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My Tractor Stalled. What Should I Do?

We want to help you diagnose your stalled tractor.

In some cases, you can likely take care of issues on your own --- saving you a costly trip to the mechanic.

Here are a few possible reasons.


Here are some things to consider.

Are you using the right seasonal anti-freeze mixture? Make sure to check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s summer and winter recommendations.

Do you have a blown head gasket? This may be the case if all your water is boiling out. Check your water temperature with a thermometer or mechanical temperature gauge. Make sure it is too hot. Let your tractor completely cool down. Fill your radiator completely with water. Start your engine with the radiator cap off. If you see constant bubbles in the radiator when the tractor is running, you likely have a blown head gasket.

Is the tractor really getting hot? The light is likely coming on – but that may not translate to the engine being too hot. Your temperature switch could be weak. Take a thermometer and place it into the water overflow bottle. This way you can get the water temperature and possibly rule out any electrical problems. Your temperature light comes on around 220 degrees. If so, you need to service the tractor.

Is the water flowing out of the radiator into the plastic bottle on the side? This does not necessarily mean the tractor is overheating. The water heats up and expands, needing somewhere to go. When the tractor cools down, the water should be pulled back into the engine. If the water is boiling out of the overflow bottle, you may be overheating or have other issues.

Is your radiator clean on the outside? Check for straw or grass in the fins. This would cause heat to get stuck in the radiator and cause issues. If this is the case, use compressed air to blow out the fins. Do not use a pressure washer on the radiator. Be sure the outside fins are all open, and the holes between the fins, are all clear and open.

Is your radiator clean on the inside? Just because you can put a hose in one end and water shoots out the other does not mean your radiator is working right. There are a vast number of tiny passages inside your radiator. The water may not be making it through to cool efficiently. Run your hand along the front side of the radiator and see if you can feel spots that are noticeably cooler. This indicates that the coolant is not flowing through the radiator. It may not be possible to flush the radiator if the buildup is severe enough. It may require replacement.

Is your belt tight? The belt drives the water pump and fan. If the belt slips, your fan, and water pump won't spin fast enough to work properly.

How are your hoses? Remove them. Check to see if the inner lining is intact. The inner lining can separate, causing a bubble that can block the water flow.

Is the air filter in good shape? A clogged air filter will cause the tractor to work harder and heat up faster.

If all these items are ok, you may be working the tractor too hard.

In the heat of the summer, the tractor may not be able to perform at 100% for too long. Especially if the radiator is old and not working at 100% efficiency.

Discuss any ongoing issues with your dealer or mechanic.

You may have water in your fuel or bad fuel.

To test this, simply drain the fuel tank, fuel lines, and bowl.

Then full up with good clean fuel.

Is the tractor smoking?

Black, blue, and white are the 3 common colors of smoke that emit from a diesel engine. Anytime smoke comes from your diesel engine, it indicates something is wrong. It shows there’s a problem that can shorten your engine life, or result in a huge repair bill.

The presence of smoke is an opportunity for you to take measures that will save you money. Smoke could indicate a simple problem. It could mean you have poor combustion efficiency that is creating excessive fuel bills. Smoke may also be a warning that you are about to have a catastrophic engine failure. This could be a valve, piston, or turbocharger failure. A diesel engine in good condition should never produce visible smoke from the exhaust. The exception may be under a heavy load.

A short puff of smoke when your engine is accelerated, under load, may be acceptable, due to the lag before the airflow is able to match the volume of diesel injected into the cylinders. Smoke is an important issue, so we want to give a few more details.

Black Smoke

A steady stream of black smoke indicates incomplete fuel combustion.

Causes include:

  • Dirty/restricted air cleaner systems.

  • Dirty/worn fuel injectors.

  • Engine overload.

  • Fuel injection pump wear or incorrect settings.

  • Carbon deposits in the combustion chambers.

  • Excessive carbon build-up around the exhaust.

  • Sticking piston rings.

  • Glazed cylinder cross-hatch.

  • Incorrect valve clearances.

  • Faulty valve stem seals.

  • Engine wear.

  • Engine oil viscosity too low.

  • Incorrect fuel injection timing.

  • Poor fuel quality.

  • Worn or damaged components.

The earlier you identify an issue, the less damage that will be done.

Keep on top of valve adjustments and regular service for air, fuel, and oil filters.

Buy fuel from reputable outlets.

Also, remember that dirty engine components, such as the tractors fuel injectors, can be easily restored to full cleanliness, by using an effective and reliable fuel system cleaner.

Blue Smoke

Blue tinted smoke, or smoke smelling like “burning rubber,” is caused by burning oil. This happens when oil gets in the combustion chamber. This is never a good scenario and requires immediate attention.

Causes include:

  • Worn valve guides.

  • Cylinder wear.

  • Piston ring wear.

  • Cylinder glaze.

  • Worn seals.

  • Piston ring sticking.

  • Incorrect oil grade.

  • Fuel dilution of the oil.

Blue smoke appears during a cold start.

This can indicate reduced oil control due to carbon fouling deposits around the piston rings and/or cylinder glaze. These tiny grooves hold a film of oil, which in turn completes the seal between the combustion chamber and the oil wetted crankcase. You should never see blue smoke. Keep all engine components clean and replace worn parts quickly.

White Smoke

White smoke is caused by raw, unburnt fuel that has passed into the exhaust stream, or it can be water burning in the combustion.

Causes include:

  • Blown head gasket --- allowing water to enter the combustion area.

  • Defective fuel injectors.

  • Low cylinder compression.

Sometimes white smoke occurs during a cold start. Then it disappears as the engine warms up. When this happens, it is likely fouling deposits around the piston rings, or it could be cylinder glazing. White smoke can also be caused by water entering the combustion spaces. Water can get in because of a faulty head gasket, a cracked head, or cracked cylinder block.

The tractor may be starving for fuel.

Loosen the fuel cap.

Sometimes the fuel cap prevents the fuel tank from breathing. The fuel tank can develop a vacuum. This could cause fuel to stop running to the engine – causing it to stall. If this is the case, give it an hour or two, and the tank pressure will reset and equalize. Then the tractor will run again.


Quickly remove the rubber right hose where it enters the injector pump. Follow it from the fuel filter assembly up to the engine. Remove it right where it attaches. At this point, you should get a strong stream of fuel from the line. You should have around a quart of fuel flowing. If you do not get a strong flow of fuel, then you have a blockage. If this happens, remove the hose at the fuel filter assembly, then at the tank, to find out where the blockage is located.

If you need any further help or have any questions about stalling engines, tractors, or anything else, please contact your dealer, local mechanic, or call us at 602-734-9944. Please ask about our current new and used tractor supply.

Team Tractor and Equipment - #1 Tractor Dealer in Arizona. We sell and service most major brands of tractors including Yanmar, Kubota, John Deere, TYM, Mahindra, Kioti, Case, New Holland, Massey Ferguson, Ford, Deutz, Case IH, Farmall, International Harvester, Branson Tractors, LS, Shibura, Claas Tractor, McCormick Tractors, Valtra, Solis, YTO, Montana, and Nortrac.

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