John Deere Lemons?

John Deere lemons

July 1991

I’m sure that the title of this article has already grabbed your attention and some of you readers are already becoming irate. Let me preface my list by saying that I was born and raised on John Deere tractors. My grandfather was a John Deere mechanic until his death. I have farmed for nearly 25 years with only Deere tractors and mostly Deere equipment. Also, my father and I own seven antique Deere tractors.

However, after reading this publication for several years, I have come to believe that most of the readers believe that every tractor built by Deere was the result of Divine Intervention. If, however, you should realize that every company that manufactures items—be it tractors, cars, airplanes or toasters—makes some products that are mechanically flawed or that the original concept of the product missed the target. John Deere is no exception. I realize that for every tractor I have listed, at least 50 people will say, “I owned one of those and it was the best tractor I ever had.” I am not writing this to upset anyone, rather to stimulate some thought. Perhaps some readers will write letters to refute my opinions or others to concur with them. Others might want to add to the list. Please don’t write to me—write to this publication so everyone can share your thoughts. So, take this article for what it is—something to stimulate discussion. As it is said, you don’t have to agree with what I say, but you do have to respect my right to say it.

“GP:” A good, dependable, easy to operate tractor. I do, however, wonder why Deere did not use an overhead valve engine like the “D” which preceded it. Its biggest failure was the three row concept. The Farmall Regular preceded it and trying to convince farmers to go three row rather than two or four was somewhat akin to sweeping back the sea. This attempt gave Farmall the sales lead for the years to come.

“H:” Here again a good little tractor, but quite weird—the belt pulley runs backwards at half speed, only a three speed transmission and I do not think I even have to mention the brakes to anyone who ever had to work on them. However, was a tractor smaller than a 14 horsepower “B” really needed? Deere at that time rated tractors as to how many horses they would replace; in other words, an “A” replaced four horses, a “B” replaced two horses, etcetera. What was the “H” to replace, foundered ponies? It would seem the only thing smaller than a “B” should be a pedal tractor.

“A:” The six volt or long hood model. My grandfather had one on which I spent many hours driving and cursing when it would not start. The agonizing, tortured sound of the starter trying to turn the engine over is a memory I will take to the grave.

“A” and “B:” The late models with the stamped steel frames. Deere should have quit advertising about ease of maintenance with these as anyone who has worked on the engine will attest. Also, you did not want to put a loader on them; the frame just would not take the strain. I once saw one with a loader broken in two.

70 gas: Another well built, dependable tractor which was basically a high compression “G,” but it just did not measure up. The 13×38 tires hurt it by making it much faster than a “G” in the same gear. I worked for a man who had a 70 and a “G” with high compression pistons. We always used the “G” for the heavier jobs.

2010: How could a company that just designed the 3010 and 4010 (possibly the best tractors ever built) come up with such a morphodite? It lacked the front mounted hydraulic pump and hydraulic brakes. Deere found out they could not make disc brakes work any better than anybody else. The steering was like an old Case “DC” with the chicken roost, only it was hidden. I have always said the 2010 was Deere’s attempt at building a Farmall.

3020 gas Power Shift: A nice tractor to drive, but it did not have enough power to get out of its own way. But one thing it did well was burn fuel. Had many of these been sold, our dependence on foreign oil would be much worse. My neighbor had one and it burnt as much fuel per hour pulling three bottoms as my 4020 gas Syncro-Range pulling five bottoms.

5010 and 5020: Never has so little horsepower come in such a large package. It is a good thing for Deere that farmers were not worried about soil compaction back then. These tractors probably sold more 1206s and 1256s than any of IH’s advertising. This series finally became what it always should have been with the 175 horsepower 6030.

4520: This tractor suffered the same problem as the 5010 and 5020—too much weight for its power. The much lighter and more nimble 4320 with only six horsepower less was a much better buy. The increased power by intercooling in the 4620 somewhat remedied the problem.

Four-wheel drive tractor: Deere’s success at building four-wheel drive has been checkered at best. Its first offering, the 8010, was just ahead of the times. After dropping four-wheel drive tractors for a while, Deere then sold tractors made by Wagner. Then the company began producing its own again. The 8630 model had much engine trouble. Deere re-engined these tractors at very little cost to the customer. Some farmers even re-engined them with Cummins. The 8850 is a tractor that probably would have bankrupted a less financially sound company. I bet Deere wished it had back the interest on the money it spent developing the V-8 engine. Then Deere had a deal sewn up to buy Versatile of Canada. But, the government nixed the deal. This forced Deere to totally redesign a new line of four-wheel drives, which were quite similar in construction to Steiger and Versatile. Having only been out for a year or so, the jury is still out.

So, there you have my list. I hope the John Deere collectors do not have the authority to burn me at the stake for blasphemy such as the church once had. Depending on the response to this article, I am thinking about a list of John Deere lemons in equipment.

Submitted by,

the late Michael Althoff

Freeport, Illinois