Fergie – Hydraulic system, PTO and Topping

5 min read

With the Fergie’s wiring restored, ignition overhauled and starting reliably, it was time to put the Little Grey Fergie to work. To work as more than a mechanical horse, it really needs to use the hydraulic system. After so many years ‘off the field’ will the power take-off (PTO) still go around and the three-point linkage rise?

Accessing the PTO

Before we went all “Farmer Giles” and set off with the topper in the direction of the field, it seemed sensible to check the Fergie’s hydraulics. There are two elements to the Fergie hydraulic system, the PTO and the hydraulic pump. I say two elements as the hydraulic pump runs off the PTO, something I’m not used to coming from more modern tractors. The PTO is a method of transferring mechanical power from the tractor to the machinery.

Removing the PTO end cap with a massive tool
Removing the PTO end cap with a massive tool

Having checked the hydraulic fluid level of the Fergie, we set about taking the end cap off the PTO. The end cap was painted onto the housing when the Fergie was resprayed, and it took a little force to break the seal. Obviously, being on a farm, we could employ only the most massive tool for removing the cap. I had been warned that the PTO seal needs replacing, so I expected a build-up of oil behind the cap. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find no obvious leak and little rust on the PTO output shaft.

Sizing the Fergie’s PTO shaft

As expected, we found that the PTO still has its original 1 1/8″output shaft. This presents a little problem as modern PTO driven machinery uses a 1 3/8″output shaft. So we were ‘gonna need a bigger shaft’!

Smaller sized PTO shaft needed expanding to modern size
Smaller sized PTO shaft needed expanding to a modern size

While this is a common solution, and there are plenty of other options. It’s quite a minefield. There are replacement PTO shafts, sleeves, solid metal adapters and clutched adapters. Given the force that does through the PTO, I opted for something with the biggest metal!

Solid metal PTO adapter from Old20

I ordered a quick-release PTO adapter from Old 20 Parts Company. This allowed the tractor to maintain some originality as the adapter was easy to remove. It also saved the hassle of changing the PTO shaft to the larger size or driving the securing in out to take the adapter off. I hadn’t considered that the quick release adapter needed a recess in one of the teeth on the shaft. Normally, I would reach for the angle grinder, but this seemed like an unnecessary modification.

Old20 also offers an adapter held by a roll pin as a heavy-duty version. I put the order in, but Old20 had no stock. They recommended a topper should be used with an overrun adapter to avoid damage to the tractor. Good advice, which I took on board!

Fergie Hydraulic Three-point Link

The clutched overrun adapter was quickly installed on the tractor when it arrived a few days later. The next thing to check was the hydraulic pump which drives hydraulic pressure into the three-point linkage. The linkage holds the machinery in three places at the back of the tractor. I won’t lie. Working the hydraulic pump had me rather baffled. I had to get the manual out to understand how to make it work!

The clutched overrun adapter

Modern tractors have a separate control for the PTO and the hydraulic pump. But as the hydraulic pump on the Fergie runs off the PTO, it has to be turning, quite a bit, to generate hydraulic pressure. Once there is some pressure in the hydraulics, the lever for the three-point linkage height starts to work.

Once I had figured out the controls, we could hook up the topper. Unfortunately, the amount of paint in the balls of the three-point linkage took quite a bit of freeing off. What seemed like a five-minute task was rapidly turning into a multi-hour bender.

The PTO shaft between the tractor and the topper has a standard sized sliding quick-release pin. Unfortunately, we found the machined groove on the adapter wouldn’t accept it until much filing had taken place on the poor machining. This should have been a warning.

Fergie hooked up to the topper.

Eventually, we had the topper on the back of the Fergie and everything adjusted. This Fergie had worked at a cricket club towing a roller for most of its life, there is every chance this is the first time its PTO has even been used!

PTO overrun adapter disaster

I think the correct ‘Health and Safety’ term is a near miss.
Off I plodded, down the field, getting a feel for the three-point linkage adjustment, absolutely pleased as punch. The 12″ high grass was slowly being reduced to, well, about 8″ while I found my feet. Once I reached the end of the field, I raised the cutting height a little, PTO disengaged, and the Fergie turned to come back over my beautifully manicured grass.

Failed overrun adapter housing

Back to the top of the field, with the grass strip now down to 4″, I was pondering where to go next. While stationary, I looked at the topper to make sure the deck height hadn’t changed to watch the PTO shaft fall out of the back of the tractor! Very much a near miss. If you’ve ever seen a video of a PTO shaft escaping at speed, it can only end in certain death.

Overrun adapter clutch plates attached to the PTO shaft
Overrun adapter clutch plates attached to the PTO shaft

I didn’t realise at the time that the housing of the overrun adapter had gone with the PTO shaft. Most of the clutch plates were still firmly attached to the back of the tractor. It’s hard to see in the picture above, but the housing had actually fractured and failed.

The supplier of the overrun adapter quickly arranged a full refund. They suggested this wasn’t the first one that had failed. They suggested that the PTO shaft was too long and had crushed the housing on lifting the topper. But going by the less than ideal machining on the housing, I am not convinced that was the case!

The end of the restoration

Despite the near-disastrous end to the topping of the field, everything worked well until the failure. Even now, it’s satisfying to see the rather short strip of shorn field. It simply proves the PTO and hydraulic system of the Fergie are functioning happily.

There are still some basic chores for the tractor on the farm. But now the final parts of the restoration are complete, the Little Grey Fergie will return to its owner. It will likely only see light duties, mainly towing a roller and harrow. Maybe I’ll offer to keep it warm and dry over the winter. It is very satisfying just to jump on and go for a drive around the headland!


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