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1968-70 etc Sears Super Hydro-Trac - shifter extension

back ache

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#1 MountainMichael OFFLINE  

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Posted December 08, 2014 - 05:00 PM

I'm calling this the "...oh my aching back..." modification. 


Problem statement:


From an hour on my tractor reaching far right, far forward and far down to reach my hydro shifter, my not-good back was very aggravated for several days.  So I decided I will need a shifter extension; something to move the shift knob up and back.


The goal:


Rat shifter.JPG


Well, maybe not that extreme a shifter extension!   :rolling:  


(the above is low res 3rd generation and less than 1/2 the original rat fink pic so I don't believe it offends copyright.  Mods please feel free to let me know if it needs removed and I'll take it down)


But then, it should have tractor tires, no?  ha ha


Warnings:  I dislike making half the thread a warning, but it seems important since these tractors are heavy and powerful enough to kill or maim a person: 


Anything that makes the shifter more accessible makes it more likely to get kicked or bumped when getting on and off the tractor - or at similar other times.  It appears modern tractor makers set up switch circuits to make sure the tractor is shut down whenever someone gets on or off the tractor.  Our antique tractors have no such protective systems.  So if it is important to have the tractor engine turned OFF for getting on and off a stock tractor, it may well be critically important with a shifter extension. 


Additionally, I suggest checking for neutral after getting on or off before starting the engine in case the shifter was bumped.  In my limited experience, although the parking brake on my tractor is set pretty tight, it will not hold if the hydro shifter is not in neutral. 


Because of the possibly increased risks, I do not recommend this modification to anyone.  Besides, my particular mod to the OEM shifter isn't very sano.


Ok, end spate of warnings.   


Shifter extensions have no doubt been done before; this is just my take on it.  


Materials I used:  7" double ended hardened 1/2-13 stud - a cheap leftover from fleabay.  1-3/4" long threaded rod coupler nut (note that the 2 common lengths of these couplers in 1/2-13 thread pitch are 1-1/4" and 1-3/4" - my hardware store only had the shorter one so I ordered the longer type while I was in ebay.  The shorter probably would have worked ok, too.)  Loctite 638.  Round shift ball. 


Existing shifter:


The OEM shifter sticks far out to the right.  This not only adds to the reach problem, it means any shifter extension will be problematic for leg clearance.  Controversial, no doubt:  I gave the shifter a couple of swift kicks until it tucks in close to the dash tower.  Please note:  The shifter itself didn't bend; instead, it was the cross-shaft that bent.  I don't prefer that; it's just what happened.  Coulda' avoided that by heating the shifter.  Hindsight and all that.


Shifter friction clutch:


I had recently adjusted my hydro shifter's friction clutch from way too loose to way too tight.  So the added weight of the extension and shift knob at longer leverage isn't looking like a problem for my tractor.


However, if you decide to do a shifter extension, please DO evaluate and tighten your shifter friction clutch.  I can tell you it is kind of scary to have the shifter go full forward on a tight turn just from bumps.  Very dern  scary, actually.  This little hydro-trac will scoot.  I wasn't on 2 wheels or anything, but unexpected full forward on the shift lever is not a good kind of surprise, IMHO 


Double ended stud:


Sitting on the tractor, I made a cardboard template that seemed to be the angle I wanted in the double ended stud I'm using.  I heated the fleabay double ended stud with an oxy acet torch, bent it and oil quenched it.  I double checked it on the tractor before bothering with eyewash and paint work.  I think I'm going to like it a lot. 


I used Loctite 638 as a way to attach the coupler semi-permanently to the extension.  It's one less place that can slip during use.  638 is very aggressive (I'll take a wild guess that it has 100 times the rotational resistance of red Loctite 271; maybe a lot more - may as well be a weld until heated and kicks FAST so the nut has to be threaded on pronto.  I used a Ryobi One+ battery rattle wrench to get it full on fast.  As something a lot less aggressive or permanent, I'll probably try red Loctite 271 when attaching the extension assembly to the OEM shifter and jam nut.  


Side note:  Please do not try to take apart parts that were locked with 638 unless you use heat.  A really big wrench and arm will simply twist off parts regardless of size.  That is all.  OTOH, a good heat soak with 500F will defeat most Loctite products including 638 if memory serves.  Just sayin'.  




Coupler before eyewash:


Coupler before mods.jpg


Coupler after eyewash mods.  Eyewash because I didn't want it to look like something from a livestock gate:


In the below, you can see I sure miss my old lathe. 


