Tractor Electric Problem

Dang it. Well, at least I got the pasture dragged. As I was returning the tractor to the carport, suddenly I had no electric. No gauges, no ability to shut it down using the key. I had to stall it to kill the engine.
Any suggestions?

Diesel tractor I assume? Not shutting off typically is fuel solenoid valve related. Will it start back up? Could also be ignition switch, but it’s difficult to proceed with advice not knowing the make and model of your tractor.

Yes it’s diesel, no it won’t start. No electronics, zero, zip. Probably 20 year old Massey Ferguson, about a 25 horse.

Next thing I’d do is load test the battery. A perfectly serviceable load tester can be bought for under $30. Or remove the battery and take it to just about any auto parts store and they will load test it free.

Care to share your level of mechanic skills and comfort level doing electrical testing? Do you have a multimeter?

Of all the things I can do and feel comfortable doing - I have ZERO skills at electronics, and next-to-zero mechanical skills. Change a plug/hit it with a hammer kind of skills.

If the battery is a possibility, is it true it could quit while the tractor is running? The battery is very old.


Yep, it can. When the cells no longer take the charge, it’s a matter of time before you’re out of juice.

Strange that the tractor kept running though, as most solenoids and such are going to be fail close.

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When this exact thing happened to me, it was the fuel shut-off valve (fuel solenoid).

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Check the wiring you do have, and see if rats visited.

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It is possible that a failed battery may have kept supplying barely enough current to keep the already open fuel solenoid in the open position so the diesel engine kept running. As I know nothing about your specific tractor’s electrical system, that is just a WAG, since with your ignition switch off the solenoid should have lost power and gone to the closed position to stop fuel flow and killed the engine.

One thing pretty simple to try next is to use some jumper cables run from the tractor to your truck or car battery, and see if that battery will jump start your tractor. If it does, it is time for a new tractor battery. I’d say anything beyond three years is on borrowed time, though many batteries keep going and going well beyond that.

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I took the battery out and put it on the charger. It seemed to charge right up, but doesn’t seem to be holding the charge well.

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It is time for you to buy a new battery for the tractor. At the age of the battery and the things that are happening with your tractor, do the battery replacement before spending time and effort to do more testing or having a service tech pay you a visit. You already have the battery out.

And since you already have it out, take it to a battery store. They will load test it, which takes probably15 seconds, tell you the result, and sell you a new one.

My money is on a new battery solving all of your electrical gremlins, Happy tractoring!


Nope. New battery installed today; no difference, no power. Drat.


I was so sure that the battery would be the culprit. Now with still no power to the tractor the other considerations would be wiring connections, including grounds and fuses, and the ignition switch.

As you have limited electrical skills, you might at least follow the cable that runs from the battery negative to the point that it is attached to the tractor chassis. If there is access to see it, look for corrosion or a loose connection.

If you could post the tractor model number, I can check for a wiring diagram on line and see if there are things you can easily check, like a fuse and location.

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Other things I replaced in the search for a cure - fuel injection pump, fuel filters, ignition switch. All of those I, of course, replaced before the shut-off solenoid, and finally the solenoid appeared to be the winner. Or maybe doing all of was the reason for winning, I guess.

We had a bad battery cable on a tractor this summer. Another (pretty cheap) idea for you to check. Fuses should be checked “just because.” If there is a short, it could have blown a fuse. Older tractors can easily have cracked wires that intermittently touch something to short and blow a fuse. My wiring to lights is doing this at the moment, can’t find the cracked wire.

Cables are both fine. While searching for the serial number, I found the book that came with the tractor - yay me! There is of course, a wiring diagram. The weather is mild today, so I’ll dig into the fuses first. Thanks for all your suggestions, stay tuned!


Dang it! Found the 50amp fuse was blown. Yay! But no. Replaced that so I now have power to the glow plug, but when I turn the key on, all I get is a ticking noise from the right side of the tractor (1233 Massey Ferguson).

What’s the next idea @LCDR? Alternator or starter?

What sort of safety switches does your MF have? I see that on some models a neutral safety switch can have an intermittent fault.

I have a neutral safety switch on my Deere that is iffy. It sometimes works and the tractor starts, but when it doesn’t I can tap on the switch, and play around with the gear selector and it will finally start. I have a new switch but am waiting for the next transmission oil change, as removing the switch with the transmission full drains a lot of oil unless you are really fast and lucky. You can also rig up a jumper wire the switch to fool the tractor into starting but I don’t want to risk accidentally starting up while in gear.

I assume you have also made sure tractor is in neutral and the PTO switch is disengaged.

An ignition switch is another possibility. A relatively inexpensive thing to replace, if there is decent access.

Does the ticking sound continue as long as you have the switch on? That is most likely the fuel pump running, which is normal.

Sorry about seeming to play 20 questions. Do the headlights work at all?

Didn’t check the headlights, I will when it’s darker. Yes to neutral and disengagement, yes to ticking continuing as long as I’ve got the key turned.
No apologies, sorry for my long delays. I’m trying to mess with it when the weather is ok and I’ve got a few moments.
I’ll look into safety switches. Thanks!

No lights. No horn. About ready to bring it in for repairs.