oil. This is a skill everyone should know, so here is how to check the oil on a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor.

Oil dipstick handle on a 1964 Ford 2000 Tractor

On the right side of the engine block, you will find the oil dipstick. Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean with a paper towel or shop rag. Replace the dipstick and remove it again. Note where the level of the oil covers the dipstick to.

Dipstick on a 1964 Ford 2000 Tractor

The oil level should be between the Add or Low mark and the Full mark. If it is low, then be sure to add some oil to the oil fill. If it is over full, then you will need to drain some by loosening the oil drain and letting some out.

Dipstick on a 1964 Ford 2000 Tractor

Be sure to check the color and consistency of the oil as well. The is the best way to tell when you need an oil change. If it is dirty (black), then it is time to change it. If there is any white in it (water) you have other issues to check out with your engine such as a blown gasket.

Always remember to check your oil. It takes only a few seconds and can save you a major repair bill in the future if you catch an issue quickly.

Be sure to like and share this so I know you guys are out there!