Cardan joints - Reach in and move both sets of cardans back and forth using both hands (u-joint carriers @ mid frame). U-joints should show no slop or replacement is necessary. U-joints are roughly $25 each, entire cardans are about $250 each.
Check steering play on manual steer machines. Box is adjustable if play is not excessive, but tie rod links are not. Look at link ends to ensure they are still tight. Tie rod links are still available, but steering boxes are out of production and out of stock. Links are about $65.
Jacking each axle group up one at a time, spin one tire and the other tire should spin in opposite direction. If it doesn't, there is internal damage. Axles should move smoothly. Pull out the differential lock for the front end and it should lock the axle (tires will not spin in opposite directions). If not, the diff lock is damaged. Check seals for leaking. If leaking and when in the air, grab tire with both arms and gently rock back and forth with someone holding the steering wheel (this anchors the machine). Watch axle to ensure there is no play in bearings. If so, suspect wear. CAUTION: When lifting and rocking the axle groups, be careful of articulation (drum rotating side to side). These machines easily swing and fall off of jacks. It's suggested to block or support both axle towers when in the air.
Ensure rims are not damaged as they are expensive to replace, about $300 each.
Ensure the starter doesn't grind the bendix when engaging and releases cleanly. Check and make sure the starting solenoid isn't cracked or damaged (older types out of stock, out of production). Replacement (European made) starters run about $450. Imports are about $250.
Look closely at the engine tin work around the cylinder fins for crud and impacted debris. This can lead to serious cooling problems. A well serviced engine will be clean of debris. (Unless the seller just read this).
Ensure engine is not being started using starting fluid. Excessive use of starting fluid can be damaging to engines. It should never be used with a diesel that utilizes glow plugs.
When engine is running, check for excessive blue smoke when warmed up. Almost all will smoke for the first 1/2 minute on start up, but should clean up quickly. Blue smoke is burning oil. If burning oil is evident, remove the oil bath from the air cleaner and see if it cleans up in a minute or so. If it does, the oil bath cleaner is probably plugged up and needs servicing, otherwise engine is worn. Black smoke is excessive, unburned fueling, common under load. White / blue / smokey exhaust is poor fuel detonation and is either injector nozzles or the engine is worn. Rebuilding air cooled diesels is easily done. Parts run between $500 and $1000 depending on needs.
Remove oil filler cap when 1st started then again when warmed up, compare for excessive blow by. If significantly worse when engine is hot, rings are worn.
Ensure parking brake is all there, no longer available (but conversions are possible). Worn brake shoes should be relined, cost depending on local resources.
Try machine in all gears to ensure they all work without clicking or grinding noises. Transmission gears, pinions and shafts are all available.
Rear articulation drum should rotate easily back and forth when driving.
Ensure power steering is working if power. New steering valves are expensive, originals out of stock and out of production.
I'm hesitant to purchase an Italian tractor because I understand parts are hard to get a hold of, is this true?
Italian manufacturers support their tractors for a long time and many parts are still available right off the shelf for 50 year old units. It is true that North America has had it's challenges with parts because there hasn't been widespread dealer support. That is not as important as it has been in the past because of the world wide web. It should be obvious though that parts out of Italy are not an overnight order. We try to order parts at the end of each month, so it's best to target an order no later than the third week. The orders may be fairly large at times and Italy may need to bring in parts from their OEM manufacturers. This could mean several weeks for our order to be filled. From start to finish, the time needed for parts we don't have on hand is about the same as for most older tractor parts.
I have heard engine parts are not available through the tractor manufacturer, is this true?
Yes, unless the tractor is new, engine parts are often not available from the tractor manufacturer. The difference between tractors was typically the engine type. Back in the 80's, you could purchase a Goldoni Universal with either a Slanzi (18hp), Ruggerini (32hp) or Lombardini (38hp) diesel. The difference between a Pasquali 997 (Ruggerini) and the 998 (Lombardini) was the engine. Tractor "types" were really about engines - the tractors being exactly the same (except for the smallest units that still shared transmission parts). We now have access to all engine parts out of Italy, including the Slanzi which is a big help. Since engines may require oversize bearings or rings, we order rebuild kits in, so plan accordingly. Out of Italy, it may take 4 to 6 weeks for parts.
