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Make A Fresh Start With An Old(er) Machine

When older farm equipment ends up sitting unused for a few seasons, restarting it usually requires a little extra effort. Lack of use can be as hard on farm machinery as years of service.

To show you what s involved in a typical restart, here s a look at what we had to do this summer to get the gas engine in this IH 715 combine running again after sitting idle for three or four seasons. Not only was it necessary to take the standard precautions, but, as usual, a series of problems developed during its inactivity that had to be dealt with.

This combine, which belonged to a neighbour, didn t have any serious problems when it was parked, it was simply replaced by a much newer model and found itself out of a job. We were hopeful that a just-add-gas approach would do the trick, aside from taking the typical steps to ensure it was safe to turn the key. As it turned out, that was just wishful thinking.


Before restarting any engine that has been sitting idle for a long time, it s important to ensure just hitting the starter won t damage it because of a lack of lubrication. It s often a good idea to first drain the crankcase and refill it with fresh oil. Over time, condensation can lead to a build up of water in the sump. The oil inside the 715 looked pretty good, so I decided to leave it in until the machine could be put inside the shop for a complete service. The engine coolant also looked reasonably fresh and the level was good.

Putting fresh gasoline in the tank ensured the fuel would ignite properly. Stale fuel won t. It s best to first remove any old fuel and flush the tank before adding more. Fortunately, the carburetor wasn t badly gummed up from the remains of evaporated fuel. If it had been, removal, a thorough cleaning and installation of a rebuilt kit would have been necessary.


An overall inspection hinted to only one issue: only two spark plug wires were connected. The others were removed and lying at the bottom of the engine compartment, for some reason. With two wires still in place it was clear which way the distributor rotated. The missing wires were simply reattached to match the standard firing order of a six-cylinder engine, 1-5-3-6-2-4.

If they had all been missing, it would be necessary to establish top dead centre of the number one cylinder. To do that, removing the valve cover and bumping the engine over with the starter would show when the intake valve closed. Lining up the timing marks on the crankshaft pulley would then show top dead centre on the compression stroke. Once that was set, the rotor inside the distributor would be at the firing position for the number one cylinder. The wires could then be reinstalled using that starting point.

Despite some relatively good luck so far, when the engine was turned over it failed to fire. Placing a testor on one of the ignition wires revealed there was no spark. (A testor can be purchased from a specialty tool retailer for about $20) A check under the distributor cap revealed a lot of dust and chaff. Once that was cleaned out and the inside was sprayed with electrical cleaner, spark was restored and the engine immediately fired, making for an easy fix. But the engine wouldn t stay running for more than a couple of seconds.

Eventually, the problem was traced to a lack of electrical current to the fuel shut-off solenoid on the carburetor, which kept choking off the fuel supply. Finding multiple reasons for a problem during these kinds of restarts isn t unusual.

But before the source of that problem could be found and corrected, the starter acted up. The drive refused to disengage on one attempt to start the engine. The excess current draw partially melted the end of a battery cable before power could be disconnected. Tracking down a new starter proved a little difficult. A salvaged replacement from another wrecked combine did the trick, and the price was right.


After it started, the little six-cylinder gasoline engine ran smoothly, with the gauge in the cab indicating oil pressure was high. There were, however other problems to sort out before the combine was ready to travel.

The mechanism driving the unloading auger was stuck in the engaged position. The drive belt was removed until penetrating oil could be given enough time to free it. When the clutch was engaged on the first attempt to move the combine out of its long-term parking spot, the machine lurched to the left and would only spin in circles. The wheel brakes on that side were seized to the drum. A little bit of back-and-forth bumping eventually freed them.

After a final once-over, we drove the combine the six or seven miles home without any hiccups.

Now that it s running again, the 715 needs a good cleaning to remove a layer of dirt along with what a family of racoons left behind! A complete inspection and greasing along with manually checking all the components will take a little more time, but the machine is almost ready for work again. And although there isn t much demand for class III combines these days, I m sure I can find something for it to do around here.


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About the author


Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.



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