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by Jon Zehnder
I have a 1941, John Deere Model A tractor I have owned for about a year and a half. This is my first (in case my wife reads this, "FIRST") tractor and it has been a learning experience. After considerable advise and assistance from local tractor nuts and the forums of Yesterday’s Tractors, I had finally got it running pretty well. I have tuned it up, overhauled the carburetor, installed a borrowed, rebuilt magneto, installed a new Power-Trol, patched the radiator, installed new front wheels and tires, and painted it. It is gorgeous and runs pretty well.
My wife and I had planted native prairie grass this spring and it has been coming up rather nicely except in a field down by the Smoky Hill River which had been a corral up until we purchased the place. This particular field began to sprout many ugly broad leaf weeds and I decided to mow it with a five foot King Cutter Hay Side mower on the back of the "A". It would do fairly well unless it was really working. Then the engine would bog, cough, and belch black smoke out of the exhaust stack and die. This got pretty frustrating so I decided to call Gene. Gene is a retired postal carrier and farmer who has a penchant for John Deere tractors-particularly "Gs". I had gotten a new Power-Trol from him and knew him to be a reliable source of information.
Gene and I discussed all of the possible culprits including carburetion, the mag, timing, crud in the fuel tank, and a plugged air filter. I had changed the oil in the air filter basket sometime back but we thought that should be attended to again. Everything else I felt confident was okay. Then Gene mentioned something I had never thought of. He said, "You should probably spray some water up in the air intake stack to clean out the mud dauber wasp nests." I had never considered this to be a potential problem. Little did I know.
On Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend, I parked the tractor next to our high pressure water hydrant, removed the air filter basket and proceeded to spray water up into the stack. You have to aim the water spray just right to get through the air vents and glance off the inside of the top of the stack where the water will shoot down just right into the tube which goes down to the filter housing. I noticed a little brown water falling out of the bottom of the filter housing and then it stopped. In the meantime, the stack filled up with water and the remains of many long dead mud daubers began to wash out of the air vents. I thought, "I’ll let this soak through and then finish it off in thirty minutes or so." Little did I know.
After thirty minutes, I was only able to add about a pint more water into the stack before it would take no more. By this time, there was not even a drop coming out of the bottom of the filter housing. I decided to come back in an hour or so. Little did I know.
An hour later there was no change. I had a decision to make. I went to the shop, got a ½ inch drill bit and drill motor and straddling the hood and steering rod (my butt still hurts), drilled a hole through the top of the stack. Next, I jabbed a 3/8 inch rebar down the hole to break up the muddy, mud dauber nests. I jabbed for about 10 minutes before I hit any metal. I filled up the stack again with water and let it sit. Sit it did. Next, I took about two table spoons of crystal Drano and dumped it down the stack. I let it sit for about 15 minutes and sprayed water down the new, more direct hole. A few drops came out of the filter housing. The rest of the Drano saturated water sprayed out of the air vents and onto my legs. I repeated this procedure two more times. Each time, a little more coffee color water would come out of the filter housing. It was getting into mid-afternoon. I had to think of something else. I did too.
Next, I taped up the air vents, then wrapped them in a cut up "coozy" (this is the thing you place your pop or beer can in to keep it from getting warm), and then placed a cut coffee can over all of this and tightened it all down with two large hose clamps. I re-filled the stack with water and then plugged in my portable, 20 gallon air compressor. After it shut off around 100 pounds, I pulled it over to the tractor, mounted the hood again, and put the air to her. Mud and wasp parts began to shoot out of the filter housing and then parts of my patch began to fail, spraying water all over. I kept the air going until it ran out. Then, I pulled it back to the shop, plugged it in again and once it was up to pressure, pulled it back to the tractor, filled the stack with water and blasted it again. The patch on the stack was leaking but holding enough to blow crud out of the filter housing. I would do this until I heard air blowing, then fill the stack with water and let her have it again. I did this until the stack would no longer hold water and it took three tanks of air.
Know what I did then? Put window screen over the air vent holes. This may not be "original" but I won’t have do this dirty task again!!! Mud Daubers are not good for old John Deeres.