First Time Plowing with a Overhauled Model “R”

Working toward a goal: Plowing perfection



When last we spoke, I was doing a lot of whining about the starting engine on this tractor. This prompted a call from a dentist on the east coast, who didn’t tell me that I should floss more, but instead told me that I should put less oil in the pony. He went on to say that just about every problem I had described could be attributed to too much oil in the crankcase. While virtually every other Deere tractor should have the oil level at the “Full” mark on the dipstick when it is sitting on top of the filler neck, on an “R” starting engine, it should be at that level when it is screwed in. Sure enough, once the little guy spit out the excess oil in the crankcase, it quit leaking and began to start and run better. Thanks Doc, I really didn’t want to tear the engine apart again to put in new seals.

One of my goals this summer was to find a plow for this tractor because we all know that an “R” without a plow is like a dog without a bone, a king without a throne—uh, you know the song. I located a few plows during this time but they were always either too big or too far away. Finally, I spotted just the right plow, a 4×14 No. 555 at a big consignment auction not too far away. It needed new shins and shares, but was otherwise in good shape. I got a little scared when a Deere one-way and two bottom plow each brought more than what I had in my head as my limit on the four bottom, but was soon relieved when I got it for $200.

The 555 has the new style “throw away” shares which aren’t real hard to find and I soon ordered four new shares, three new shins and one moldboard. The total price for these parts was about the same as I had paid for the plow. When the parts arrived, I got busy exchanging them with the old parts on the plow. This was fun for about 10 minutes. Most of the bolts are about four inches off the ground and their location allows you to turn a wrench about 20 degrees before you hit something. Before long, I fired up the cutting torch and began melting off the heads of the old bolts. Soon all the new parts were installed. The coulters on the plow were about as big around as a two dollar pizza and the Youngtimer offered me a set of NOS coulters, but I think that I would rather cuddle with a rabid badger than deal with these old style riveted coulters.

To insure plowing perfection, I also took the time to set the hitch on the plow according to the DVD I got from the Beda Company (608-323-3087). Using the formula explained in the video, I could see that the hitch was not lined up with the center of draft. Moving it over two holes solved the problem.

I decided that it would be a good idea to change the oil in the “R” before heading out to plow. I still had the original break-in oil in the diesel engine, and while it only had about five hours running time on it, it had a rather ugly color. Besides anything that could have gotten into it during the overhaul, who knows what else might have gotten dislodged as the engine had been run for the first time in 30 years.

When the day finally arrived that I had everything ready, wasn’t busy with anything else and had a field without crops in it to plow, I headed for the field. When I got to the field, I adjusted the leveling lever for the first pass, stuck the “R” in second gear, hit the throttle, clutch and Powr-Trol levers and— just managed to pull the clutch lever back before I killed the engine dead.

Not exactly what I was expecting to happen, but nonetheless understandable. First of all, the only black ground on my farm is the spot where I change oil in the tractors (no longer a politically correct joke, I know). Second, this field was in winter wheat and then had forage sorghum no-tilled into it in July, which was harvested a few weeks ago, so it has had a lot of traffic and very little tillage. We also have had a lot of hot weather and very little rain the last few months. It didn’t help that the plow bottoms weren’t yet scoured. Oh, and one more excuse, having 18.4 tires on this tractor rather than the stock 16.9s, give it more speed, but less pulling power (it’s true, you can look it up).

I lifted the plow and started over, this time not dropping it in the ground all the way. This time, the “R” lost a few RPMs but pounded its way forward and I was plowing. I still had to raise the plow a bit now and then when I came to a particularly tough spot and I began to appreciate how much better a Powr-Trol controlled plow was than a mechanical lift. After a round, I decided to see if I could pull the plow “all in” if  the tractor was in first gear. This attempt didn’t kill the engine but it did cause the ‘R” to alternate between slipping the rear tires and bobbing the front end up and down. It takes a pretty good source of draft to make the front end of an “R” want to leave the ground.

I was thinking that I was pretty happy with where this tractor is mechanically, but then a new problem arose—once again around the demonic starting engine. This time, something has given way between the starting engine clutch and the pinion that engages the ring gear on the diesel’s flywheel. At press time of this issue, I still hadn’t done exploratory surgery, so I can’t tell you exactly what is wrong.

Besides the latest starting engine problem, I would still like to get the aftermarket power steering system working on it and I need to finish up the lights. After that—well, as Clint Eastwood said in one of his movies, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” So I’ll probably hire someone else to paint it.