Shifter extension tools etc.jpg


Modified coupler.jpg


Double ended stud after heated bend and oil quench:


Modified double ended stud.jpg


Extension asy 'eyewashed' (shaped to look cool??), sanded, cleaned and ready for paint - almost looks like a torch gooseneck, no?:


Extension and nut ready for paint.jpg


Painted extension:


Painted extension.jpg


Paint needs to dry until tomorrow then I'll post a few pics with it on the tractor. 




edit one day later after installation:


Success! - with some caveats as usually happens with such things.




- Adjustment: 


Highly adjustable - I tried 6 different rotation angles just today.  At present and checking clearance while wearing my favorite type of winter gloves on 2XL hands, it appears it has very good clearance for steering with my right hand regardless of shifter setting.  Closest is near neutral or actually a bit in reverse and I usually have my right hand on the hydro lever then which means NO clearance problems at all- so for me this is a good adjustment for the time being.  Subject to revision, naturally, as all adjustments tend to be. 


- Leg clearance in reverse:


Close-but-acceptable clearance in full reverse with 2XL leg.  Caveat:  This is with the seat adjusted all the way back, however, I expect that is where most people keep the seat adjustment on their Sears Suburbans and variants. 


- Reach in full forward:


Acceptable.  I may have to move my right shoulder just a bit for full forward but it certainly isn't the repetitive back wrenching (for me) it was before.


- Clearance to dozer control rod:


I had to bend my homemade dozer control rod a bit (this was expected by me) and rotate the Tee handle for even more clearance - but after that, I consider the clearance very good regardless of where the dozer blade swing angle is set.  


- Standing clearance:


Hazardous if the tractor is running.  This tracks very closely with Ben's input 2 posts down from here.  Standing on the footboards is likely to nudge the shifter from neutral to somewhat forward.


- Tower clearance: 


At the present adjustment, no problem. 


Other notes:


As expected, the paint was scarred where the wrench hexes are.  I'll wait to touch these up until I'm confident of leaving the adjustment alone - for awhile.  I installed the extension assembly and jam nut on red Loctite 271 because I could see some potential dangers and hassles in usage if the thing keeps coming loose or whatever.  It needs to stay put yet be adjustable.  I installed the fleabay (Batman/Penguin??) red shift knob on blue Loctite with no jam nut.  If it becomes a pest, I can jam nut it later.


My weak justification for the red shift knob is  "...higher visibility for safety..." - whereas, the real reason is: Eyewash.  I'm doing some red accents on the tractor to try to wake up the faded light blue metallic color.  


Pics follow:


First two pics are with the shifter in neutral - 2 different angles:


Shifter in neutral.jpg


Shifter in neutral - closer to driver position.jpg


Below is shifter in full forward:


Shifter in full forward.jpg


Next is shifter in full reverse:


Shifter in full reverse.jpg




Like a lot of OEM and owner engineering on the tractor, this shifter extension is an imperfect solution.  However, it will be a much needed big improvement for the sake of my back. 


I will necessarily have to be mindful of turning the tractor off before getting on or off the seat.  Or else the tractor may chase me into the gravel, take off on a drunken trajectory and crater in a ball of flame in a ditch.  Alright; there's probably some hyperbole in that.  :D


If I had it to do again, I would probably place the bend on the double ended stud about 1/2 inch lower.  At that height, a bit less bend would probably be appropriate. 

Edited by MountainMichael, December 09, 2014 - 08:40 PM.

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#2 KennyP ONLINE  



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Posted December 08, 2014 - 05:41 PM

Looks good! I extended the levers on my Ford LGT165 the same way. I don't like bending anymore than I have too!

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#3 superaben OFFLINE  


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Posted December 08, 2014 - 10:07 PM

You are a talented engineer.


I hear you on your warning.  I about killed myself on a Massey 14 with an extension that someone else put on.  Dummy me had the stupid thing in high range with the mower deck blowing away, and I went to stand up like I've done four hundred times to tweak the carburetor and I smacked the lever forward with my knee.  I hit the ground hard enough to make my stupid ears ring, and then I had to bounce up and chase a Massey 14 in high range going boogety boogety across the yard.  Once I got the tractor shut down I shut down for my body to do a damage assessment check.  I had a goose egg the size of a walnut and a sore elbow for a week.  Thank goodness I was in an open field, otherwise ol' Massey might have been a dangerous unguided missile with a spinning deck.


Ben W.

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