Sometime in March we attacked the erosion problems on the dam by having it re-groomed by a bulldozer, and promptly covering it with sod. A great investment we should have made last year.
Unfortunately, the little tractor decided the pallets of sod were too much for the loader to lift, and expressed these feelings by overheating, blowing clouds of smoke, and losing power. (We ended up moving most of this sod from the top of the hill to the dam in the golf cart. Yes, equipment may be pushed to and beyond appropriate limits around here.)
And to be fair, the overheating may have been / was caused by the coolant leak that resulted when a tree branch cracked the radiator from below while I was pushing brush piles around.
Anyhoo, she barely made it back up the hill to the shop.
Where I reflected on all the things I have had to repair on her, (rear wheel seal, hydraulic system, loader pistons, failing safety switches, thermistor, tires, etc.) and decided to sell this heap and buy a new tractor.
After a visit to the Kubota dealership, I reconsidered that decision. The rings were smoked, which on a normal engine requires pulling the pistons, possibly honing out the block or installing sleeves, and installing new pistons/rings. I'd never done this, but how hard could it be?
It turned out it was about the same price to buy a full engine rebuild kit as it was to buy just the pistons and rings. At this point I hadn't decided to do more than replace the rings, but being a sucker for a deal, I thought I might as well get all the spare parts the rebuild kit included.
With the little tractor in the middle of the workshop, I started to tear her down to get at the rings. And at every turn was reminded why I dislike this company and their products. They design them to be as user un-friendly as possible. Perhaps to increase revenue from their maintenance arm, who knows, but it can trigger dark thoughts when you realize that the valve cover cannot be removed without removing the fuel tank. And the fuel tank has been injection molded to allow the rod that all the pedals pivot on to run straight through the middle of it. So all those have to be removed, hydraulics disconnected, so that the pivot rod can be pulled out, the dash can be unbolted and the center console torqued forward so the tank can come out.
And then one finds that the pistons can't be removed without cracking the entire tractor in half. And if you're tackling this project in a shop that is not equipped for tractor engine removal, you will need to strip that engine all the way down simply to make it "light" enough to heave onto your workbench.
Where you will decide that you might as well use all those extra parts that came with the engine rebuild kit, since you have the engine out, and you've never rebuilt an engine before, and learning!
For a time you get caught up in the intricacies of a three cylinder diesel engine, and enjoy replacing the bearings and seals and gooping everything back together again.
You even decide that if you are going to repair the engine, you might as well fix all the electrical issues you have been bypassing over the years as one safety switch after another fails. And while you're at it you go ahead and solder the radiator, replace all the filters, and remove the remains of the cracked and crumbling plastic body panels. (Plastic body panels...)
You hoist the rebuilt engine back into position, reassemble the entire tractor because there is no bench testing this puppy, and the refill the many gallons of various fluids.
And then... She turns over. Over and over again. But she doesn't catch.
At which time I took a walk. For a number of months. I tried to sell her on Craigslist, received a bunch of lowball offers, and lost interest again. Every once in a while an evening would find me in the shop tinkering, and getting blue, and leaving for several more weeks.
I put her up for sale again, online where a group of Mississippi farmers hang out. Instead of offers to buy, I received a laundry list of things I should try to get her running. It drove me bats, because of course I had to try everything. I replaced the thermistor, tinkered with the fuel system, nothing...
Then a friendly gentleman called me from his truck, where he was pulled over looking at the plans for this tractor on his laptop. He's a John Deere tech. He pleasantly explained exactly what was wrong, and said to call him if I had any questions.
10 hours later... I had disassembled the front end of the engine again, rotated the gear of the fuel pump 3 teeth, and reassembled. The timing of the fuel pump was off by those three teeth, something that takes 42 revolutions of the engine to reveal.
My fault. I refilled the fluids, and turned the key. To nothing. Not even a click.
I walked away.
The next day I brought home a new battery. And she started right up. And purrs like a kitten.
I bought her a new seat, a new hood and console cover, and incidentally a new alternator to go with that new battery. She still needs rear tires, and there's still a gremlin in the electrical system, but she's back to work on the farm.