When it comes to tractor paint, there's a fine line between paint that is too far gone and paint that can be restored. If the tractor has been in a barn and the paint surface does not show signs of chipping or fading, there may be hope in cleaning and polishing up the original paint. If the paint is chipped or severely faded, however, the chances of restoring the paint are relatively slim. In these cases, it may be more cost effective to strip the existing surface paint and apply a fresh coat of paint.
Things You'll Need
- Degreasing spray
- Stiff-bristled brush
- Pressure washer
- Laundry soap
- 800-grit wet/dry sandpaper
- Orbital buffer
- Polishing compound
Spray the tractor liberally with the degreasing spray. Make sure to spray it on the engine, under the hood, near the transmission, and anywhere else where grease or oil may accumulate. After the degreaser has been left on for a few moments, agitate the grease with a stiff-bristled brush.
Mix the laundry soap with water in a bucket, placing the pressure washer nearby. Insert the cleaning solution inlet hose for the pressure washer into the bucket so that as you use the sprayer, it will draw the detergent and water into the unit to help clean the surface of the tractor.
Set the spray pattern on the pressure washer to a fan setting to avoid damage to the paint, and then spray the tractor thoroughly from front to back and from top to bottom. This will remove the remaining grease, as well as any dust and dirt that have accumulated. Take care to avoid damaging stickers or emblems.
Turn off the pressure washer. Using the wet/dry sandpaper, and while the tractor's paint is still wet from the spraying, thoroughly sand the surface of the tractor. This will strip away the topmost layer of paint. Because tractors were painted with what is called single-stage paint, there is no gloss clear coat to break through. Sanding through the uppermost single-stage paint coat can reveal the original base coats below.
Apply polishing compound to the orbital buffer pad, then buff the surface of the tractor where you've sanded. The tractor need not be dried before this is done; it is helpful to the process, in fact, for the buffing pad to be slightly moistened by the water on the surface of the paint. As you buff, the buffing pad will begin to turn the color of the tractor. This is normal when polishing single-stage paint. Continue polishing until you have reached the desired level of restoration.
Tips & Warnings
- Buffing does not work as well on cast-metal parts as it does on sheet metal parts. You will be happier with the results if you simply clean the engine and allow it to retain its patina while the tractor body parts are restored to their original shine.
- "How To Restore Classic Farm Tractors"; Tharran Gaines; 2003
- "How to Restore Your Farm Tractor"; Robert Pripps; 2004
- "How to Keep Your Classic Tractor Alive"; Spencer Yost; 2009
- Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
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