What parts are not available anymore?
We have had excellent luck with most parts, but there are a couple of parts that seem to be out of production and no longer available. Many of the original hydraulic oil pumps are out of production, but there are still after-market pumps that work just fine. Original style seats and steering wheels are no longer available for the older units, but this is important only when restoration is the objective. There are enough seats manufactured today that look similar to originals that it usually isn't a problem. Large castings are hard to find. Some older tire sizes are now only available in the equivalent radial sizes, but match up perfectly. Rims are expensive out of Italy, so we have Unverferth build them for us. They can make up anything if it isn't available off the shelf, but only when the size and width are part of a larger run. They are also reasonable. There aren't many parts that are no longer available. We have a large stock of both new, new / old stock and salvaged parts available
I've heard parts are really expensive for Italian tractors, is this true?
It can be, but it's not any different than with most other tractors. Italian tractors hold up very well and the parts are competitively priced with import tractors. Our experience has been that Japanese tractor parts are often more expensive. The biggest challenge for us is shipping. Italian manufacturers ship by air freight. The downside is about 35% of the part cost is shipping. That being said, parts are still about the same as Japanese parts once they land here, because our counterparts are in the same boat. As with any import tractor, don't try and compare prices to the venerable Massey 135. One of the most popular production units of all time, parts are dirt cheap and made all over the world.
Is it true Italian engines are air cooled?
They can be either air or liquid cooled. The smaller (less than 50 hp) Lombardini, Ruggerini and Slanzi diesel engines have been traditionally air cooled, the VM power plants are also oil cooled. Although air cooled diesels are less common to North America than Europe, they are without question well regarded by industry world wide. Air cooled diesels have exemplary records as being tough, long lasting and powerful for their size and weight. They are easily worked on and require little maintenance. Like their water cooled counterparts though, the cooling system has to be looked after. You have to clean accumulated trash out around the cooling fins to ensure the fans or blowers cool efficiently.
Is it true Italian engines burn oil?
No. This is a question I have been asked a number of times. Italian engines are well designed, well built and easy to work on. If an engine burns oil, it is because the rings, valve guides or both are worn; the result of not changing oil, not servicing the air cleaner or severely overheating the engine. A necessity with air cooled engines is periodically removing the engine shielding and cleaning out accumulated dirt and trash which prevents it from cooling. Any engine will burn oil if abused or not cared for. A consideration is they should not be run at idle for extended periods of time. Your engine is best warmed up or cooled down running slightly below mid throttle, not at idle. Italian engines are the same as all engines, they don't burn oil unless they are not cared for properly.
My engine seems to run well when cold, but burns oil and loses power when hot. Why is this?
While it's difficult to generalize, it may be as simple as having too much oil in your air cleaner and it could be choking the engine air. Many Italian tractors are run thousands of hours with no service to the air cleaner. The oil cup sludges up, forces the oil up into the screen and chokes off the engine air. When starting cold, it creates a rich fuel environment for an easy start, then warms up to a sluggish, smoking mess. Remove your oil bath air cleaner, wash the entire screen and cup in solvent. Refill to the proper level and try it again. You may be surprised. Better yet, modify the air cleaner to an element - see our TIPS section.
I was told not to run my diesel at high RPM's, is this true?
No, actually it's bad for the engine. Italian diesels typically develop maximum torque at 1800 RPM, but that is not the optimum speed to run them. On the single cylinders, the manufacturer recommends normal running speed to be roughly between 2000 and 2600 RPM (for continuous light to heavy loads). Lombardini went so far to say that for any purpose outside this field of use, to please contact them to discuss the application. The power curve information for Lombardini single cylinders is attached:
Example of power curves
This is especially important for the single cylinders like the 986. These engines do not like slow speeds. Oil pressure is highest and the engine works the least in this range. The idea that diesels like to 'lug' and should be run at low RPM is simply wrong and detrimental to the engine.
