Dear Old Mechanic;

I have a tractor electrical question.  I have been invited to drive my old tractor in a Christmas Parade.  It will be after sundown and my tractor will need to be decorated with lights or somehow decorated for Christmas.  My question is, how do I power Christmas lights?  Do they make 12-volt Christmas lights?  Is there some way to get 110-volts out of a tractor 12 volt system?Christmas Parade 1

Tractor Christmas Spirit

Dear Spirit;

There are two or three ways that you can light up your tractor just fine, but no, I am not aware of any 12-volt Christmas lights.  The first and simplest way--but probably the most expensive way--is to carry a small gas powered 110-volt generator.  It could probably fit right on the tractor’s operator-platform.  Some of the small ones can fit right between your feet, if your tractor has an operator's-platform.  You forgot to tell me what kind of tractor you have, so I don’t know if you have an operator's-platform like a Farmall Model M or Model H has.  If you don’t have an operator's platform, like a Ford Model 8N, then you could mount the generator on the hitch or on the 3 point hookup and tie it down.  The new smaller generators are so quiet that your tractor may drown out what little noise the generator makes.  Just be sure that the generator has enough wattage to power all of the lights you want to put on the tractor.  If you can afford the new LED Christmas lights, then you can put on several hundred lights, as they draw very little power and a small 1000-Watt generator would work fine.

Christmas Parade 2Another way to power 110-volt light strings is to get a 12-volt to 110-volt inverter.  Most big box stores and lumber yards have them.  An inverter is a little ‘black box’ that will electronically change 12 -volts to 110-volts.  A 750-Watt inverter will be a box about ten inches by six inches by three inches and will draw about 10-Amps from the tractor's battery or charging system.  Just make sure that the amperage draw of the inverter is less than the output of the tractors charging system, or you will run the battery down dead.  Again, LED Christmas lights will allow you to get a smaller capacity inverter because of the very low current draw.  Either that or a 750-Watt inverter will light up a whole big bunch of LED lights. 

A third way to “decorate” your tractor would be to turn one of your headlights around so it shines on the driver and then dress up like an elf, a Santa’s helper or even a sugar-plum fairy.  What ever smokes your tires, floats your boat or plows your field. 

Christmas Parade 3

Oh, and Happy Holidays to all.

Herr Professor Nuzanbolts