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Refurbishing Tractor Front Wheel Spindles

Hello Steve,
How would I go about putting new bushes and thrust bearings in the spindles on my FE 35 Grey/Gold?


Hi Richard,

Jack up the tractor and put it on stands to make it safe. Front wheels off.
Bolt completely out of arm on top of steering spindles (that connects the long drag link). Next tap the steering link upwards over the top of the spindles. Then remove the woodruff key. The spindles will then slide out of the bottom of the axle support.

The bushes can be tapped out by using a long drift. After cleaning up the axle support, new bushes can be fitted in (do not hammer them in, but rather press or pull in using threaded bar and a big washer). Remove the thrust bearings from the spindles. Check the
spindles top and bottom for wear where the bushes run – the spindles can wear just as much as the bushes. Replace the spindles if necessary. The bushes normally require reaming using an adjustable reamer after fitting.

Check the operation of the grease nipple before lubricating and refitting the spindles. When refitting the top stearing arm, tap it down until end float on the spindle is removed.

Only specialist tool is the adjustable reamer.

Hope that helps.


Steve (VTE)


Finding Top Dead Centre Of Tractor Engine

Paul has been having trouble getting a pin into the flywheel of his tractor engine to locate 16 deg before top dead centre (TDC)…..

I’m currently working on a couple of 23c and trying to find the hole in the flywheel. I have, as per dvd, put a 1/4 in bar in the hole in the casing and turned the engine over using a socket on main pully. I’ve done this quite a few times and no luck. Is it possible that it has not got a hole in it? If so, what else can I do? Cheers.

Hi Paul,

Everything is possible.

Has it got a replacement flywheel I wander? – although you would expect that to be drilled as well. Otherwise how would the factory have set it up?

So you’re trying to determine the degrees before Top Dead Centre of the flywheel.

One way to determine the crankshaft angle without using the timing hole is by the TopDC and BottomDC markings on the flywheel. Using the timing marks on the flywheel and the datum mark on the back of the engine (next to flywheel) the TDC position can be determined. Then stick a 360 degree protractor to the flywheel and make a pointer which is attached to the engine block. You now have the facility to make a measurement in degrees of rotation. You should only turn the engine in the direction of normal rotation, so to get to 16 deg before TDC, you should turn the engine forwards 344 degrees.

Another method of determine the postion of TDC when the cylinder head is removed is to use a dial test indicator on the centre of the top of number 1 piston. The dial test indicator will show you when the piston is at the very top (ie. TDC). Then use the protractor method (as above) from there on to get to 16 deg before TDC.


Quick note. All designations of TDC relate to piston number 1 on its firing stroke. So you need to observe the valve movements to determine when the piston is at the top of its firing stroke rather than exhaust stroke. To do this observe the valve movement in relation to the piston. So when piston is raising towards TDC, then both valves should be closed.

The above method will give the same 16 deg before TDC as the 1/4 in bar into hole in flywheel.

It will be very odd if the timing hole is not there.

Hope that helps and makes sense.

Steve + Ian VTE.


Buying A Second Hand Tractor On eBay

Being the largest online auction site, eBay has hundreds of tractors for sale at any one time. Whatever you are looking for, the chances are you can find it on eBay – and if you can’t find exactly what you are looking for right now, then something will come up in the near future.

It isn’t all plain sailing buying a tractor from viewing a few photos on the web and relying on the vendor’s description. You must be careful, follow a few basic rules, and then hopefully you should pick up a bargain. The majority of people selling on ebay (particularly items like tractors) are good friendly honest people and will go out of their way to complete a smooth transaction.

However, there are always those who will exploit, so there are a few things to watch. Probalby the thing to look out for when buying a tractor is the “distance” of the tractor away from the camera. Look for good close-up photos so you can see the condition of the body work and paint. Long-range camera shots can be a sneaky way of not showing a less than average condition. If the only photos are of long distance shots of the tractor then it isn’t necessarily bad, it may well be just that the tractor seller isn’t the best photographer in the world.

