Questions and Answers (FAQ's)
By: John Smith of Old Ford Tractors
Following are questions we're frequently asked about our tractors or Ford tractors in general. I've tried to answer them with facts as I know them, but many require personal opinion or speculation. Your mileage may vary.
Parts are not hard to find at all. Locally, your Ford(New Holland) tractor dealer likely carries a good supply or can get quick delivery on parts. Here are some phone, mail order and internet sources:
Just 8N's - Many reproduction parts that were not previously available. Also full line Tisco dealer. THE source for correct, top quality restoration parts. www.just8ns.com
Valu-Bilt Tractor Parts - full line of new replacement parts, used and rebuilt parts and equipment. Call 1-888-828-3276 and request a catalog. www.valu-bilt.com
Stevens Tractor Parts - full line of new replacement parts. Call 1-800-333-9143 and request a catalog or visit www.stevenstractor.com
The original 8N operators manual is an excellent source of information on using your tractor and covers maintenance and many general mechanical repairs. Reprints of the operators manual as well as the master parts manual and the I&T FO-4 shop manual are available for a reasonable cost from many sources. I recommend buying all 3 manuals. You can get them from Just 8N's
The Woods belly mower I use has done an excellent job. It's very well built and has given me no trouble at all in 7 years of mowing. It takes about 3 hours to install the first time. When the mower is installed, the rear lift arms are removed. If you need to use other attachments, you have to remove the belly mower. It's not very practical to do that, but possible if you're ambitious. I recommend having a dedicated tractor for the belly mower, otherwise get a rear 3 point finish mower. But, for ease of operation and handling around obstacles, the belly mower is hard to beat. For pricing information on Woods mowers, contact your local implement dealer or check on the web with Woods online.
My front blade is an ARPS angle dozer blade. Dearborn made one just like it and also made V snowplows. Finding a used one is the only way I know to get one. As far as I know, nobody makes anything like it anymore. I found mine by running a "wanted" ad in our local shopper/advertiser paper. I also get questions from folks who have one of these but do not have the mounting brackets or have parts missing. Here's a parts drawing for the Dearborn 19-2 blade (click here) . Here's a shot of the front mounting brackets of the ARPS unit as installed on the tractor (click here) . Here's a shot of the same ARPS unit from the rear (click here) . Here's a shot of the ARPS brackets off the tractor (click here).
There are a lot of old front end loaders out there for sale, mostly the Dearborn or Wagner models. Most old pipe type loaders made the operator climb on the tractor from the back, since they blocked the side access. Many tractor and implement dealers will have used loaders for sale. For an example of a new, more modern loader, click on Paulson Loaders .
You can get them from Just 8N's
This small lever is the position control lever.
When it is straight up (vertical) the lift is in position control. The hydraulic lift quadrant lever will position the implement in relation to the quadrant lever position. When the small lever is down (horizontal) the lift is in draft control mode. Plowing is about the only time you use draft control. The lift will raise or lower the plow slightly to maintain a constant draft pressure which keeps the furrow at a uniform depth.
The front tires are bias ply automotive tires on homemade rims. I used these because I happened to have them, and they're easy on the grass when making sharp turns. You can buy 4 or 5 rib ag tires for the regular 16" 8N wheels that would work just as well, or you can buy new front rims in 14" or 15" sizes and whatever width you choose to fit the automotive tires of your choice. The 3 rib ag tires, especially the 4.00 x 19" tend to leave marks in the sod when turning sharply.
The rear tires are Armstrong 14.9 x 24 turf tires mounted on 12 x 24 rims. This combination makes for a tire that is approximately the same height as the original 8N tires, but with a lot more width. They have done a superb job of providing good traction on the hills I mow while leaving the lawn unmarked. For mowing on fairly firm, level ground, the regular ag tires seem to work just fine. Turf style tires to fit the regular 28" 8N rims are also available from all the major manufacturers (Firestone, Goodyear, etc).
Good luck finding 2 restorers who can agree on the "correct" shades of gray or red. I can tell you what I use, but someone else may tell you it's wrong. For the gray, PPG Delstar DAR 31657. This is listed in the old Ditzler books as Ford tractor gray. It's very close to the original color.
The red............everybody's Ford tractor red is different. Even the Ford red they sell at the Ford dealer is too orange. I've matched several good samples of the original 8N "blood red" from inside the air cleaner, behind the running board brackets, etc. I tried to match it up with a ready made formula so as to have a uniform color that I could buy off the shelf rather than custom mix each time I needed some. What I finally came up with, that is a very good match with the original paint, is DuPont Centari C8508 (single stage). It is a General Motors red from the mid 80's.
