New H Owner

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You've brought your H home, and you want to know what you should check before using it. This is not a comprehensive list but it should get you started. Note that "left" and "right" are relative to someone sitting in the driver's seat.

Important note: this brief document is no substitute for the 96 page Operator's Manual which includes complete maintenance procedures.  Call Binder Books at 503-682-9328 right now and order item  #1004203 "Farmall H & HV Operator's Manual" for $21.95 (price as of 9 December 2010), or visit their web site at You'll find the book absolutely essential. Their item  #CHS13 "Serviceman's Guide for Farmall H" is also quite useful.

Engine Oil

Oil should run out the lower petcock when opened, but not out the upper. When filling, fill until it runs out the upper petcock.

You check the oil with the two petcocks on the side of the oil pan. If you open the bottom one, oil should run out. If you open the top one, it shouldn't run out. The filler is a big flat disk type cap just in front of the magneto on the right side; to fill, open the top petcock and add oil until it runs out.

The original spec calls for SAE 30 under most conditions. The key question is whether to run detergent or non-detergent. If the engine has been run with non-detergent oil for may years, putting in detergent oil can loosen up sludge deposits, and potentially clog oil tubes and cause engine damage. I hope you found out what kind of oil the previous owner has been running - if so, stick with it. There is more information on oil choices in the ATIS Oil FAQ.


Oil fill is at the front right of the engine

You should probably change the oil first thing. There's a drain on the bottom of the oil pan. Watch closely to see what comes out first - if there is water in the oil it will be on the bottom. If this is the case, there's a chance that you have a head gasket problem or worse, a cracked block. Anyway, drain the oil, and replace the filter. The filter is in a round housing on the right side of the engine. Around the base is a rubber gasket. If the oil hasn't been chanced in a while, this gasket will appear to have turned into metal. You'll need to really work to get it out, but it is important to do so. The groove should be deep enough that the new gasket fits entirely into it. Make sure that when you tighten the filter the top seats properly. If not you'll be spraying a lot of things with oil. Refill until oil comes out the top petcock (oil capacity is 6 quarts).

Air Cleaner

Speaking of oil, you'll also need to replace the oil in the bottom of the air cleaner. There is a thumbscrew which tightens a band which holds the bottom cup in place. Remove the cup, clean all the old oil, gunk, and everything else out of there, and fill it with clean SAE 30 oil to the line. Should hold 1 5/8 pint.  Some Hs come with a glass jar precleaner - this is to catch the larger particles of dust before they hit the air cleaner. If your jar is missing, an ordinary wide mouth canning jar will work fine. If you're doing a restoration, the proper original jar is supposed to say "Ball Special" on it.

Transmission Oil

The transmission should be filled to the level of this plug while the tractor is sitting on level ground.  Fill through the large plug near the brake pedals on the operator's deck.

Odds are good that your H has at least some water in the transmission if it has been sitting out. It is a good idea to just drain the whole thing anyway - who knows when that was last done?  Be prepared for a lot, the capacity is 6 gallons!  If what you get out is really dirty, or if you see sort of Jell-O-like stuff in the bottom, you might want to consider flushing it. The easiest way to do this is to fill it with kerosene, drive it a couple of laps around the barn, then let it sit overnight, and then drain and refill with proper oil. But be warned that if you do this, you'll also clean off all the seals around the axles and such, and that once the dirt and dried up grease is removed they will probably start leaking.

There's a level plug on the left side in front of the clutch pedal. The transmission should be filled to the level of this plug with SAE 90 gear oil while the tractor is sitting on level ground.

Note that the steering box on top of the front bolster (where the worm gear on the end of the steering shaft is) also needs gear oil. If it looks like it is leaking around the seals, you can just pack it with grease instead.


Drain water or antifreeze from the block using this petcock. There is also a pipe on the bottom of the radiator to drain it

First, take a look to see if you have anything resembling antifreeze. Most likely all you will see is rusty water. There are two strategies to winterizing an H - one is use antifreeze, and the other is drain the radiator before it freezes. If you choose the latter, there is a drain pipe for the radiator itself on the back left side of the radiator. You will also need to drain the block. There is a drain cock on the left side of the block - it may be a petcock but could be a screw in plug.  It is probably easier to just put in antifreeze, and now would be a good time - it will help prevent rust anyway.