For the twin cylinder engines, recommended normal running speeds are between 2000 and 3000 RPM. The bottom line is don't lug your diesel engine, it's hard on it. The idea engines should be run at low RPM is rooted back to stationary engine days, where anything over 550 RPM was considered red line. Modern diesel design not only allows for higher speeds, they benefit from it. Always refer to the engineers power curves if in doubt. They are usually published in the service manual for your engine.
Are Italian tractors big enough to really work?
There are no worries there. Italian tractors pack unbelievable power into a small package. North America's auto and tractor industries have differed from Europe in both design and concept. It's like comparing a Ferrari to a Corvette. Both are powerful and have their place, but the Italian sports car is designed for a different driver in mind. Italian tractors are powerfully built, unbelievably agile and will traverse slopes where other tractors don't dare drive. Vineyard tractors are the ultimate example. Small, but powerful and turn in as small a radius of 3 feet 9 inches. Most are AWD and at the end of the day you could drive up to your kitchen table because they fit through a standard doorway with the wheels on narrow mount. We drive our Italian tractors across slopes that would be impossible to navigate with a conventional tractor. They may look small parked next to a conventional tractor, but don't let size fool you. Take a look at the tractor pull or logging video in our Gallery section.
Are there weak points to the articulating design?
Not that we can see. Italian tractor frames hold up very well. Original designs were steadily improved during the 70's and 80's; with the later design of the 90's just about bullet proof. We know of older tractors that failed using 1000 lb. counter weights (so loaders could carry more) but this is tractor abuse, not a design flaw. It has been suggested that if the lower ball bearing does fail, to replace it with a bushing cut from polymer or UHMW. This is because it holds up better to shock load. However, it's not beyond the home mechanic to change out the articulation bearings. We know tractors with eight thousand of hours on them that have never failed. Like everything mechanical though, while failure is uncommon, it certainly is possible. Most Japanese tractors are stout, well built tractors; but we have purchased them broken in half. That shouldn't suggest Japanese tractor frames are weak.
But what about when driving over rough terrain?
Actually, that's when articulating frames really shine. They not only hinge in the middle, the front and rear sections rock side to side about 15 degrees. That means that if you are turning uphill and your right front tire is climbing over a rock, your right rear tire could be traveling down into a dip and you would not lose traction.
Is it true they are hard to steer?
This is usually the result of mounting a front end loader on a manual steer tractor. With a fully loaded bucket, manual steer is not easy to work with; similar to a conventional tractor. If you want a loader for heavy work, ensure the tractor has hydraulic assist steering. You won't regret it. If not running with a loader, manual steer is adequate and not a worry. When plowing or tilling, the low tire (in the trench) tends to pull and the tractor wanders. Engaging the front diff lock will minimize this tendency. Remember, diff lock's are used when pulling straight, do not turn with the diff locks engaged as it will wear the differentials.
Can you use them as a skidder?
Although they are designed similar to a skidder, remember they are a small tractor. Pulling timber is normally not an issue as long as the size and length of logs are reasonable. If you are doing "wheelies" or having to jerk the logs to get started, your load is too large. These tractors are amazing, but recognize they have limits just like any tractor in their HP range. It is easy to become over enthusiastic with Italian tractors because they typically out shine a conventional tractor of the same power. NEVER pull from a point higher than the rear axle as you increase the risk of flipping the tractor. A rear PTO forest type winch or grapple attachment is recommended if you want to move a lot of wood.
Why don't they have fuel filters?
Actually they do, but the fuel filter is located in the bottom of the fuel tank. Drain the tank and remove the 10mm bolt. Gently rock the filter base away from the tank and clean the filter housing well. Replace the filter, cover and bolt; then snug up just enough to prevent leaking. Don't over tighten the bolt. See the tips section.
I've heard they were actually built in Spain, is this true?
The Pasquali's that were built in Spain will have a Hispanamotor (Lombardini under license), Diter Espana (MWM), Minsel Espana or another of the Spanish diesels. They would also be labeled as an E series, for example 996E. Pasquali did have a plant in Spain, but few of them made it to North America.