Cub Cadet Garden Tractor Restoration

A 21st-century odyssey: Restoring an IH Cub Cadet garden tractor

| May 2004

  • On this Model 100 frame, the forward-most set of holes were worn thin, and the metal was cracked. Flat washers were welded over the cracked metal and ground to the contour of the frame rails. If repairs such as this are made, be sure to add the metal only to the side where increased thickness will not interfere with assembly. This repair won’t please purists, but it’s simple, effective and barely noticeable.
    On this Model 100 frame, the forward-most set of holes were worn thin, and the metal was cracked. Flat washers were welded over the cracked metal and ground to the contour of the frame rails. If repairs such as this are made, be sure to add the metal only to the side where increased thickness will not interfere with assembly. This repair won’t please purists, but it’s simple, effective and barely noticeable.
  • Kate Will takes a spin on her very nicely refurbished Cub Cadet Model 109.
    Kate Will takes a spin on her very nicely refurbished Cub Cadet Model 109.
  • With any gear-driven Cub Cadet, at the very least, remove the shift cover from the transmission and inspect the gears and shift forks. Tighten the shift forks, as they often loosen up enough to make full engagement of a specific gear difficult or impossible. If the tractor jumps out of gear, a loose fork may be the problem. If the forks are tight and the tractor jumps out of gear, then a more thorough cleaning and disassembly of the transmission are required to renew the poppet springs and balls.
    With any gear-driven Cub Cadet, at the very least, remove the shift cover from the transmission and inspect the gears and shift forks. Tighten the shift forks, as they often loosen up enough to make full engagement of a specific gear difficult or impossible. If the tractor jumps out of gear, a loose fork may be the problem. If the forks are tight and the tractor jumps out of gear, then a more thorough cleaning and disassembly of the transmission are required to renew the poppet springs and balls.
  • The Cub Cadet Model 124 that Dan and Hank Will restored. Hank made the blade for the tractor to help push New Hampshire snow.
    The Cub Cadet Model 124 that Dan and Hank Will restored. Hank made the blade for the tractor to help push New Hampshire snow.
  • Author Hank Will on his Cub Cadet Model 70.
    Author Hank Will on his Cub Cadet Model 70.
  • Hank (left) and Dan Will are well into the assembly of Dan's Model 124.
    Hank (left) and Dan Will are well into the assembly of Dan's Model 124.
  • A Cub Cadet Model 109 prior to restoration. This hydrostatic tractor routinely lugged down and stalled when it was run for a short while. The problem was caused by a partially plugged hydraulic line.
    A Cub Cadet Model 109 prior to restoration. This hydrostatic tractor routinely lugged down and stalled when it was run for a short while. The problem was caused by a partially plugged hydraulic line.
  • After returning to California from a cross-country trip, Hank unloaded several oringal-condition Cub Cadets including (left to right) a Model 125 with hydraulic life, and Models 149, 72 and 105. These garden tractors await their turn in the shop, which was crowded with other tractors.
    After returning to California from a cross-country trip, Hank unloaded several oringal-condition Cub Cadets including (left to right) a Model 125 with hydraulic life, and Models 149, 72 and 105. These garden tractors await their turn in the shop, which was crowded with other tractors.
  • A Cub Cadet Model 70 prior to restoartion. The frame on this tractor was replaced because a previous owner pried the tunnel loose.
    A Cub Cadet Model 70 prior to restoartion. The frame on this tractor was replaced because a previous owner pried the tunnel loose.
  • Don't be afraid to tip the Cub Cadet on its side, as was done with this Model 70 for easy access to the steering gear-mounting bolts, and for easy removal of the steering gear, which must be pulled from the bottom. On narrow-frame models, it's easier to remove the drive shaft with the tractor on its side — which has already been completed here.
    Don't be afraid to tip the Cub Cadet on its side, as was done with this Model 70 for easy access to the steering gear-mounting bolts, and for easy removal of the steering gear, which must be pulled from the bottom. On narrow-frame models, it's easier to remove the drive shaft with the tractor on its side — which has already been completed here.
  • Kate Will uses a tap to cut threads in a hole that's drilled into the axle for a grease fitting, which will improve the working life of both the front axle and the front-axle pivot pin. Regular greasing prevents the pivot pin from freezing in the axle.
    Kate Will uses a tap to cut threads in a hole that's drilled into the axle for a grease fitting, which will improve the working life of both the front axle and the front-axle pivot pin. Regular greasing prevents the pivot pin from freezing in the axle.
  • A Cub Cadet Model 100 with the hood nad grille assembly removed. The gas tank was left on this engine during disassembly because it was completely dry. The PTO clutch and PTO pulley are visible on the front of the engine, as is the starter/generator on the left side of the picture. The muffler isn’t corret for a Cub Cadet, but it was reused anyway.
    A Cub Cadet Model 100 with the hood nad grille assembly removed. The gas tank was left on this engine during disassembly because it was completely dry. The PTO clutch and PTO pulley are visible on the front of the engine, as is the starter/generator on the left side of the picture. The muffler isn’t corret for a Cub Cadet, but it was reused anyway.
  • A Cub Cadet Model 109 after the sheet metal, engine and grille components were removed. The finned aluminum component is the hydraulic pump side of the hydro unit. The hydraulic motor is directly beneath it. The hydro is left unpainted to help with heat dissipation.
    A Cub Cadet Model 109 after the sheet metal, engine and grille components were removed. The finned aluminum component is the hydraulic pump side of the hydro unit. The hydraulic motor is directly beneath it. The hydro is left unpainted to help with heat dissipation.
  • Two shaft seals on the hydro for this Cub Cadet Model 109 were accessible once the pump and motor were disassembled. The seals are on the lower left and center left of the picture. The hydraulic motor assembly is beneath the blue cloth, where it was protected from dirt while the seals were replaced.
    Two shaft seals on the hydro for this Cub Cadet Model 109 were accessible once the pump and motor were disassembled. The seals are on the lower left and center left of the picture. The hydraulic motor assembly is beneath the blue cloth, where it was protected from dirt while the seals were replaced.

  • On this Model 100 frame, the forward-most set of holes were worn thin, and the metal was cracked. Flat washers were welded over the cracked metal and ground to the contour of the frame rails. If repairs such as this are made, be sure to add the metal only to the side where increased thickness will not interfere with assembly. This repair won’t please purists, but it’s simple, effective and barely noticeable.
  • Kate Will takes a spin on her very nicely refurbished Cub Cadet Model 109.
  • With any gear-driven Cub Cadet, at the very least, remove the shift cover from the transmission and inspect the gears and shift forks. Tighten the shift forks, as they often loosen up enough to make full engagement of a specific gear difficult or impossible. If the tractor jumps out of gear, a loose fork may be the problem. If the forks are tight and the tractor jumps out of gear, then a more thorough cleaning and disassembly of the transmission are required to renew the poppet springs and balls.
  • The Cub Cadet Model 124 that Dan and Hank Will restored. Hank made the blade for the tractor to help push New Hampshire snow.
  • Author Hank Will on his Cub Cadet Model 70.
  • Hank (left) and Dan Will are well into the assembly of Dan's Model 124.
  • A Cub Cadet Model 109 prior to restoration. This hydrostatic tractor routinely lugged down and stalled when it was run for a short while. The problem was caused by a partially plugged hydraulic line.
  • After returning to California from a cross-country trip, Hank unloaded several oringal-condition Cub Cadets including (left to right) a Model 125 with hydraulic life, and Models 149, 72 and 105. These garden tractors await their turn in the shop, which was crowded with other tractors.
  • A Cub Cadet Model 70 prior to restoartion. The frame on this tractor was replaced because a previous owner pried the tunnel loose.
  • Don't be afraid to tip the Cub Cadet on its side, as was done with this Model 70 for easy access to the steering gear-mounting bolts, and for easy removal of the steering gear, which must be pulled from the bottom. On narrow-frame models, it's easier to remove the drive shaft with the tractor on its side — which has already been completed here.
  • Kate Will uses a tap to cut threads in a hole that's drilled into the axle for a grease fitting, which will improve the working life of both the front axle and the front-axle pivot pin. Regular greasing prevents the pivot pin from freezing in the axle.
  • A Cub Cadet Model 100 with the hood nad grille assembly removed. The gas tank was left on this engine during disassembly because it was completely dry. The PTO clutch and PTO pulley are visible on the front of the engine, as is the starter/generator on the left side of the picture. The muffler isn’t corret for a Cub Cadet, but it was reused anyway.
  • A Cub Cadet Model 109 after the sheet metal, engine and grille components were removed. The finned aluminum component is the hydraulic pump side of the hydro unit. The hydraulic motor is directly beneath it. The hydro is left unpainted to help with heat dissipation.
  • Two shaft seals on the hydro for this Cub Cadet Model 109 were accessible once the pump and motor were disassembled. The seals are on the lower left and center left of the picture. The hydraulic motor assembly is beneath the blue cloth, where it was protected from dirt while the seals were replaced.

Restoring International Harvester Cub Cadet garden tractors is enough to make some collectors feel as lost as Odysseus as he wandered in search of home after the battle of Troy.

Yet, fear not! Hope isn't lost. Rather than succumb to the Sirens' call and give up on restoring that Cub Cadet parked in the garage, here are a few good suggestions to help get that little yellow-and-white tractor back into the garden.

Why restore a Cub Cadet?

International Harvester first introduced the Cub Cadet line in 1961. During the 21 years of  IH Cub Cadet production, nearly 700,000 were sold. Because of the line's diversity, the "built to last" quality of their design and affordability, Cub Cadet tractors are now highly collectable — and very useful. Even a 40-year-old Cub Cadet in original condition often will be capable of plowing the garden and cutting the grass. But many folks like to refurbish, or restore, their Cub Cadets for harder and longer use, or just for the sheer pleasure of making them like new.

Refurbishing a Cub Cadet is relatively easy for someone with basic mechanical skills. Unlike a vintage steam traction engine or gas tractor, Cub Cadets have relatively few parts and don't take up much room in the shop. Couple that with their simplicity and sturdy construction, the easy availability of replacement and used parts — as well as numerous online and print resources — and there are plenty of reasons to make that vintage Cub Cadet shine again. The finished tractor will be useful, beautiful and a great source of pride. Most of all, Cub Cadet restorers will enjoy an engaging project and learn much throughout the journey.

Research first — wrench later

The entire project will be easier and more enjoyable if you learn as much about Cub Cadets as possible. For research, make use of Cub Cadet-related websites, books, vintage brochures and even the McCormick/IH archives (see “The Tough International Harvester Cub Cadet Compact Garden Tractor” for more information and resources).

You should be familiar with the machines before restoring a Cub Cadet. Attend tractor shows where Cub Cadets are likely to be displayed. Take pictures of the tractors and ask questions of enthusiasts — be sure to take notes. In no time, you will know whether restoring a Cub Cadet is a burning passion or a passing fancy. For those who haven't secured a project tractor, the research process will help focus the search for a suitable candidate among the many models that exist.

Cub Cadets can be found virtually anywhere. Look for a flash of yellow and white — or even red — while driving through the countryside. Check local newspaper listings, trader publications or the Internet. Ideally, a would-be restorer should locate a complete, running tractor that doesn't need major body or mechanical work. If the basic components are sound such as the front axle, transmission and differential, if the engine doesn't have any holes in it and if the sheet metal and frame haven't rusted through, it’s a good candidate for restoration.



If the tractor runs, so much the better. Give it a spin to determine the condition of the drive train. If the Cub Cadet is a hydrostatic model, check the operation in forward and reverse. Some whining noise from the hydro is normal. If the tractor is a gear-driven model, check for noise in all three forward gears and reverse. Some gear whine is normal, but clicking or bearing growl indicates major transmission or differential work ahead.

If the tractor doesn't run, you'll have to take the seller's word for its condition. Obviously, some of the best finds will be tractors that aren't running — but determine if the price is worth the risk. Generally, parts are easy to find, and engines are easy to fix. Used hydros and transaxles are also easily obtained, although such parts add cost to a restoration project, especially if they must be shipped.

Ben
2/5/2018 7:51:55 AM

Hello, I was recently given a vintage cub cadet riding mower and I would be interested and finding out what year it is, I was told it's a 1960s but not sure of the year yet.


Jim Buck
4/21/2009 5:38:51 AM

I just bought a Cub Cadet and I suppose the first thing I would like to know from some helpful soul is the year it was made. It came with a plow and everything works to my knowledge but time will tell. It says on the side that it is a 1211 and the Model # 785275 and Serial #149630100. I would really appreciate any help with this question and then I may proceed to put it in Bristol Fashion. Thank You Jim Buck


Butch Mckie
3/25/2009 10:41:49 AM

excelant article. I am coming down with "yellow fever"