PHOTO: Phil Warren/Flickr
Whether you collect old tractors, inherited grandpa’s trusty Minneapolis Moline, or are a vegetable farmer and can’t see life without your Farmall, you have probably run into the same issues as everyone else: Where do I get parts—particularly tires—for these old fellows?
Tractor tires, and standard tire sizes, have changed a bit over the years, so sometimes finding the right tire size for the right tractor can be a chore. Here are some steps you should take when looking to replace, patch, tube or acquire tires for an old tractor.
Determine If You Need New Tires
New tractor tires can be prohibitively expensive, so if it’s just a small puncture you’re dealing with, you may want to consider buying a patch kit—a smart thing for any farmer to have—or having a local dealer patch it for you. If you blow a sidewall—the tall side of the tire—there’s not much you can do to save the tire except for tubing it. Patching or tubing your tire, if you can get away with it, will always be the most cost-effective way to keep an old tire in use.
Measure Your Tires
If the tire is completely shot and you determine that you need a new one, the first step is to find the tire size. This should be printed on the tire’s sidewall, somewhere above the rim—you might have to scrape away some dirt to find it. Look for either two or three numbers, separated by a backslash or a hyphen.
In a two-number figure, the first number is the width of the tire in inches, and the second should be the rim size in inches. For example, if the size reads 4.00-15, the width is 4 inches and the rim size is 15 inches. If there are three numbers—such as 23×8.5-12—the first number is the width (23 inches), the second is the height (8.5 inches), and the third is the rim size (12 inches). If there’s a decimal point, it is simply a more exact measurement, not another measurement altogether. These numbers aren’t always in the same order, but there will always be a width and rim size. If you can locate those you should be able to have enough info for your tire source.
Shop Locally For Tires
If you’ve determined you need or want a new tire—or at least want to price it out—the first place you should go is your local farm supply store or co-op. They should be able to track down just about any size and shape tire that is still available. If they can’t, which could be the case, you’ll be left to do your own research.
Finding Rare Tractor Tires
Two great resources for rare tires is Miller Tire, in Ohio, and Nebraska Tire, in Nebraska. Start by calling the one nearest to you to save on shipping. They might also be able to help you find the tire if it is truly rare and even they don’t have any in stock. Yesterday’s Tractors Magazine also has a an active message board where you can ask a few enthusiasts for their advice.
Tire Upkeep And Repair
Many farmers run their tires tubes, which can save a lot of money down the road on tire repair and replacement. In fact, a tube, just like a tire, can be patched, and if it needs to be replaced, it can be purchased for a fraction of the price of a new tire. That being said, if you can see the tube through the tire, then the tire should probably be replaced. Otherwise, you’re going to be fixing that tube constantly.
If you prefer a tubeless tire—and many farmers do—sealants can help hold in the air. Be mindful in buying sealants that the one you use is non-corrosive. Some contain certain salts that will corrode the tire rim and ruin it over time.
As mentioned above, both tires and tubes can easily be patched. This involves finding the hole (fill it with air and spray soapy water around the surface—the hole will bubble) and pushing a patch into the tire with a special instrument. The patch will then stick to in the hole and stop the leak—far and away the most affordable of fixes, though again, you cannot patch a busted sidewall.