Dear Ole Mechanic:

I have an old 1949 John Deere B tractor that had already been restored when I got it about six years ago.  It has been a real joy to operate in parades, tractor rides and shows that I have participated in since I got it.  At least it was until late last year and especially after I dug it out earlier this spring.  The problem is that it doesn’t want to idle right all of the time.  One minute it idles fast; the next minute it idles so slow that it dies.  It may be idling OK, and then it starts blowing black smoke out of the exhaust.  I have tried adjusting the external idle-speed and mixture screws.  That may correct it for a little while, but then it starts acting up again.  What the heck is going on?  I thought about getting a new carburetor and governor until I priced them.  A new carburetor is not available, and a rebuilt one costs over $500.  I have been unable to find either a new governor or a rebuilt one at any price.   Help!John Deere B

Not Popping Along

Dear - Oops, Sorry.

Deere Not Popping;

There is one fact that we cannot escape.  The old stuff--no matter if it is a old car or truck or even an old tractor--had high maintenance requirements.  Today we would be horrified if we had to replace spark plugs and points every 10,000 miles or after every 250 hours of operation.  We would call it a lemon if we had to have the engine valves and seats ground every 40,000 miles or every 1,000 hours.  Back then even the air cleaner on a tractor was supposed to be serviced daily

If I were you, I would treat your old Johnny Popper to a couple of new spark plugs and a set of points.  Also, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check the clearance and set valves.  Then, if it still doesn’t want to idle, a carburetor rebuild-kit and a new float for it would be in order.  By the way, the kit and float would only run about $60.  Because of your mention of the black smoke, I would bet that you will cure your problems with the stuff that I mentioned above.  I doubt that you have a governor problem. 

You say that you can replace the spark plugs, but you are not quite sure where the points are ?  You have no idea how to remove the carburetor, let alone how to rebuild it ?!  That is why you have been going to tractor shows, parades and tractor rides!  You have been going so that you can make friends that will help you with these maintenance items.  Even if they can’t help you in person, they will know of someone that can.  Or, at least they can direct you to a mechanic who will be glad to do the work for a fee.  If you are really lucky, he might even let you watch and ask questions.  If that is the case, then I would suggest that you make him your favorite mechanic.  If you have followed my columns for any length of time, then you know that I strongly suggest you find and keep a favorite mechanic, just like you find and keep a doctor.

I think that one of your tractor show, parade or tractor ride friends will help you and your John Deere.

Herr Professor Nuzanbolts