When I was a kid growing up, my grandfather had an old Bolens tractor. Although now for the life of me, I can't remember what year or model it was. I want to say that it was a 1254, 1220, or G14 model? I thought it had a Wisconsin 14HP engine on it though, but I could be wrong and it could have actually been as low as 10-12HP? I know it was a single cylinder engine and it had the exhaust out the side that faced forward with the heat shield on it (looks like a machine gun sticking out of the side of the hood). It had a 6 speed manual with Hi/Lo range and had a 46" mower deck on it (that wouldn't fit in my dad's truck between the wheel wells). He also had the wheel weights, tire chains, snow blower attachment (although he NEVER used it!) and a plough! This thing was fully loaded for back in the day! I loved riding it around mowing his lawn for him when I came over to visit. It had some power to it and did a great job mowing. I always thought it was weird how slow (and quietly) the starter seemed to turn the engine over, but it would always start! Unfortunately, about 10 years ago, he got rid of it since it was becoming harder to work on and parts were getting hard to find. I think he had a problem with something on the deck breaking if I recall? The engine also might have been having troubles (points not working right, etc?) and was hard to start and lacked power it used to have. In any event, he traded it in on a new John Deere tractor that he's had since. It has been a good tractor for him and has been pretty maintenance-free, but I just don't like it as much as the old Bolens. It lacks character, I think!
So, I have been mowing lawns for people (mostly friends and neighbours) lately for some extra cash and it takes so long to do it with only a push mower, so I decided to look for a tractor to speed it up a bit. I searched my local Craigslist for some time, but mostly only found people selling newer (less than 20 years old) Craftsman tractors with the occasional John Deere or Cub Cadet or Murray or MTD/White, etc... Now my dad has had a Cub Cadet 1440 tractor since before I was in High School and that has been a good tractor for him. (My brother and I used to use it to mow lawns when we were kids too, so it has some mileage on it!) But Cubs and JD tractors always seem to go for so much money and I was looking for something cheap (especially since I figured if I bought a used tractor it was going to need work regardless - even if only belts and blades, etc...) But I finally came across in late May someone selling on old Bolens 850 about an hour south of Albany. It looked perfect, the price was right, and it reminded me of my grandfather's old Bolens... so I knew I had to have it! I went down to check it out and it was all complete. The battery in it was dead, but the owner had a jump-box he used to start it and it fired right up! I took it for a spin around and mowed some of his yard with it and it ran great! It didn't mow too great though and left streaks of unmowed grass, so I figured the blades were shot. The clutch also felt odd as it would disengage if you put the pedal to the floor, but wouldn't engage until the pedal was pretty much all the way up and then it just seemed to lurch forward like you just popped the clutch. The tires looked pretty new on it too. He told me he had to replace the back tires on it when he got it since they were all dry-rotted. He just bought it to use as a brush cutter in his back yard, but ended up buying a newer Kubota 24HP (or something huge) with a rear rotary mower on it. I paid $150 for the Bolens and the guy wouldn't go any lower on it since he said he paid $120 for the two rear tires on it.
Well, 4 weeks later, it is still sitting in my garage half torn apart and waiting for parts! lol... I figured it would be a project, but I didn't realize how much of one. All the belts on it were pretty shot. I mean, they worked, but were pretty ratty looking and I knew they were the first to go. Little did I know how hard it was to replace stupid belts on this tractor! You have to take half the tractor apart to get to them. The deck you literally have to take all apart to get to the deck belt as well. So, I figured the tractor was already all tore apart anyways at this point, so might as well go all out and do it right once. I stripped the deck down and washed all the crud off of it, put some rust converter on the underside, and primed and painted it. It was already painted white (with some of the original green showing through) and I always thought it looked weird with the original white/brown/red/green paint scheme, so I painted the deck white to match the hood and fenders. The closest match I could find was "IH White" at the local TSC (Tractor Supply), so I bought a couple spray cans and a quart of tractor and implement paint in that color. The deck is all done (just about) and starting to get it put back together. It looks great with the fresh paint on it! (Just have to see how long it will last for!)
The next big problem was that just about all the pulleys on it were cracked or damaged! The PTO pulley looked like it was broken off and re-welded on the shaft crooked. It "worked", but wobbled badly on the shaft. So, I had to hammer that off. Two out of the three deck drive pulleys were cracked and the belt tensioner wouldn't keep proper tension on the belt. The main drive pulley on the engine was cracked as well (the low range pulley was cracked in half). But, finding these pulleys was very difficult and they were expensive! Fortunately, Farmersville Equipment had them all. However, I had a MAJOR problem, which brings me to my first main question that I have (finally, right?)
I managed to get the engine pulley off with a prybar and some PB Blaster. The shaft key looked pretty beat up though, but I managed to get it back in the slot in the crankshaft. I got my new pulley in the mail last week and tried putting it on. It was a total pain trying to get it to go back on though! I even used some steel wool to try and clean the shaft off and sprayed it down with some more PB Blaster to help the pulley go on easier. It was still tight. I tried to fit a piece of wood in there between the pulley and hammer, but there wasn't enough room, really. So, I just used the side of the hammer and tried to gently tap it on. It went on about 1/4 of an inch then seemed to just stop. So, I pulled it off, greased up the shaft and pulley a bit more, and tried again. It went on about the same amount, then seemed to get stuck again. I gave it a few more taps and then the pulley cracked on me! The low range pulley sheared right off - $100 down the drain!!! I was so pissed!!! Fortunately again, Farmersville happened to have another pulley - but it is his LAST ONE. I still haven't gotten it yet, but I have to be SUPER CAREFUL with this one and treat it like a delicate porcelain tea cup (since evidently it is for some reason...) If this one breaks on me, I'm SOL without a main drive pulley to run the tractor! Does anyone know a good way to get this pulley on without breaking it? I bought a rubber mallet this time instead of trying to use a nailing hammer, so IDK if that will help? Why is this pulley so hard to go on? Is it supposed to be a tight fit? It has allen set screws to hold it on the shaft, so IDK why it has to fit on so tight that you have to practically break the pulley to get it on! (BTW - YES, I did take the set screws out of it before I put the pulley on. It didn't even get far enough on the shaft where it would have hit the screws anyways...) Could the shaft key be an issue? I tried again (after breaking the pulley) to put it on without the key in place and it was still hard to go on and got stuck in about the same spot. My only other thought would be to get a very small wire brush on a drill to try and clean out the inside of the pulley before I try to put it on. I'm just really at a loss here and can't afford to break another pulley trying to get it on the engine! I'm so close to getting this tractor functional again, I'd hate to have to scrap it or something.
Edited by MailmAn, December 18, 2012 - 08:05 AM.