Gulchendiggensmoothen, Zombie Tractor of the Wastelands

(Note to future generations: If you type “Zombie Tractor” into a search engine looking for pics to spice up your otherwise lame morning post, you will be distracted by many, many suggestions for using tractors to squash zombies. Proceed with caution if at all.)

It's mocking me.

It’s mocking me.

I’m beginning to think Ian’s tractor needs to be definitely killed. Like, if I took it completely apart so that no part was bolted to any other part, then scattered the parts for miles, would it stop tormenting me? If the tractor were definitely dead, I’d just forget it’s there. But a tractor that runs is an enormously useful thing, especially when it’s got a really good backhoe, so when it’s not definitely dead I can’t stop picking at it like a scab. Even though I know from bitter experience that even after I get it running it’ll only wait till I’m miles from home and then die again, leaving me stranded and embarrassed, running around looking for a tow home. There’s something terminally wrong with the injector pump, I’m convinced of it, but it won’t stay dead.

Ian’s tractor has a tell for when it’s definitely not going to start, and a tell for when it might start today. If fuel is getting into the cylinders, smoke leaks from the base of the muffler stack while cranking. Crank the engine for two seconds and you’ll know: no smoke, no hope. I’ve cranked it several times since it humiliated me in front of the neighbors last month, and never a hint of smoke.

But Spring is coming. I happen to know Ian wants to plant more trees in Spring. He owns the damned thing, and hasn’t actually gotten a lot of benefit from it. It would be really good if I could get it running. So yesterday I tried again. No hope, just something I’ve gotten into the habit of doing.


Not a lot of smoke, but some. Hey! If I can get this thing running again, even a little, then even if it breaks down again it’ll do it on Ian’s property and that’s not so bad. An hour’s running time will let me dig a bunch of holes.

C’mon, baby!

And that’s when the battery went lame.
It’s on the Battery Minder. We’ll try again later.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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6 Responses to Gulchendiggensmoothen, Zombie Tractor of the Wastelands

  1. greg says:

    Are you looking for suggestions, or just grumbling? :)

    I own a diesel vehicle and if it doesn’t start in the first couple of turns it’s one of two things really, as they are dummer than a slug.

    Fuel pressure dropping when sitting for a while.
    Bad glow plugs

    I had to override the glow plugs with a manual switch because the key switch doesn’t turn them on any longer. Use a ford starter solenoid, a hot wire from the battery, and a toggle switch. Flip it on, count to ten then turn it over normally, then turn the switch off after it’s running for a few seconds.

    I have a small solar charger bolted to it that keeps the battery charged because I only use it every 3-4 months. Doesn’t take much to kill the battery when trying to start it, and if it doesn’t start right away your doomed.

    Also added a electric fuel pump by-passing the normal lift pump.

    Other than that, I can see no reason that it wouldn’t start.


  2. Joel says:

    No, I’m pretty much grumbling. I think I know what’s wrong, and fixing it is economically impossible.

    Can’t be glow plugs, because a) it doesn’t have glow plugs, and b) faulty glow plugs won’t cause a running engine to choke and die. Very unlikely to be the lift pump, since pressure at the injector pump inlet is excellent. Since pressure coming out of the injector pump sucks, the possible cause is narrowed down considerably.

  3. wibble says:

    This is just a thought. My old tractor had a solonoid on the injector pump which cuts off the fuel in the event of an accident, you know like rolling it over….again! Anyway what I never realised is that it works not by shutting off the fuel but by actually opening when the ignition is on its default position is closed. Finding this outcost me a new injector pump when the only problem was a dry joint in the wiring to the solonoid. Still it’s only money and you live and learn eh!

  4. Goober says:


    Does Gulchendiggensmoothen feed the injector pump with gravity, or with a primary lifter pump?

    If it’s gravity, disregard.

    If its the lifter pump, these are the cause of many intermittent faults in the old school mechanical diesel engines.

    If it is getting diesel sometimes and not getting diesel sometimes, could be that the lift pump is airlocking because it’s ingesting air or is just fritzed.

    If its airlocking, it might not be the pump itself, but maybe a cut or air leak in the suction side hose (which wouldn’t necessarily leak diesel). Also, the suction side hose might just be collapsing under suction and starving the injector pump.

    The other obvious option, which I’m sure you checked, is a fuel filter, blockage in the tank pickup, or blockage in one of the fuel lines.

    I know none of this helps if the part is bad, because you don’t really have a way to get a replacement, but knowing is half the battle…

  5. Goober says:

    None of the other comments showed up when I posted mine. Never mind. Sorry Joel.

  6. R says:

    Do you know about blowing hot air into the engine intake to get reluctant cold diesel started? In the past I’ve used hair dryers, heat guns, and space heaters with success on engines without glow plugs or malfunctioning plugs.

    Lift pump diaphragms are always suspect too. Sometimes entire pumps are sometimes not much more than a rebuild kit.

To the stake with the heretic!