Items for a Smooth Tractor Salvage Operation

Heading out on a tractor salvage operation? A bit of planning saves time and trouble. 

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Rescuing old tractors, like this McCormick-Deering 10-20 crawler, can be smooth sailing if you come prepared.

Keep this checklist in mind:

  • Fuel. All really old vehicles run on gasoline; five gallons is plenty. We carry gasoline in sturdy five-gallon military cans. Gas cans made of tin and plastic are unsafe to be transported in a vehicle. Even a major fender bender can cause them to rupture.
  • Engine lubrication. Engine oil and gear oil can be transported without concern. A case of 20-weight engine oil is easy to carry along and proves adequate both in volume and viscosity (at least for temporary running) for any engine being salvaged.
  • Two five-gallon cans of water. You’ll almost never need that much but sometimes a vehicle’s cooling system is so compromised that water doesn’t stay in it very long. Take plenty, and you’ll be able to add more as needed.
  • Batteries (6- or 12-volt). If the vehicle you’re working on is a crank-start with magneto, you can ignore this. But if the retrieval vehicle was originally battery equipped, take a good battery of proper voltage and good jumper cables. Take a modern 12-volt battery jumper box even if you have a good 12-volt battery for a 12-volt vehicle. Extended difficulty in starting a long dormant engine often saps more than one electrical source before you get the engine running.
  • Tow strap. Essential for getting wheeled vehicles running. Often a tow works when a starter fails to get things running.
  •  Funnels in varied sizes and types with bendable spouts.
  • Squirt cans containing gasoline, engine oil and brake fluid. The brake fluid is not for brake activation: Never try to activate hydraulic brakes during a salvage operation. Often they will go on but will not come off, locking up the wheels. Brake fluid in a squirt can is used to lubricate anything made of rubber that needs to allow movement. Oil destroys rubber but brake fluid does not.
  • Portable air compressor. A small one powered by a gasoline engine can prove invaluable. Rear tractor tires can be pumped to about 5 pounds (front tires, about 20 pounds) if they have inner tubes (tubeless tires are usually hopeless) and the vehicle has not been moved. Beware of blowouts! Low pressure rounds out tires enough to allow them to roll; add more pressure and you run the risk of blow-outs. Battery jumper box-type compressors can be used, but they take a long time to inflate one car tire and are useless trying to inflate truck tires.
  • Portable toolbox. Don’t be surprised if your best efforts to be prepared fall short. When salvaging tractors, there are almost always surprises. That is part of the fun.
  • Paper towels and waterless hand cleaner for clean-up: You’ll need it! Take all residue home and leave the retrieval site cleaner than you found it.
Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment