The Ongoing Cub Cadet Garden Tractor Restoration

The odyssey continues: Restoring an IH Cub Cadet garden tractor

| June 2004

In the last episode, the Cub Cadet restoration odyssey was well underway, with the Cub Cadet garden tractor dismantled and parts meticulously cleaned and renewed.

That potentially overwhelming work offers nearly as much temptation to quit as Odysseus felt when he encountered the beguiling sorceress, Circe, on the island of Aeaea. Once begun, however, the assembly process will motivate you to continue the work, despite such temptations. When the Cub Cadet shines like new, the long journey will finally be worthwhile.

Turning the corner

The first real reassembly steps in an International Harvester Cub Cadet restoration project will convince folks that all the preceding work has been worthwhile. In fact, it's not unusual to begin some assembly as parts are cleaned and/or primed and painted. For example, after carefully thinking through the painting and assembly details, the frame (with pedals and other such hard-to-get-at parts installed), front axle and transaxle can be rejoined. Better yet, attach wheels to the assembly and the rolling chassis becomes a mobile foundation for later assembly steps. If the tractor is a hydro model, install a new oil filter before rejoining the transaxle and frame — filter access is much easier when the tractor is disassembled.

As the Cub Cadet comes together piece by piece, you'll have a tendency to rush because the finished product can be readily envisioned. Be patient. To avoid making hasty mistakes, be sure to regularly consult the manual. Be particularly certain that the levers and spacers on shafts are in order before buttoning them up so they don't have to be taken apart later.

To preserve the tractor's beautiful and hard-won finish, employ forethought during assembly to avoid dings. Nothing is more frustrating than taking a wrench and hammer to a beautifully painted assembly because a critical component was, left out or incorrectly installed.

As a rule, decal application is the last step of the restoration project, but the operator's pedestal decal on most Cub Cadet models must be applied before the steering column, choke cable, throttle, ammeter, cigarette lighter and steering wheel.

Engine considerations

Even if the engine runs well, it should be carefully cleaned and inspected. If it doesn't smoke or knock, then follow a few simple maintenance steps. Clean the cooling fins and remove the cylinder head(s). With the head removed, carefully scrape excess carbon from the top of the piston and around the valves. Inspect the cylinder wall for significant ridges and score marks. Using the manual as a guide, check that the head isn't warped, and re-install it with a new gasket. Be certain to tighten the head bolts to the proper torque in the sequence outlined in the manual. Then inspect and clean the entire breather assembly.

If the crankshaft seals are leaking, but the engine internals aren't worn enough to warrant a complete tear down, remove the PTO pulley and the flywheel from the crankshaft, pry out the old seals and install new ones (see details below).

With the pulley and flywheel back in place, paint the engine. The carburetor should be cleaned and the float adjusted before it's installed.