It's my opinion, based on my research, that these 2 colors are very close to the original Ford 8N colors. Other opinions may vary 🙂
Prices for 8N's vary widely depending on the condition of the tractor, the tires, accessories, and even what part of the country you are in. Around here (Central Illinois), a very rough looking 8N with marginal tires and a lot of wear (but running) will sell for around $1800. Non-running and parts tractors bring at least $1400. The average price for an average tractor seems to be around $2500 - $2600. Nice tractors with good or new tires bring $3200 - $3500. I'm often asked what a rebuilt/restored tractor like mine is worth. I honestly have no idea. The expense involved in the restoration is great. The time involved is great. I guess it's like anything else, it is worth what someone is willing to pay for it and no more.
Several of the Ford books (listed farther down this page) have history and information on the Funk V8 conversions. Adapters to fit a 100 hp Ford flathead V8 into your 8N are available from Ron Stauffer firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit their web page at www.staufferv8.com . If you're considering a later model V8 conversion, check with V-8-N Guru Marvin Baumann. He's done a beautiful job on 350 Chevy V8, Ford 351 V8, and Chrysler V8 conversions. E-mail your questions to email@example.com.
A lot depends on what you plan to do with the tractor. Obviously, if it is to be a work tractor only, some of the cosmetic and originality issues will not be nearly as important as if you were looking for a restoration project. Everyone looks at them differently. I'll try to cover the basic stuff. The 8N's didn't change a lot from '47 to '52 but there were some important changes. In late '49 the steering box was much improved over the early models. Loose steering was common on the early models and the early steering boxes are more difficult to rebuild satisfactorily. In mid '50 the distributor was moved to the side of the engine and access to the points at tune up time got a lot easier. The later models also had a Proofmeter (tach and hourmeter) which can be handy at times. The early 8N's are fine tractors, but the later models seem to be more desirable among buyers. This isn't usually reflected in price or value, but people do give it some weight in the decision to buy or not to buy a particular tractor.
The first thing to do is to walk all around the tractor and give it a visual inspection. Don't be blinded by fresh paint. It can mask a lot of defects, and a poor paint job is worse than none at all. And, don't confuse "painted" with "restored". There's a BIG difference. Don't immediately reject one for lack of a good paint job, either. It may be in excellent mechanical condition. Look at the sheetmetal. It should be reasonably straight and have no large rust outs. Nice original grilles, hoods and fenders are valuable and can be expensive to replace if needed. Look at the tires. Look for weather cracking, splits, cuts, chunks missing, and amount of wear on the tread. The tires should match, size and brand, and rears should have at least one inch of tread to be considered good. Tires can be expensive, especially rears, which will cost $350-$450 (with new tubes and labor) to replace. Good tires are a plus. Check the rear rims for rust from calcium cloride inside. If the tires are filled and are leaking, the rims may be shot. It's usually most noticeable as being wet around the valve stem. Starting at the front, open the radiator cap. Is the coolant clean? No oily stuff floating around? Oily stuff can be just some stop leak, or it can mean a bad head gasket or worse.
