How to get an engine running after 15 years

I’m not too terribly sure where to start but I thought it might be nice to get my grandpas old tractor running again. It’s a little silly watching him mow with his little riding lawn mower. So he doesn’t need it fixed but I thought it would be nice.

And I mean really old. I think he said it’s an N9. From my memory the last I saw it running was 15 years ago. And he said he only stopped using it because the hydraulic on the mower arm wasn’t working.

So it would at least need a new battery, new gas, fix mower part and new tires? And what else would I be missing? Not really in a hurry, mostly just curious.


Watch the channel Mustie1 on YouTube. He brings all kinds of motorized devices back to life. It’s amazing to watch.


There’s a lot of youtube and motor trend shows of people pulling cars out of junkyards and making them run, probably some good research there.

It’s been inside a barn for 15 years? I’d try and turn it over by hand (large breaker bar on the front of the crank), pull the fuel line off and try and start it on starter fluid (which might be difficult now that I look at the picture). If that works you can do an oil change, replace the fuel filter (clear ones are great and you’ll probably have to change it a half dozen times in the first few hours of running) and use it run until you find the next problem. Looks like the older 9N’s had a 6v electrical system so watch out for that.

Looks like a fun project.


9N, good tractor. Check your distributor spark, clean spark plugs, check carb and fuel line. Do not use the starter but tow it instead. Tow and pop the clutch, after a few put-puts it should eventually run on all cylinders. Once it runs then work on the radiator cooling systerm and the starter. To repair the hydraulics is a major job. I’ve worked on 8Ns before.


My friend Steve has a jig for aligning the hydraulics. It cost him a bit of cash but saved many hours.

Thanks for the suggestions on where to look and for advice on getting it going. I can watch some videos to see what I’m getting myself into first at least. Seems like it will be doable. It’s probably going to be a back burner project that I pick at when I’m over at his place. I’ve got a couple other things I’m working on first.

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1st: Disconnect that shredder.
2nd: Remove the spark plugs and spray a good amount of penetrating oil into the cylinders. One cylinder valve has been open for a decade, therefore, one cylinder wall is rusted. Do not shred it’s piston and rings by trying to bump start this tractor.
3rd: The fuel system: tank, lines, carb, and fuel pump will all need inspection, and the carb will probably need an overhaul kit. It will take you only a few hours.
4th: You are going to be astounded at how much new rear tires cost, look for used tires.

The good news is that old tractors almost always run again. But, have you considered a riding mower?


:joy: He’s got like 3 of them, one is running. He goes through them faster than I go through shoes. That and they’re always getting stuck somewhere. If anything I thought it might be interesting to work on. :woman_shrugging:


So, the answer is “yes”, you have considered a rider…

It will definitely be cool to make the Ford run. And, you will never get one stuck in the mud; but it can be turned-over.

We had one on the ranch where I grew up. We had a shredder, disc plow, and a bigass auger we used to drill post holes. We also used it to tow pickups out of the mud. It was really tough.

You just aren’t trying hard enough. My dad has stuck his 30 HP 4x4 locking diff John Deer twice. The first time all the way to both axles. The second time I stopped him before it got that deep, and we added a winch to his collection of tools.

That said, pretty much anything that gets mowed more than once a month, gets mowed with a 28 hp JD lawn tractor. He now keeps a spare set of spindles for the mower deck, since they seem to wear out quicker than anything but the blades. The tough stuff and long neglected stuff gets the cutter or finish mower off the tractor 3pt.

That said, I find the tractor to be more a relaxing experience, and the lawn tractor to be a more efficient time wise. The tractor is a dual range, 5 speed manual, and you try to plan so your full laps are in one gear. The lawn tractor is hydrostatic, so you can easily slow down in dense or long grass, and speed up under lighter loads. At times my speed varies by at least 3X from one part of a lap to another.


Just for inspiration, really, since I think others have hit the high points (I don’t think those tires look all that bad, but if you need new tubes because they won’t hold air…let’s say that’s a lot of work to keep old tires…).

