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by Kevin LaRue (K.LaRue-VA)

If the filter wasn't there, you might not notice the pump and hoses tucked under the hood. Adding filtration to the hydraulic system seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately, the low pressure suction side of this system on my tractors did not work well with ANY restriction. Even with the modern full-synthetic fluid, any level of filtration caused pump cavitation in cold temperatures. I even cobbled together a manifold thinking maybe two filters in parallel would flow better. That might have worked but I was not willing to hang it on my tractor even for a test. Adding external hoses is already less reliable than internal hydraulics. I wasn't able to come up with a location for manifolded filters that didn't look like it would be more trouble than any possible benefit.

Ford N Tractor Live Hydraulics

All N-Series Tractors - Ford-Ferguson 9N, 2N, and Ford 8N

The hydraulic system on these tractors was designed for plowing, and it does that very well. Start using the 3-point lift with other implements, and the hydraulic system does not always operate when we want it to. While stepping on the clutch, the lift will not raise. One work-around for that is to begin raising the implement before getting to the point where we have to stop and back up. This can be learned, but there always seem to be cases where the foot has already hit the clutch and the implement is down. The lift will only raise if we knock the tranny into neutral and release the clutch pedal. It would be so much easier if the 3-point lift would just go up whenever we raise the touch control lever.

Newer tractors solved this problem by using a two-stage clutch or a hydraulic pump driven directly off the engine. Adding a two-stage clutch to one of these tractors seems impossible, but an engine-driven pump isn't too difficult. The original belly pump even has a test port that provides a convenient place that can be used to supply pressure to the hydraulics from an external pump. The external pump will also need a place to draw fluid from the tractor sump. The drain plug under the differential is a standard taper-threaded plug, so all we need is an adapter for that hole that will accept a suction hose.

In some cases, an external pump can be used to avoid rebuilding or replacing the internal pump. Installing and connecting an external pump can be done for less than the cost of a complete rebuild or for about what it normally will cost for a good used replacement pump. Top cover gaskets, lift piston, and valves in the tractor pump do need to be in good working condition. The touch-control linkage should be in good shape, and properly adjusted. A 3-point lift should not drop to the ground when you step on the clutch, it should stay at whatever level you were just using it. If your lift drops as soon as you hit the clutch or as soon as the engine is turned off, that's a problem. Any problems with the hydraulic lift system need to be fixed before we do anything else. If the internal pump is just old, and not putting out much volume, an external pump should "fix" the system.

Possible Show-Stopper: Before going any further, find the test port on your belly pump housing. This should be plugged with a large hex head bolt near the right front corner. The port has straight threads and the bolt seals with an o-ring or soft copper washer. If someone has messed with that, the worst thing we can find is a taper-threaded plug of some sort jammed in there with a bunch of goo. Using a taped-threaded plug for that port will often crack the pump housing making that port unusable. I had to find a replacement pump for my 2N when I discovered this problem.

Please refer to my HYDRAULIC SERVICE PAGE to see other tips regarding hydraulic system repairs.



This is an estimate of probable costs to buy and assemble a live hydraulic system. If the cost is going to exceed your budget, this will save you a bunch of reading. Be prepared to spend some money, Hydraulic parts are not cheap. Prices are constantly changing (usually UP). Shop around, and see what you can find. Used or Surplus hydraulic parts are perfectly ok. Beware the Made in China stuff. For some things the quality is very good, for other items, not so good.

2V-BELT$ 20
7MISC. $20
Add for options such as: Suction Strainer, Quick Disconnects, Larger Pump, Valves, By-Pass, etc.

Start adding options like quick disconnects, valves, and external hydraulics to the system, and the price goes up very quickly. Honestly, it is often much less expensive to sell the 8N and buy one of the tractors just a few years newer that will already have live hydraulics, more horsepower, a stronger front axle, and other factory improvements.

Most of the parts needed to add live hydraulics are standard, off-the-shelf hose and fittings. Of those, the only tricky spot is finding a combination of adapters to attach a hose to the test port on the belly pump. The one thing that will have to be fabricated is a pump bracket to fit your engine. Plans for some of the brackets I have designed are provided in this how-to. All of my bracket designs were originally cut from scrap steel with a hack saw and smoothed on a grinder. If you have scrap steel or aluminum laying around, something to cut it with, and a welder, the bracket is a fairly easy metalworking project. It only has to work, it does not have to look pretty.

The information here can be used to add hydraulics to other tractors, or basically anything with an engine. Coming up with a mount for the pump is the biggest challenge. Here's an example of a pump bracket with an idler pulley on a 1949 Ferguson by Dennis R.

Photo of 49 Ferguson System by Dennis R.
Photo of 49 Ferguson System by Dennis R.
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GO TO Next Chapter 2-Engine Driven Pump.

1Top of This Page
2Engine Driven Pump
3Shopping List
4Hose Routing
5Problems and Options


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