Click on the feedback number of the seller. This brings up all the items the seller has sold recently and shows the feedback left by the buyer of these items. You can tell a lot from this info. Is the seller a tractor dealer or just selling one machine? Is all the feedback good?

Don’t be afraid to ask the vendor a  question. For example if you are buying a Dexta (notoriously bad steering boxes) and the seller hasn’t mentioned the condition of the steering box, then ask what condition the box is in. The seller will reply and then you have his/her reply in writing.

If you are the highest bidder and the reserve has been met at the end of the auction then you are the new owner of the tractor. If it is an old tractor for restoration that you’ve paid a few hundred pounds for then you can buy the tractor without viewing it as you haven’t a lot to loose. If however, the tractor is going to cost a considerable amount of money then it may be sensible to view the tractor before the auction ends. Most buyers of large ticket items will take cash on collection. It is the safest way to make sure you do not loose your cash.

One good thing about buying a tractor is that you will usually be buying from the same country as you reside. This reduces the chances of some crook from Nigeria (appologies if you’re from Nigeria!) taking your hard earned cash.

In Conclusion

If you are careful and follow a few basic rules then there are lots of bargains and choice to be had on ebay. Lots of old tractors ripe for restoration that people don’t know where to sell other than on eBay.

There are often some less common models up for grabs such as industrial, narrow versions or something a bit different.

Vintage Tractor Engineer has been very sucessfull at buying tractors from eBay. You can be too.


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Tractor restoration can involve working with hazardous substances and heavy machinery and moving parts. We always recommend readers of this website to follow the best safe working practices when working on their tractors. It is recommended that risk assessments are carried out before performing any tractor maintenance task.

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    Massey Ferguson 165 Cylinder Head Gasket Leaking

    Dear Sirs – I have a M/f 165 with an A4 212 Perkins engine – cylinder head gasket leaking causing pressure in cooling system & also oil in the water. Stripped down top of engine – had head pressure tested & checked for trueness – both ok – did the valves & all injectors serviced – checked for any visable signs of cracks – left parrafin in water jacket in block for a few days to see if level drops – didn’t – assembled engine using new gaskets (M/F Parts) & all bolts / nuts torqued down – started engine – runs well / oil pressure good / temperature normal / no smoke from exhaust -breather ok.
    Had engine running for several hours and under load – took tractor to do a little job about 2 mile trip – water coming out of Rad overflow intermittently – stopped & checked – oil in water & oil level on dipstick dropprd to just above half way – flushed coolant system through & filled with clean water – run engine for 2 hours traces of oil in water but level constant – any Ideas


    Hi Richard,

    Just a couple of thoughts…..

    There isn’t really anywhere in the head where oil is under pressure (except the little bit which goes up to the rockers). So I’m thinking that oil in the water could be from a crack in the block.

    Is the engine fitted with a heat exchanger (oil cooler) between the oil and water systems? This could be an area where oil could enter the water system.


    Steve Ridsdale

    Dear Steve,

    Many thanks for taking the time to reply to my email about the 165 multi power perkins engine.

    You are correct about a crack in the block – on further investigation I found on top of the block over the top of oil way a hole which had been filled up with lead / or some kind of soft material & machined – this has been by the look of it leaking & then sealing itself up again when I stripped head off the first time one of the holes for the water jacket was all blocked up apart from a few pin holes ( this hole is directly above the filled up part in block )
    When head pressure checked I asked about if it should be blocked off but they didn’t think so – the engine is out of tractor in my workshop all stripped out – put head back on & torqued up – using a very long piece of plastic pipe to give some pressure filled up engine with water & found a crack between 2 -3 inside block – dripping badly – also badly corroded inside bottom of block – looks like a good secondhand short block if I can find one – again many thanks for taking the time to reply.

    Kind Regards
    Richard Collishaw

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