5 Wintertime Care Tips for Vintage Tractors

Whether you own one as a hobby or use it as a reliable workhorse, a vintage tractor needs its fair share of care and upkeep. This is especially true during the winter months, since constant exposure to cold temperatures can take a toll on the engine and other various components. If you're planning on giving your tractor a well-deserved rest this winter, then these tips should come in handy for keeping your tractor healthy throughout the winter.

Stabilize Your Fuel

Whether your tractor runs on gasoline or diesel, constant exposure to wintertime temperatures can take a toll on those fluids. When left to its own devices, gasoline can easily turn into a varnish-like substance that's difficult to pass through a carburetor and equally difficult to burn. Diesel fuel often gels in cold weather thanks to the paraffin wax in most blends.

If you have a gasoline-powered tractor, you should remove all of the fuel from the fuel tank, carburetor and fuel lines. This will prevent varnish from forming all over the carburetor and fuel lines. What little fuel remaining should harmlessly evaporate, leaving behind an empty tank and fuel system.

Diesel-powered tractor tractors require the complete opposite—you should leave the diesel fuel in the tank lest you risk introducing air bubbles into the fuel system. These air bubbles must be purged before the tractor can run properly. Instead, use a fuel stabilizer to keep the diesel from gumming up at low temperatures.

The best thing you can do is add a fuel stabilizer to your gas tank before putting your tractor away for the winter. This helps stabilize to fuel and prevent it from deteriorating during the winter months. You should also drain your carburetor or fuel injection system prior to putting up your tractor.

Disconnect Your Battery

Not only can batteries slowly self-discharge when left connected to your tractor, but they're especially vulnerable to cold weather. If you plan on leaving your tractor out in the cold, you should disconnect and remove the battery from the tractor and store it in a safe, warm and dry environment. This environment should also have plenty of ventilation to ward against hydrogen and sulfur dioxide.

The battery's age can also play a role in its chances of surviving the winter months unscathed. A typical tractor battery usually has a 3-year lifespan, but some batteries can last for 6 years or more with the proper care and upkeep. If you suspect your battery can't hold a decent charge due to old age, then it's usually best to replace it with a brand-new battery of the same size.

Thoroughly Wash Your Equipment

If you work your vintage tractor on a regular basis, then there's a good chance it's caked in dirt, mud and plant debris. All of these things can draw in and trap moisture, giving rust and corrosion an opportunity to take hold. Not only should you thoroughly wash and dry your tractor before putting it up, but you should also clean off all of its accessories and implements, including the power take-off shaft.

Don't Forget About Disassembly

Speaking of accessories and implements, it's also a good idea to remove any attached equipment from your tractor. If you have a tiller or disc mower attached, for example, you should remove and store these attachments instead. Leaving them in place can add unnecessary stress on your tractor's hydraulics as it sits during the winter.

Unlike other accessories, you won't have to remove your tractor's lift arms. Instead, you'll want to lower the lifting mechanism and let it rest on the ground. This will also take some stress off the hydraulics during storage.

When in Doubt, Consult the Manual

When it comes to vintage tractors, there's never a question that's not worth asking, even if it's for a relatively minor issue. Aside from seasoned gurus and fellow tractor owners, the best source of information for any problem is your tractor's service or repair manual. These manuals usually contain comprehensive information on your tractor, complete with diagrams and photos for easier repairs.

For some older tractors, complete factory service manuals can be somewhat hard to come by. This is because many vintage tractor manuals have been out of print for decades, making them a rather rare commodity. Local yard and estate sales are two good places to look for a factory service manual, if you're not able to obtain one directly from the manufacturer.

Online auctions are also a good place to look for a factory service manual. Depending on the popularity of your particular tractor model, you may be able to find and download a Ford truck repair manual on a fan or club website.