Coolant capacity is 16 1/2 quarts.

Battery & Ignition

The usual battery maintenance applies; clean off any corrosion and make sure there is enough water; charge if necessary. The 6v system depends on having big cables; if someone has replaced them with smaller 12v cables, consider replacing them. You'll have starting trouble until you do. Check all the connections carefully; the positive cable should be grounded to one of the starter mounting bolts; the negative should go to the starter switch on the dash, then from there to the terminal post on the starter.

The generator, magneto/distributor and starter all need to be lubricated via the little oil filler cups on them. The starter (also known as "cranking motor") needs SAE-20; the generator and magneto need light oil such as sewing machine oil.

Spark Plugs

I am currently using AC C86s, which seem to work well for my use (generally light). You might find this page about tractor spark plugs useful. And here is a nice photographic chart about reading spark plugs - aimed at high performance racing situations but some of these conditions occur in tractors too.


You can get by with pretty bad tires for a long time if they hold air.  You'll want to know if they have fluid in them or not - it was common to get extra traction by filling the rear tires with a water and calcium chloride mix - the latter added as an anti-freeze mechanism. This works fine as long as the tubes don't leak - if they do, the calcium chloride will quickly rust out the rims. You can tell by parking with the valve stem and the bottom and letting out a little air. If you get water instead, you need to decide if that's ok. There's no reason to remove it as long as everything else is in good shape and there's no rust damage. But remember when hauling that you've got a few hundred extra pounds, and if you remove the tire for repair, there is no way you can handle it alone - you'll need an engine hoist or a husky friend or two.

According to the manual, the front tires should have 28 lbs pressure for 4 ply tires and 36 lbs for 6 ply tires.  Rear tires should be at least 12 lbs, up to 16 for 4 ply tires and 24 for 6 ply tires. Remember that these are old recommendations and that tire technology has changed a lot since then; it is probably more useful to check the maximum inflation printed on the side of the tires.


There are LOTS of lubrication points; many are obvious. Non-obvious ones include the one on the throw-out bearing (there's an access cover on the bottom just below the clutch) and the one on the water pump shaft (put only a squirt or two in this one, any excess will get into your radiator).

Hydraulic Oil

Hydraulic oil goes here. There is a dipstick under this cap to check it.

If your H has the hydraulic "lift-all" system, there is a drain plug in the center of the bottom of the hydraulic pump, and a filler cap on the top. There should be a dipstick under the cap on the top. Don't use hydraulic oil, this system was designed to use engine oil! Hydraulic oil is too thin and will leak. Fill it with clean SAE-30 non-detergent engine oil.  It doesn't hold that much, so it is a good idea to go ahead and drain it and refill, just so you'll know it has the right stuff in it. If you have a hydraulic pressure gauge, you can attach it to one of the outlets and try it. If not, don't worry about that until you get an implement that needs hydraulic lift. Capacity is 6 quarts.

Other Things

Several other things may eventually need attention. These include front wheel bearings (pack them just like on a car), steering worm gear (under the cover plate on top of the front bolster - use transmission oil), and the crankcase breather (on the right side of the engine in the pushrod cover, clean periodically).

After This

This is probably enough to get you on the road, but is no substitute for reading and following the procedures in the Operator's Manual. Get one from Case-IH or from Binder Books.


1999-2010 T.W. Cook - All Rights Reserved. Operating and repairing antique tractors is an inherently dangerous activity. In particular, Farmall H's predate many modern safety enhancements such as roll-over protection systems. Please, be aware of the proper safety procedures and take all possible precautions - be careful out there!

Some words, model names, and designations, such as "Farmall", mentioned herein are the property of the trademark holder, and are used for identification purposes only. This is not an official website.

This page last updated: December 9, 2010