Restoration Story: John Deere 2010 Diesel, Part 1

Submitted Article
Restoration Story
John Deere 2010 Diesel
by Jim Nielsen

Following seven years working in California's Silicon Valley, my wife, baby son and I moved back to Australia to retire. We bought a small 'farm' of about 50 acres near Bendigo, in the state of Victoria. I soon found that it would be very useful to have a tractor around the place for things such as grading our long drive and brush-hogging the fields. I was also embarking on planting 1000 eucalyptus trees, and hence I would need a ripper, small disk plow, sprayer etc. to get these things accomplished. So with absolutely zero knowledge about tractors, I went off to some local 'tractor lots' to see what I could learn. After a couple of weeks I'd learned a little about the language of tractors: PTO, 3 point links, draft control etc, although the mysterious 'remotes' totally baffled me! I finally settled on a Massey Ferguson 185, a 1974 70hp tractor that seemed to meet my needs just fine. After purchasing this machine for approximately $3800 USD, I intended to make somewhat of a restoration project out of it. It soon proved to be so useful around our property, however that I didn't want to dismantle it and have it in a non-operational state! Happily the opportunity soon came up to purchase another 50 acres that joined our first property, and with it came a 1964 model John Deere 2010. Its a diesel, wide-front 'row-crop utility' version with serial # RUS49435. Now this was a tractor very badly in need of help!

On the day I first sat in the drivers seat and drove it the quarter mile through the fields to my machinery shed, I was almost asphyxiated by the exhaust gas, a thick black and white sooty smoke. It was a week before the taste of it left my mouth. This I decided would be my restoration project tractor! The tractor in its current state was probably worth close to nothing, certainly no more than a few hundred dollars as scrap and parts if I could be bothered haling it to a tractor yard. So even though I had never dismantled an engine before, I figured I didn't have a lot to lose. Soon, I would find out that I had a LOT to lose however, as restoring just the engine on this tractor turned out to be more costly than I'd really imagined.

My first step in the restoration process was logging on to the Internet, and looking at the user-forums on This was an instant disappointment, as I soon discovered that the general opinion of the 2010 was pretty poor, with comments ranging from "the 2010 is an orphan" to "the 2010 is worst tractor that JD ever produced". I admit, I'd hoped for better - Oh well! But I'm not easily dissuaded, I decided that I would attempt to make this poor old 2010 the best tractor it could be, even if it would never compare to one of the old 'letter-series' JD's. Step two was to acquire a copy of both Spencer Yosts books on tractor restoration, "The Antique Tractor Bible and How to Rebuild and Restore Farm Tractor Engines" - remember I've never done this before, and it seems like a little education may be in order.

I soon learned from reading these books that I didn't even have the basic's together. I'd sort of planned to restore the 2010 in my machinery shed with its floor of dirt and horse manure, but now I could see that I was going to need a concrete floor to keep things neat, orderly and to keep the dirt out of the diesel injectors. So as the 'real' first step, I had a concrete slab poured in an old domed-roof shed that is quite close to the house, and waited for it to dry. In the first week of August, I cautiously backed the tractor onto the newly dried concrete, again nearly choking from thick diesel exhaust. The tractor is now in the place from which it will one day emerge either as the finest 2010 in Australia, or quite possibly on the back of a low-trailer (by night) to the scrap yard. I also decided I'd better have a 'shop' manual for the 2010, and so I looked up the manual on one of the advertisers on but found that the manual I needed was $129 USD! That's almost $250 Australian dollars including shipping!! The 'parts manual' was another $99 USD (gulp). Did I mention this might be an expensive undertaking? As a compromise I bought a I&T Shop Service Manual for the 2010 - a sort of condensed shop manual designed for experienced mechanics (wish I was one!) and a 'parts manual' on for a mere $25 USD. Fully equipped with my Yost 'how-to' books and my 'cheap' manuals I decided to make a start.

To begin the process of dismantling the engine, to try to ascertain just what the problems were that made driving the tractor like swimming in a tank of diesel fuel, I dutifully followed the basic instructions for tearing down the engine. First came the 'tin work'; some obvious bolts and screws held the front grille in place, and were easily removed. Next I removed (okay, broke off) the bolts for the hood, and tried to remove it, up and over the fuel tank. At this point I encountered the first real technical problem. The air-cleaner was equipped with a 'pre-cleaner' fitted to remove dust in the dusty Australian environment. I could not remove the pre-cleaner body from the lower end of the shaft that leading to the oil filled air cleaner however, so I couldn't remove the hood at all! The pre-cleaner body looks to be brittle die-cast metal, and all attempts to remove it from the steel air-cleaner tube threatened to end in a broken part. Eventually, with much effort, I was able to squeeze my hands around other components, remove all the bolts for the entire air cleaner and lift away the hood and air cleaner assembly as one huge piece! Next the fuel tank, but I got bored waiting for the diesel fuel to drain into my container, however, so I decided, with help some help from my friend Mal, to lift it as it was, complete with remaining fuel, up and over the tractor.

