The "R" Adventure

Uh-oh, this ain't good!

By Richard Hain

Now that the starting engine was running, it was time to finish up a couple of things on the diesel. Two of these things are adjusting the valves and injection pumps. I don’t know why I always dread doing these kinds of things, because they really aren’t that bad. Anything that can be done with a ½ and 9/16th  inch wrench while sitting on a stool shouldn’t be feared. It’s probably because in my head I fear all of that trying to figure out when I’m on compression stroke. Note to self,  “If both valves are closed and the flywheel is heading toward the “inj” mark it’s on compression stroke. Idiot!”


Since I didn’t want to be turning the diesel without knowing that I had oil pressure and I needed something to fill the hole in the radiator casting where the temperature sensor should be, it was time to order gauges. I emailed Jerry at Evergreen Restoration who asked me if I wanted black or white face gauges. I’m not sure that anyone has come up with any definitive information on the color of “R” gauges, but since Deere started phasing in black gauges on the late “A” and “B” tractors in 1952, and since my “R” is a 1953, I went with black. Two of the three old gauges on the tractor are black, so I guess majority rules. Virtually everything on the dash was going to be replaced so I removed it, from the tractor and stripped everything from it. I cleaned it off with a wire wheel on a side grinder and gave it a quick coat of green paint. Besides the aforementioned new gauges, I added a new light switch from NAPA on which I replaced the plastic knob with a new metal one from Steiner. Steiner also sold me a new dash light. The “R” has an electric hour meter that is activated by an oil pressure switch. I probably could have spent an hour messing around with the original one on my tractor, somehow pressurizing it to see if it still works. Deere no longer supplies them, which is good because they’d probably be asking $200 for them. Instead I ordered a replacement from NAPA,  for $10. It looks different but no one will see it behind the dash.


I still hadn’t gotten around to installing the new seat assembly on the tractor, and one of the things I wanted to get done before bolting it in my way, was to put a new bushing in the clutch lever pivot pin. A good restorer might have cleaned everything up and measured the hole, pin and bushing with a micrometer, then if necessary reamed out the hole for a precise fit. Perhaps even put one part in an oven and one in a freezer before fitting them together. It would have taken them several hours. I used brute force and it took me about five minutes. I guarantee that this tractor’s clutch lever will never wobble.


After a couple of days, when the temperature outdoors soared to the mid 30s, I decided that it would be a good time to fill the cooling system with water and flush the system out, while I was at it I’d start the pony engine and let him run for a good while. This all took place after the annual “water line to my shop freeze up date”, so I grabbed a five gallon bucket and trudged up the hill to the nearest serviceable hydrant. I made the trip again and again, and after the third trip thought to myself that I should be seeing water in the radiator by now. After I poured the fourth bucket in the radiator and still not seeing water, I rationalized that maybe the bucket only holds five gallons if it is full completely to the top. I went off to get another bucket of water, but before pouring it in, took a quick look at the tractor. That’s when I saw water dripping around one of the oil filter covers. Uh oh, this ain’t good. Pretty much knowing what the result would be, I opened up the crankcase oil level cock, and as you would expect, water poured out. I felt sick, but soon realized that water moving from the cooling system to the crankcase that fast couldn’t be the result of some undiscovered cracked casting or poorly installed gasket. Something else had to be the problem. I shined a light down the heat exchanger and didn’t see any water there. My next step was to take the cover off the injector pump compartment, which revealed that it had recently been wet. Further inspection revealed what the problem was. 


To read more of this article, see the March 2010 issue of Green Magazine.