Look through the grille and underneath and from behind at the radiator. Any leaks or damage? A radiator repair will be $50 or more. New replacement radiators from China sell for around $150. Wiggle the fan blade to check the bearings in the water pump. It should be tight. Any leaks? New water pumps cost around $60. Does the fan belt look ok? Check the radiator hoses for cracks or soft spots. Look at the head where it bolts to the block. Any leaks there? Look at the left side of the block where the coolant draincock is. Check all around the area in front of the draincock and above it for cracks in the block or signs that a crack has been repaired. If someone has let the engine freeze up in the winter, this is where it usually cracks. Be wary of cracked blocks, especially if repairs have been poorly done. A cracked block makes the tractor worth substantially less and trying to find a good used block for a reasonable price can be a very frustrating task. On the other hand, a crack that has been properly repaired won't affect the performance of a work tractor one bit. Pull the oil dipstick out. Look for signs of water in the oil (milky) and see how dirty it looks. While you're in that area, try to read the serial number. This will tell you what year the tractor is (many owners/sellers don't actually know what they have). Look at the fuel sediment bowl. Is it full of rust particles? This could indicate a gas tank with rust problems inside. Look up under the hood at the gas tank. Any leaks or patches? Look at the electrical wiring. Open the fuel door on top of the hood and look at the wiring behind the dash. Does it look frayed or burned or in need or replacement? How do the battery and cables look? Look at the radius rods that support the front axle. They should be straight, not bowed upward. Shake the left and right tie rods. All 4 ball and socket ends should be tight. Grab the front tire and push/pull inside and out on it. The wheel bearings and spindles should be tight, no play. Look at the manifold. Is it solid? No holes or cracks or carbon marks on the block where the gasket is burned away and leaking? A replacement manifold will cost around $60. How's the muffler? New ones cost about $20. Does the carburetor look as if it is now or has been leaking gas? Is the air cleaner and inlet tube intact and connected to the carburetor? Turn the steering wheel left and right to check for excessive backlash in the steering. Does one front wheel start to turn before the other starts moving? This indicates a misadjustment or worn sector shafts in the steering box. Look at the surface of the clutch pedal. Is the tread mostly worn away? This is an indication of hours of use on the tractor. Move to the rear tires. Grab the top of the tire and push/pull toward and away from the center of the tractor. Does the wheel have side play? Do you hear a clunk when you push/pull? This can indicate a misadjustment in the shims that load the rear axle bearings. There should be very little, if any, play when properly adjusted. If it feels loose, watch the nut on the outside of the rear hub while you push/pull. Can you see movement behind the nut and washer? This indicates a loose hub on the axle. It may be able to be tightened, but if the movement is excessive the hub is most likely shot from running loose. New hubs are around $60 each. Look inside the wheel at the brake drum area. Any signs of grease leaking from the rear axle or from the brake drum? Leaks here are common, mostly from bad axle seals. If the rear hubs are loose or misadjusted (clunking) the seals will never keep the grease in the axle where it belongs. The brake shoes will be saturated with grease and need will need replaced. Figure $100 for new brake shoes and axle seals (parts only). Go around to the back and unscrew the PTO cover cap (if it has one). If oil is leaking out around the shaft it will need a new seal installed. Check the splines on the pto shaft for excesive wear or twists. A new PTO shaft can cost $100 or more. Inspect the lower lift arms. The ball sockets are likely worn some and will be loose, but should not be so loose that it appears the ball is ready to pop out of the socket. The arms should not be bent or have been welded or braced. Make sure the front lift arm attaching pins in the lower axle housing are tight and are not leaking oil. Turn the crank on the right hand side leveling box. It should be smooth and the shaft should not wobble. Look at the upper lift arms. There should be no bends or welds there, either. Go to the right side of the rear housing and remove the dipstick in the gear oil/hydraulic reservoir. It should appear clean and not a milky tan. This is a common place for moisture to collect and if you buy the tractor you will want to change the gear oil soon regardless of it's appearance now. It will, however, give you an indication of the previous owners maintenance (or lack of). Be sure to look under the tractor from front to rear. You never know what surprises you might find in the way of previous repairs, etc.
