My orange tractor is red

August 31, 2013 in Tractor by Claude

A farm needs a tractor, right? So a mini-farm needs a mini tractor. There is hardly a tractor that is more mini than an old Kubota. I’m talking real tractor here, not a ride-on lawn mower. After months of looking around, I hunted town a Kubota B6000 at a relatively decent price. These little things are quite rare in this part of the world, and that is reflected in the price. The one I got had a bit of an engine problem, that’s what made it affordable. It came with the original tiller attached and a snow blade in the front fixed to  a home-brew hydraulic attachment.

my Kubota B6000 mini-tractor

My red Kubota B6000 mini-tractor with the original tiller and a fabricated hydraulic hitch in the front


I could have had a Ferguson 20 or a Fordson Dexta for example for less money than the Kubota, but, even though they are pretty small tractors by today’s standards, they are still rather big. Most of all, they are all 1,6 m wide. That means that all the drivable paths on my land would need to be at least that wide. I figured that on a 1.2 hectare property, I don’t want to make paths that wide. The Kubota B6000 is one metre wide. That allows me to make much narrower paths that I can still drive the tractor on. Therefore, the mini-tractor was worth it. Its tiny size also means it fits inside a normal van, so transporting it is easy.

The Kubota B6000 is a 4-wheel drive tractor with a two-cylinder diesel engine that produces 13 brake-horsepower. At least that’s what they were rated at when they were new. I suspect one or two horses may have escaped it over the years. The B6000 may be small, but it is a fully featured tractor with low-range gears, PTO and hydraulics, as you would expect on a big tractor, only smaller. All of this makes this mini-tractor much more versatile than, say a quad-bike, which is similar in size.

My Kubota B60000 is a Japanese domestic market model that has been grey-imported to Europe. That means it has a tiller that is mounted on a two-point hitch and screwed onto the PTO straight to the chassis of the tractor. Given that it was meant for the Japanese market, this B6000 mini-tractor has rice-paddy tires, which have a huge profile on them. Kubota tractors are orange, but someone had pained this one red. The paint job was done really shoddily with a brush and needs re-doing some time. I like the reactor in red though, so I’ll probably keep it that way when the time comes to re-paint it.

I have never owned a tractor before, so getting to know this little beast was quite interesting (it still is). It turns out it was missing a few bits and bobs, but for the most part, it is in surprisingly good condition, considering that it is a few years older than I am. These things were built to last. Almost everything on it is over-specified for a tractor this size.That makes it really tough. Virtually nothing is made of plastic (other than the seat cover, which is missing). Everything else is steel or rubber.

Me driving the Kubota B6000 mini-tractor

Driving the Kubota B6000 tractor for the first time

The engine had a very strong tendency to rev higher and higher, all by itself. I replaced all the hoses and liquids and fuel filters etc. Incidentally, the main fuel filter with the water separator was missing and had been replaced by a disposable filter without a water separator. I ordered a new filter, which took many weeks to get here from Japan. I spent many hours with friend who is very knowledgeable on machines and engines, trying to track down the cause of the runaway revving. We reconditioned all the copper gaskets, cleaned the injectors (I use an injector-cleaning diesel-additive too), checked the bearings of the governor but the revving didn’t go away. We did get it to the point though where it could sit idling without necessarily revving up like crazy all the time. But once revved up, it would not calm down without adding load by either starting to drive, or engaging the hydraulic pump.

We got to the point that it would become necessary to remove the engine from the tractor in order to be able to investigate further. That had to be postponed to the winter, though. In the mean time, I was fixing all sorts of little things that needed attention. One of these little things was the leaver that controls the hydraulics. The B6000 only has one. but that one was loose and swinging wildly back-and forth while driving. Opening the hydraulic valve assembly revealed that a little spring and ball were missing that normally hold the leaver in place in its resting position. I improvised with a spring I had lying around and a ball from a rattle-type spray paint can. That fixed the issue, but didn’t last because neither the ball nor the spring were the right size, so I had to get OEM parts eventually. An unexpected side-effect of fixing the wobbly hydraulic leaver was that now the engine was running much less erratically and the tendency to revv up was somewhat gone. So the spring and ball fixed the engine problem. Cost of parts: €1.20. Now the orange tractor that is red ran just about fine.

You’re probably wondering, what is he doing with a mini-tractor with a tiller in a permaculture farm? Quite right, tillers are not exactly favoured in permaculture. Many organic gardeners despise them too. Well, the tiller came for free with the tractor, as far as I’m concerned, and it’s not the main reason for having the tractor. In the past year, I have built several implements for the tractor that are at least as useful as the tiller. More on that soon…