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HELP ! - My Tractor Engine Won't Even Crank !

This is a new page, basically just a brain dump. It needs a re-write, some photos, and proof reading. Please pardon typos, and stuff out of sequence, until I get a chance to do it right. This guide can be used for more than just old Ford Tractors. Most of this stuff is true for any vintage internal combustion engine.

Weather Report

How's the weather? Did you just power-wash or sand-blast your tractor? Has the tractor been in a flood?

If you are trying to start a tractor that hasn't run in years, is years behind on maintenance, or has just been involved in a fire, flood, sand-blasting or other foul weather, Please GO HERE FIRST>

Battery and Cables

Before replacing the battery or starter, check the connections of your battery cables. Your cables may be too small and your connections may be less than perfect. Remember, 6 volt systems draw more amperage. All wiring and connections should be as close to perfect as you can get. Is the battery dead? Check it with a voltmeter.

Some people might get a voltmeter and think 10 volts on a 12 volt battery is pretty good. It's more than half, right? Wrong. For a 12 volt system, 100% is 12.6 volts, 50% is 12.0 volts and dead flat is 10.5 volts! Divide those by 2 for a 6 volt battery. At anything less than 50% charge your battery is considered dead-flat, and may be too far gone to even accept a charge!

Don't forget to check both ends of both battery cables. Take them apart, and use a scraper or file to make both sides of every connection clean and shiny.

If it turns out the battery is too weak to crank the engine, it is possible to jump a 6-volt tractor from a 12 volt battery. Instructions for jump starting are HERE

Starter Check

First Test is the Starter. Ignore all wiring, and the solenoid. Ignition switch is Off. Put the tractor in neutral, and block the clutch pedal down for insurance. Make sure you can move the engine a little by hand. Grab the fan belt, and pull. The engine should turn a bit without too much trouble. If that checks ok, we need a good battery, and jumper cables to run the starter. Clamp one jumper to the stud terminal on the starter. Then touch the other jumper cable clamp to any bare metal on the tractor. Polarity does not matter. The starter should immediatley crank the engine. If not, starter is bad. Make sure tractor is in neutral every time. Blocking the clutch down is just extra insurance.

Starter and Solenoid Check

With a good battery and cables installed in tractor, make absolutely sure your tractor is in NEUTRAL. Block the clutch down for insurance. Then try simply grounding the small start terminal on the back of the start solenoid. The engine block is right there, so unless the engine was recently painted, grounding the terminal should not be difficult. If necessary use a short piece of wire to connect the small terminal to any good ground. If the engine cranks, the problem is in the wire to your start pushbutton or the button itself.


There are at least 3 different types of Ford start solenoids, and they all look very similar. A 3-post solenoid is correct for most tractors. This solenoid only has one small terminal. The electronagnetic coil that operates the solenoid is powered from the main battery terminal inside the solenoid. The one small terminal connects to the start pusnbutton, and becomes grounded when the button is pressed. This solenoid only works correctly when it is mounted to the starter with the small terminal facing the engine block. Turn it around and it won't work. Because the start terminal is "hot" all the time, the engine will crank any time the start button is pressed. The ignition switch ON or OFF has nothing to do with the engine cranking.

When some people go buy a 12-volt replacement solenoid, what some parts clerks sell them is the automotive type 3 or 4-post solenoid. These other types will not work on a tractor.

Hopefully one of these tests has identified the problem, and the tractor is now starting and doing fine. Sadly, that might not be the case. If it cranks, but still won't start, try the stuff on the next page - Won't Start


Content and Web Design by K. LaRue — This Site Was Last Updated 31 MAR 2017.

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