Now that you,ve done the visual inspection and rated what you've found (plus and minus) it's time to start the engine. It should turn over briskly, with no groaning, dragging or grinding noises. The engine should start easily. Check the oil pressure. It should be 25 to 45 psi cold. Any less is a little low and a higher pressure means someone has put a heavier spring in the relief valve in a misguided attempt to raise the low oil pressure readings when the engine is hot (it doesn't work that way but people keep trying it). Listen for knocks or other abnormal noises. Carefully open the radiator cap and check the flow. It should be moving a lot of water through there (unless it has a tight thermostat in which case you need to look in there after it has warmed up). Rev the engine and check for smoke coming out the back. Blue smoke means it's burning oil, indicating worn rings. Black smoke means it is running too rich, which usually indicates a carburetor problem. A white smoke can mean the engine is burning coolant from a blown head gasket or cracked head. Check for blow-by coming from the oil filler/breather cap. If blue smoke is puffing out of there, the rings are badly worn. Let the engine idle down to a low rpm. Listen carefully. Abnormal noises or misses or pops from bad valves should tend to be more noticeable at a slow idle. It should run and idle smoothly if it's in good shape. Watch the oil pressure as the engine warms up. It should not drop below 20 to 25 psi hot if everything is in good shape. Less than 20 psi at slow idle when hot indicates that wear in the main/rod bearings and/or oil pump is becoming excessive. That is not to say the tractor won't continue to run ok with a lower oil pressure but it is an indication that something is worn. Check the ammeter. While running, you should see between one and 10 amps on the "+" side, indicating that the generator is charging. Depress the clutch then let it back out (shifter still in neutral). Listen for noises from the throwout bearing and bearing noises in the transmission. Depress the clutch pedal and engage the PTO. Let the clutch back out. Engaging the PTO should not create any new noises from the hydraulic pump or PTO shaft bearings. Check that the PTO is in fact turning. Raise the quadrant control lever to raise the rear lift arms. They should move quickly and smoothly all the way to the top (top position will have the eyes in the outer ends of the lower lift arms around 3 feet from the ground). It's best to have a load on the lift arms for testing such as a heavy rear blade or a mower. If nothing is available, you or someone else should stand on the rear lift arms (hold on to the fenders). Raise and lower the lift a few times. It should be smooth and not have an excessive amount of "knocking" coming from the pump area. A knocking sound indicates wear in the eccentric bushings that drive the pistons in the pump. Most will have some noise, but it should not be excessive. If the lift is jerky coming up, there could be a bad or stuck valve in the pump. Raise the lift to the top position (with load) and disengage the PTO. The lift should hold the load in the up position for 20 minutes or longer without drifting down. Less than 20 minutes can indicate worn rings or a scored lift cylinder. A really tight system will hold the load up overnight with little drift.
Time to go for a ride. Depress the clutch and shift into second gear. There should be no grinding as the shifter moves. If there is, and if the free play in the clutch pedal is adjusted correctly (3/4"), then the clutch disk is probably sticking to the flywheel. This can indicate that the front seal in the transmision pilot shaft is leaking gear lube onto the clutch disk. Slowly let the clutch pedal out. The clutch should engage smoothly with no grabbing. A grabbing or a shuddering motion also indicates gear lube has leaked onto the clutch disk.
Pull the throttle to increase engine speed. The engine should respond quickly and pull smoothly up the maximum rpm then the governor should level it out. Look back for signs of smoke behind you. Try the brakes. Pressure on the brake pedals should make the brakes try to slow the tractor. Stop and try all the other gears one at a time. Taking off at a fast idle in 4th gear should tell you if the clutch is slipping. Pull the throttle wide open in 4th gear. Again, it should accelerate smoothly and then level out. Check for smoke again. Notice how the tractor steers. It should not be wobbling, or wandering and should respond to small changes in the steering wheel position. Push in the clutch and hit the brakes. You should be able to lock the rear wheels if the brakes are good. If standing on the brake pedals barely slows the tractor, you likely have gear lube on the brake shoes from leaking seals and will need new axle seals and brake shoes.
By now you should have a pretty good idea of the condition of the tractor overall. It won't be perfect. It's 50+ years old and probably has worked hard all its life. Add the positives and the negatives and consider the asking price. If there are too many negatives, keep looking. Anything can be fixed with enough time and money, but you may be ahead in the long run to pay more for a tractor that's in good shape to start with than to buy a rough one and spend a fortune on it to repair everything that's worn out. I certainly haven't covered everything, but these are the basics. If you are not familiar with tractors, old cars or mechanical equipment in general, consider taking a friend who is or even paying a mechanic to go along with you and look the tractor over before you buy. It could save you a lot of money and headaches. Good luck!
You can join the Ford/Fordson Collectors Association. We have an annual meeting in conjunction with a tractor show at a different location each year. There is a quarterly newsletter and your tractor(s) will be added to the serial number registry.
Secondly, you can sign up for the 9N 2N 8N NAA Newsletter. It's a very nice quarterly newsletter with lots of articles and photos of N's. It's published by Gerard Rinaldi, P.O. Box 235, Chelsea, Vt. 05038-0235. I recommend it. Visit www.n-news.com
There are a lot of good books available that are well worth the money.
To name a few:
- How to Restore Ford Tractors by Tharran Gaines
- Ford Tractors by Robert Pripps and Andrew Moreland
- Vintage Ford Tractors by Robert Pripps and Andrew Moreland
- Ford Farm Tractors by Randy Leffingwell
- Ford N Series Tractors - Originality Guide by Chester Peterson Jr. and Rod Beemer
- Ford Tractor Implements by Chester Peterson Jr. and Rod Beemer
You can find these and others at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com
Thanks to John Smith of Old Ford Tractor for allowing us to use this information.