Dear Ole Mechanic;

I went to start my old 1940 2N Ford tractor to get it ready for a tractor show.  Things seemed fine as I pushed down on the starter button, and the engine started cranking.  Realizing that I had forgotten to turn the gas ON, I let up on the button.  That’s when the trouble started; the starter motor kept right on cranking.  I turned the key OFF, and the starter still kept cranking.  After much sparking and arcing, I disconnected the battery.  Before turning on the gas, I got a hammer and tapped around on the starter.  When I tried hooking up the battery again, the starter motor beganStarter Motor cranking immediately.  More tapping did not help. Help, it won’t stop!

Won’t Stop Cranking

Dear Won’t Stop;

The 2N came out in 1942, so if you are dealing with a 1940 model, it would be a 9N.  The first thing to do would be to get I&T Shop Service Manual number FO-3. It covers both the 9N and the 2N, so you would have your Ford covered no matter which model you have.

Your problem could be in either one of two areas.  They are the electrical switch or the mechanical linkage that activates the switch.  I’ll start with the electrical switch, as it must be removed before you can check the mechanical linkage.  The electrical switch has heavy copper contacts inside.  It is rare, but these contacts may have welded themselves together.  With the battery still disconnected, remove the electrical switch.  The switch is located down low on the front of the steering column pedestal.  It will have two heavy battery cables running to it, with one of them coming from the battery and the other going to the starter.  There may be other lighter wires running to the switch, so if you need to remove them, mark them as to which side of the switch they go to--either the battery side or the starter side.  With the switch removed and positioned so that none of the wires can ground out, reconnect the battery.  If the engine starts cranking immediately, then the contacts are welded together, or the switch is stuck.  In either case, the switch will need to be replaced.  It is available through farm supply stores or many older auto-parts stores.  If the engine does not start cranking when the battery is reconnected, then the switch is OK, and the problem is likely in the linkage.

Even if the switch is bad, the linkage will need to be checked, as it could have caused the switch to fail.  The linkage consists of the button that you push down on, a bell crank, and two rods that are moved by the button and the bell crank.  The bell crank changes the push-down movement into a forward movement, and the rod going forward pushes on the electrical switch.  I have seen the rod between the bell crank and the switch get stuck and keep the switch pushed all of the time.  To check the rod for sticking, put your finger in the hole where the electrical switch had been.  With your finger on the end of the rod, push down on the starter button to see if the rod moves foreword.  If it does not, DON’T try pushing the rod to the rear just yet.  First get some penetrating oil with lubricant, a very light oil like sewing machine oil, or automatic transmission fluid, and coat the rod all the way back to where the rod goes into its hole.  Using a back and forth motion, by pushing the rod into the hole and then pushing down on the starter button, work the lubricant into the hole until the rod moves freely.

If your tractor sits for a long time, then condensation can form on the rod and cause rust.  Also, if it sits, the transmission gears do not rotate, and they do not sling gear lubricant up onto the rod, and the rod gets stuck.  When that happens, it will keep the electrical switch ON, and the engine will crank any time the battery is hooked up.

Fortunately, the old N series of Ford tractors are very simple, and the two items mentioned above are the only things that I know of that can cause your problem.

Herr Professor Nuzanbolts