Things were moving fast now, the radiator, water pump, generator and starter-motor came away easily enough. My most difficult decision here was about removing the diesel fuel system components. I have a pretty good working knowledge of how gas powered cars work, having to fix my own in my teenage years, but no knowledge at all of how diesel injection systems work. It was with some trepidation then, that I carefully unbolted the diesel fuel pump, filters and lines, and removed them from the tractor. I reasoned, that if the worst should happen, I'd hire a diesel mechanic to set that part up for me, later....much later.

Well, next I removed the inlet manifold, and then came the part I was most worried about from reading Yost's books: removing the exhaust manifold. In his example, the exhaust manifold nuts and studs are just rusted up bits of metal, and they have to be cut off with a welder's torch, but I don't have a torch, and I can't weld. Happily, the nuts, just three of them, were little more than finger tight, and I removed them with a small ring-spanner.

Here was the first clue as to why this old beast was so smoky and smelly: the no 2 exhaust port was almost entirely closed up with black gummy material, a little like shiny bitumen, only harder; I couldn't even fit my little finger back into the port leading back into the head! Even with my scant experience, I was pretty sure it wasn't supposed to be like that! I set all the engine components to the back of the shed and was now able to see the unobstructed engine - now for some real fun!

The valve gear cover, which is cast iron and secured by 12 bolts, came away easily enough, exposing the rocker arms. Just to get some idea of what the valve lash was like, I rotated each of the rocker arms up and down between the top of its valve and push rod to see how big the clearance was. Typically they were about 1/4 to 1/8th of an inch, except for the exhaust valve on #2 cylinder, which was about 3/4 of an inch. The valve seemed to be stuck down; I think I could have removed the pushrod on this one, without even having removed the rocker gear, - the clearance was that large. Then I removed the valve-gear in one piece, and began with the head.

The I&T manual says to tighten the head cap screws to 150 ft/lbs, but whoever last put this head on must have been mighty strong, and I had a huge battle to undo a couple of them with an 18" breaker bar. The head eventually came away cleanly enough so that I could see the tops of the pistons and the underside of the head. Even a first glance confirmed that the real problem with this engine was in Cylinder #2. As you can see from the picture, the other 3 piston tops look old but reasonable, however #2 is encrusted with thick gummy stuff. Same story with the head , #2 is certainly the part worst there.

At this stage, I was still hoping that when I pulled the pistons from the block, they'd be worn, but still serviceable. I also hoped that with the simple addition of some new rings, that I would be able to hone or worst-case re-bore the engine sleeve-plate. This would soon prove wishful thinking! The pistons all exhibited some or other flaw, three of them had skirt cracks, the other, unacceptable wear. They were all quite worn around the ring grove area. I had a similar fantasy, about the conrod bearings, they'd be would be worn, but a simply replacing them would allow me to leave the crankshaft - and hence the whole engine in the tractor! Again, wishful thinking. Conrod bearings 1, 2 and 3 were all very worn, but fortunately, they had done little damage to the crankshaft, however #4 conrod bearing had pretty much disintegrated and taken a few chunks of the crankshaft journal with it. This meant that the crank would need to be removed form the tractor, making the job just a little bigger than I had hoped! As for the cylinder walls, well the 2010 has this weird wet sleeve arrangement whereby each of the 4 sleeves are actually attached to a plate which is sandwiched between the block and the head. My I&T shop manual makes it sound so easy, "Lift sleeve plate from block" it instructs. Well I DID lift the sleeve plate from the block, after more than an hour hammering away at it using lumps of wood, and screwdrivers for extra leverage!

Upon 'lifting' the sleeve plate from the block, I thought at last id had some good luck: even though all the pistons had broken oil-control rings, the scoring in the cylinder bores wasn't really too bad. I was envisioning a machine shop boring them out 30 thou' or so. Then I looked at the outside off the sleeve plate. This is the part that is constantly in contact with the water in the engine. Unfortunately, I discovered that deep rust fissures about 1/4 of an inch deep had developed in two of the sleeves. This made them impossibly thin to rebore and necessitated the purchase of a new one. Ouch!! A new sleeve plate costs $684 USD. With the bad news now mostly out, I decided to call it a day, and a successful one at that! I had disassembled my first tractor engine. (Well, ok, at least partially) Not really broken any tractor parts, and not even got a bruised knuckle. Tomorrow, I'd see about calling John Deere and see how much the various parts that I needed would cost..... and maybe even do a little work on the head!

I hope to finish the engine restoration in a few months - this maybe wishful thinking! As I make progress, I'll jot down a few notes and take a picture or two with our digital camera to make a series of articles. Remember, I'm new at this - if you have any suggestions or helpful ideas, please email me at [email protected]. How do I get that air pre-cleaner fitting off??!!

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