“Bring me the hydrospanner!”

So at the end of last week’s work, I fired up the IH674 to head up to the large field for a small task I’ve put off for years. When we put in the large yard, my Dad and I spent an afternoon attempting to auger in anchors for the outer perimeter. As I’ve mentioned on multiple occasions on this blog, our soils are heavy clay. In more ideal soils, most folks can screw in the long 3′-4′ anchors into the ground. I have no idea why I even thought we should try.

Long story short, we’d get a few started and then hear a familiar “SNAP!” as the helix of the anchor stopped spinning, encased in our thick clays, and the shaft snapped leaving the head of the anchor above ground as it should, but not usable as it was attached to a broken anchor. These aren’t hurting anything per se, but they add something else to have to mow/navigate around above soil as they’re less from a foot from the finished anchors we dug holes for and backfilled.

Anywhooo…I was taking the tractor up to the large yard to pull those bad anchors out with the bucket and one of our strongest chains. When I fired up the IH, it began belching an odd color grey/brown spoke and spitting fluid. My heart sunk…all I could think was a head gasket had blown. This is a pricey fix (most times $2,000 or more) as you now have coolant leaking into the oil and if not fixed, could permanently damage your engine. We neither have the time, resources, or backup tractor to deal with this type of issue.

As such, I immediately drove the tractor over to it’s parking spot and shut it down, tarped it…and then lost sleep for an entire week knowing I’d have to open things up in the front end of the tractor, check for leaks and any other signs of what was going on. I’m a fair newbie Farmer mechanic, but this was a scary endeavor for me.

When we purchased this tractor a few years back, thanks in part to the former owner George Schettler who helped with paying for a number of the repairs, and our Barnraisers, there was extensive work that needed done on the engine as it sat for years outside untarped in the elements. It developed cavitation and needed repaired. I was fearing the issue had returned as it’s fairly common in diesel engines if not monitored and steps taken to prevent it.

Getting “under the hood” in these older IH tractors isn’t like opening your car’s engine hood. Here, the hood is bolted in place and as I’ve pointed out, I believe tractor engineers from days of ole are sadists…they love to put things where they can’t easily be reached. The first trick was taking off the bucket because well, you get access to some of the bolts with it on and that requires the tractor to be running 🙁 I fired it up and no issues I’d seen last week, but I wanted to only keep it running for a short a time as needed. Luckily the bucket on the IH has a fairly easy on/off process I’ve done many times. I got it staged, unhooked from the frame, got the hydraulics unhooked, and back away from it, parked, and shut down. Next to the muffler.

Once I got the muffler removed, and got 8 bolts out holding the hood in place, I was able to get access to the engine, filters, and hoses. I then began taking apart the air filter and found an insane mess. I know there have been one if not many critters that like to call this tractor “home” when it’s not being used, especially over Winter when it sits. Opening up the air filter, I have no idea how the tractor even started.

In addition to severely crimped hose from the air filter to the engine, something the shop should’ve replaced, the air intake was PACKED with acorns, insulation…anything the critter could find to store food and insulate their Winter getaway. After that was all cleared out properly, the hose un-crimped (thanks brother Mike!), radiator flushed and refilled with new antifreeze/coolant, and the blocked cleaned so I could check for leaks once restarted, I held my breath and let’er rip…

Thankfully, success!

It fired right up, exhaust was perfect (if that’s not an oxymoron) and it hummed along as it should. I let it run for a few minutes before I took it for a spin up to the large hopyard and back. Parked it and let it run some more while checking for any leaks. All appeared good…thankfully!

As a result, no work was done in the hop yards, as by the time my brother Mike and I got all the bolts back in place, it was already 6:30pm and I still had to eat and get in the 2:15 ride back. But…we’re still pretty much on schedule for stringing and training so I just felt better knowing the tractor was good as we rely on it heavily for so many tasks here at the Farm. It’s a workhorse!

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