the overheating tractor

My tractor

I own a Case IH 585 tractor manufactured in England around 1988. It is in reasonable condition and, as components failed, such as the starter and ignition switch I replaced them. A number of items don’t work such as the differential lock -to get around this I try not to get bogged down (it weighs > 7,000 lbs and is too heavy for me to tow) but when I am incautious and a rear wheel begins to spin in the mud, I press on the brake pedal related to the spinning rear wheel and this stops the spinning wheel and the differential then begins to turn the other wheel and, with some luck, this gets me out of the mud. Also the temperature gauge never worked but I assumed all was ok, until one hot hay when I was chipping trees, the engine seemed to get hotter and hotter and began to smoke. I quickly stopped chipping operations and made a beeline for the tractor building.

Replacing the tractor’s thermostat

My first thought was that the coolant in the radiator had leaked out, but the radiator was full. My next thought was that the thermostat which regulates the movement of water through the radiator had locked up in the closed position and no water was circulating. So I disassembled the side panels, undid the relevant hose, accessed and removed the thermostat and placed it in boiling water and it appeared to be operating ok. Nonetheless, since this was an old tractor and the stat could fail at a future date and I had gone to all the trouble of removing it and new stats were not too expensive, I bought a new one and inserted and tested it and the engine still overheated. At this point I felt I needed a functioning temperature gauge and since the panels were removed and everything accessible, I bought a generic gauge with sensor for about $15 and replaced the old gauge and sensor. But the problem was not corrected. I thought maybe the water pump was not working but the manual showed the pump was a simple propeller driven by the fan belt turning the pump pulley. I loosed the fan belt and turned the pulley and it turned easily so I assumed the problem was not the pump. Also the radiator fan turned easily and so I concluded the fan was not the problem. So I had adequate coolant, no blockage in the system and a functioning water pump and radiator fan – what was the problem?

Working on the tractor’s radiator

I thought the problem had to be the radiator – maybe the cores had rusted up and the water wasn’t passing through them. Accessing the front of the radiator was a real challenge since it was behind a steel guard which had been fitted to the tractor as an aftermarket option. Eventually after going through contortions to get to the bolts, which held it all in place, I was able to look at the front of the radiator and, immediately, I saw the problem. It was covered in dirt, and feathers (who knows where they came from) and was so clogged that the air from the fan could not get through the radiator fins to cool the water pipes located in the fins. After vigorous brushing (taking care not to damage the fins) and vigorous water hosing, I was able to remove the layers of grime.

I tested the tractor on a hot day and the temp rose to the level at which the thermostat should open and then the temperature stayed at that level – so the overheating problem was resolved and I now had a functioning temp gauge to help monitor against future overheating and potential engine seizure.

12 thoughts on “the overheating tractor”

  1. i have a John de-ere tractor which gets overheated after few minutes , i have removed water jacket , replaced all filter,radiator cleaned , replaced coolant,checked self problem but still problem of overheating continues.Suggest me the option which i can check more to remove this problem.

    Thanks and Regards,

    1. Hi Swapnil,
      Interesting problem. I assume the engine is running normally and the temperature gauge tells you the engine is overheating. You mentioned you cleaned the radiator, I assume you mean the outside as I described in my post. Did you check that the radiator fan is spinning and pulling air through the radiator fins? Assuming this is the case and the water in the radiator is being cooled, then either the water pump is not working or there is a blockage in the system. An obvious blockage could be the thermostat which is closed and opens as the water heats up. If the thermostat is closed all the time, the tractor will overheat. Or the hoses from the engine to the radiator could have collapsed so feel them for firmness. Or there may be a blockage in the engine. Sometimes radiators clog up as well but I assume you eliminated this possibility when you replaced the coolant. You could check the thermostat as I did in my blog, then the hoses and then the water pump. Make sure the engine is full of coolant and there is not an airpocket. If there is a drain valve for coolant on the engine, open it and check coolant comes out. Take care.

  2. Hey Richard,
    Have a 656 gas IH tractor that is giving me troubles. I have it narrowed down to overheating
    I can use tractor for about 30 -40 minutes then it coughs and dies and will restart but dies immediately. If I let the tractor sit 15-20 minutes it starts and runs fine for about another 40 minutes. The coolant gauge needle is between Hot and Mid Point.
    When it stops – I gently remove radiator cap and the coolant is very hot.
    What would cause the engine to stop due to overheating and then let it start again and run after letting it sit??

    1. Hi Tom,
      At first I thought there may be an automatic shutoff for high temps, like some generators have when the oil level is too low. I looked at the manual for my tractor and there is no such device and yours predates mine so probably not for yours either. It could be that the ignition point of the diesel (assuming yours is diesel since there was a gas option) is affected by the high temperature and by igniting too early it stalls. Or with the overheating the pistons expand and the extra friction with the cylinder stalls the engine. I assume your oil and oil level is fine. If I was in your shoes I would not operate the tractor until I fixed the overheating problem and the steps I followed in my post may be helpful. Good luck.

  3. Tom: I had the exact same problem with my Mahindra 2810. What it turned out to be was a fuel issue.
    I had some trash in my fuel tank which gravity feeds the fuel to the engine. I took the fuel line loose at the engine and used an air hose to blow air back through the filter in the fuel tank. I have not had the problem again and that was almost a year ago. Good luck. Jay

    1. Tom and Jay: My brother lives in W. Australia (mining country) and he spoke with someone who fixes mining equipment who said that if it coughs and dies there may be a fuel leak and that Tom should check the fuel line from the gas tank to the injectors and there may be a leak with air getting into the system. But I still do not understand why it starts again after 15 – 20 mins.

  4. Swapnil, had the same problem with a small bobcat skidsteer, found out it was debri in the fuel tank.
    It would start, run for about 15 minutes then quit. It would restart after about 20 minutes and do the same again. The filter for the fuel pump in the tank was clogging and after a bit the debri would fall off and the process would just keep repeating.

  5. My tractor fiat 415 does that but what I discovered is not thick enough(viscosity). You need to get diesel oil otherwise if it cuts off but there is water in the radiat and oil pressure/level is fine,fuel system fine, then buy diesel oil good quality Abraham Ncube

    1. If it has a functioning temperature gauge you should check if it is overheating. If it is overheating, I hope my post and comments of others are helpful as you try solve the problem.

  6. Hi, Gus’s my prolum . swaraj 735 , which completed all engine and reappear pump ,change Rediater than not problem clear overheated so want suggests to you. Thanks
    Gopal Patle

    1. Have you checked the fan is working, the radiator cap is ok and that rubber hoses/pipes from radiator to engine are ok and the thermostat opens when it is hot? You can take thermostat out and put it in hot water and see if it opens. With thermostat temporarily removed, I would check there are no blockages by making sure radiator is filled and disconnect top hose and with engine running see if water is being pumped out the top hose. Take good care when working with moving engine parts, hot water and steam to avoid injury. I assume you checked that no debris in radiator fins? Others visiting this site may have additional comments.

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