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John Deere Maintenance Monday: Checklist for a non-starting tractor

Tractor won't start? Try these tips before taking it in for repairs.

Radio interview source: Bobby Grisso, Extension Engineer, Virginia Tech

Kirk in South Carolina has a compact tractor that won't start. It's his first tractor, and he doesn't know where to begin to diagnose the problem. Any ideas?

Ag Safety Engineer Bobby Grisso at Virginia Tech University says it may seem obvious, but the first thing to do is make sure there's fuel in the gas tank. If Kirk ran out of fuel, there will be air in the lines and there's no way it will start until the air is bled out. Then, check the safety switches. If they're not properly engaged, they won't allow the engine to start.

"A couple of the things it could be is, it in gear? Is the PTO on? Does the clutch need to be engaged, or does the brake need to be on?" says Grisso. "Start back with some of the safety items."

Sometimes a safety switch goes bad and you can check it with an ohm-meter. If it doesn't turn over at all, check for blown fuses, clean the battery terminals, and charge the battery. Another culprit could be a bad starter, which would need to be replaced. But if there is some life in it, don't crank the engine more than ten-seconds at a time. The starter can overheat and stop working.

If you've gone through this checklist and the tractor still won't run, there could be some mechanical issues.

"Do I have clean fuel in it? Is there anything wrong with my carburetor that has not allowed it to float, or is the choke all the way closed? After that if you have some good mechanical skills, that's where the spark plug comes in, take the air filter off, make sure that your carburetor is open," says Grisso. "Next step after that is maybe getting a mechanic to at least talk you through some of the things that you're having trouble with before taking it in."

Grisso also notes that properly maintaining the tractor in scheduled intervals will help ensure that it starts right up when you need it to.

Listen here to the radio story: John Deere Maintenance Monday: Checklist for a non-starting tractor

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