The videos from Dan and Rachel Gingell of make tractor maintenance/repair look almost glamorous!
Here’s one talking about hydraulic repair, demonstrated on a similar tractor, for once you have it running


Russell Crow’s suggestions are the best advice - especially removing the spark plugs and spraying a lubricant into the cylinders.

Those tractors are very basic and parts are readily available.
The Texas Plow Boys is a vintage farm implement group that meets in Denton, they are some good folks and have some fantastic tractors.


I wasn’t around to witness it, but my dad did manage to get one of those trucks that delivers and picks up the big long dumpsters off a muddy clay pad. They weren’t able to get it with the full dumpster, but once it was set back down, they were able to get the truck off the slippery clay pad.

The one time I was there when the tractor got stuck, we were heading over to pull out a stuck golf cart. He made the mistake of taking a different route than he walked. I think part of the issue is that out of his 20 acres, he has a couple that appear to be a nearly flat 2 foot thick layer of sandy loam on top of a clay layer. So even a couple days after a rain, you can have some uprising water on the low side of that area. I think he was doing fine, until one of the rear wheels went over what was likely an abandoned leaf cutter ant colony that was filled with water. That wheel dropped like it fell into a hole, and the water it displaced liquified the soil around, including under most of the other wheels. It was making zero forward or reverse progress in 4WD with the diff locked. It was only going down.

My process might differ slightly. No need to deal with the fuel tank, tires, etc until you know the beast will run.

I would absolutely pull the spark plugs and put some Marvel Magic Mystery Oil in there. That engine was designed to be run on 1930s and 1940s tractor fuel, so the penetrating oil won’t hurt.

If you have the time, let it sit overnight.

New battery of course. You might run down a battery trying to get it started. I would bring a way to charge or assist the battery until the tractor will run on it’s own.

Disconnect the fuel line and run it to a fuel can.

Check the carb to see if it’s stuck or has anything wrong with it like dirt daubers. If so, you may need to overhaul the carb. If nothing obvious, I’d continue on knowing that I might have to work on the carb.

New plugs (gapped to .025") to make sure we’ve got spark.

Now turn the thing over. From there, it’ll smoke a bit while it gets the oil and gunk out of the cylinders.

Fuel, Air, and Spark, that’s all you need. Ford made some tractors that were built to work hard and last.

If it won’t fire, start with making sure you’re getting fuel to the engine, then check the carb.

Looks like a fun project.


I just assumed if they had been sitting for 15 years I figured they would be toast?

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Not an unfair assumption, but I’ve seen new tubes put into decades old tractor tires that sat out in the elements and sun and still run for…well, as far as I know, they’re still being used (though I’m sure that’s not true, many lasted until I and my family moved out of farming country - at least a decade or so).

Anyway, count on replacing them, and if you don’t have to, buy paint with the :heavy_dollar_sign: instead :+1:

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Several years ago my stepmonster and her husband wanted a hobby tractor with a mower on the back and they found something similar. It is a 9n/8n/2n mutt.
I went with them to see it…yep. ran and moved and everything “worked”. Tires looked much worse than the ones on your 15 year old barn project but their’s is still chugging along just fine
I bought them a new drag link (part of the steering system for you non gear heads) & and a few misc parts for a “tune up” (another term from the ancient days of engines)
I have a photo of it on my car trailer somewhere…

P.S. back in the “old days” tire companies used to have tractor tire wear gauges - not sure why I, but I have a set of those…

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Interesting, I will keep that in mind. If it quits raining long enough I might drive out there and attempting airing them up and see what happens… I dont want to get stuck. The ground out there is deceptive. Generally just because it feels normal and I can walk on it does not mean its safe to drive on.


Good plan! Especially after all this soggy weather.
A few more days or weeks added to the 15 year wait to get it running won’t hurt.

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Just a reiteration, with the plugs out, oil in bores, ignition off, transmission in neutral, you really do want to do the first several rotations with a breaker bar and socket, not the starter. If it starts feeling tight, you may even want to add more oil and rock it back and forth a bit to scrape off some of the rust build up. Then when you do go to starter, you want several good spins with the plugs still out to blow as much of the oil and rust paste out, and ensure you don’t have enough in there to hydro lock it.