Dear Ole Mechanic:

Jetstar TractorA few months ago I got a 1958 Minneapolis-Moline Jetstar farm tractor. It ran OK when I loaded it on to my trailer, but I could tell that it had some clutch and brake problems. After I got a copy of both the parts manual and the service manual, I got the tractor split and found or made parts to correct the clutch problem.  Some new grease seals and relined brake discs should correct the brake problems.

I still have some steering concerns, but there are some new U-joints that have been ordered that should fix the steering looseness problem. There are a few minor engine problems that need addressing, but I am starting to think about paint.

I guess I should say paint preparation. In places there are at least three layers of paint. I have done enough chipping, scraping and wire brushing that I am considering some other methods of removing the old paint. Would chemical paint strippers be the best way to get the old paint off? If so, is there a brand that you would recommend? What about sandblasting? I am not going for a "car show" perfect paint job. The tractor may see some light work but would mostly be used for hay rides and parades. Your suggestins, please.

Thank you!
New Old Tractor Nut

Dear Old Tractor Nut:

Welcome to the world of old tractors. It sounds like you have gotten your feet wet in fixing old tractors. That said, I don't care how you remove old paint; it is going to be a messy, dirty job. Be prepared to wear old clothes that you do not mind thowing away when you take them off.

I have never found a chemical stripper that works the way that I think it should work. It seems like it takes four to six more applications of the stuff and even then there are still spots of paint that require chipping or a power wire brush to remove. It seems that I can never get all of the chemical off and it messes up the new paint that I pu on.

Another problem with chemical strippers is protecting yourself from the harsh chemicals. I can put on enough protective clothing to look like something from another plant, and I still get chemical burns. I can't remember how many times I have had to flush out my eyes because I got a small splatter in my eye. Boy, most of them burn skin real good. I don't care how careful you are, the paint stripper will get in the wrong place on the tractor. It will slowly eat away those new oil seals that you so carefully just got installed. It also attacks some gaskets, wires and other rubber parts. I am just not a fan of chemicl strippers. If you find a good on that really works, please let me know quickly because the EPA will probably ban it.

My personal favorite way of removing paint is sandblasting, but the sand is going to get into everything--especially in places that you don't want it to get into. If it gets into moving parts, it will grind away at bushings, bearings and seals. I won't even talk about where sand can get in your personal places except to say that it is worse than a sandwich that has been lying on a windy beach.

There is one way to keep the sand from getting into moving parts and that is to take everything apart. That way they can be cleaned of sand before they go back together. Another drawback to sandblasting is the equipment needed. Sandblasting requires at least a five-horsepower compressor at about $1,400, a blasting pressure pot at about $150, a decent blasting hood at about $50, or better yet a sand-blast suit with a fresh air supply at $??.

Don't forget that you will need a place to sandblast. Don't try an attached garage, as sand will get in the house. I am lucky as a friend of mine has a nice big sandblasting cabinet for pieces up to almost four feet long. All I need to do is to buy sand and some extra liquid refreshments when I use it. I also have a detached shop that houses my air compressor and has a concrete pad out back where I blast the big pieces.

There is an even better way to get the paint off and that is to hire someone that has a sandblasting booth to do the job. Of course, if you have time, the chipping, scraping, sanding and wire brushing with a power wire brush will get the job done. One easier way is to just leave the tractor rusty and say that it is wearing its work clothes.

Herr Professor Nuzanbolts