How do I Restore a Pedal Tractor?

Ron Marr

The names are very familiar to anyone who grew up on a farm between the 1950s and 1970s. Tractors bearing such names as John Deere, Case, Ford, Farmall, Massey Fergsuon, or Minneapolis Moline were often a fixture in the fields, barns, and sheds of rural America. In those days, fathers wished to pass on the farming lifestyle to their sons. Often, when they purchased a new tractor for work, they also purchased their child a pedal version of the same brand.

Pedal tractors may still be found at yard sales.
Pedal tractors may still be found at yard sales.

Those little pedal tractors are still around. Granted, they may be in a state of serious disrepair, but they can still be found at farm auctions, antique shops, and garage sales all over American. For many former farm kids, now grown to adulthood, those toys of their youth bring back a sense of wonderful nostalgia. Purchasing one, and returning it to its earlier glory, is not as difficult as you might think.

WD-40 can be used to loosen rusted nuts and bolts of a tractor pedal.
WD-40 can be used to loosen rusted nuts and bolts of a tractor pedal.

The first step, once you have located a pedal tractor and decided to restore it, is to perform a thorough inspection. This usually requires a good collection of wrenches, as well as a large can of WD-40® with which to loosen the inevitably rusted nuts and bolts. Once the tractor has been dismantled, you will be able to see just what you are dealing with.

In many cases, the pedals and drive chain will be broken. Also, the gears to which the drive chain was attached could have broken teeth or be missing entirely. Other areas requiring close attention are the joints connecting the steering wheel to the steering column, and the steering column to the front axle. A tractor just isn’t much good if you can’t steer it.

The drive chains were always a bit of a hazard. Located at the bottom of the tractor, they seemed to have a talent for grabbing hold of long pant legs and skinning up shins and ankles. A modification or two, such as covering the drive chain with a piece of fabricated metal, might be in order if a person wants to give a restored pedal tractor to a child.

After the tractor is disassembled, the parts should be brushed clean of rust, repaired, or replaced as necessary. A quick check of the internet will reveal a number of firms that provide parts for pedal tractors and pedal cars. If the piece is salvageable, it should be repainted with a good, protective metal paint, such as Rustoleum®.

At this point, once all faulty parts have been cleaned, repaired, or replaced, the tractor is ready for re-assembly. Hopefully, even though a pedal tractor is not a complicated contraption, you made notes or drew a rough diagram of what part goes where. It’s never good to finish a mechanical job and realize you have one or two pieces left over. Such an occurrence leads not only to head scratching and frustration, but also the certainty that, at one point or another, the fruit of your hard labor is going to suffer a mechanical failure.

Young kids of the present seem to enjoy pedal tractors as much as did their parents and grandparents. As a gift, these tractors harken back to a simpler time. After all, everybody has computer games and DVDs, but hardly any kids have a pedal tractor.

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