Farmall/International 656 Hydro
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    Evergreen's Avatar
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    Farmall/International 656 Hydro

    The short version: how do I get a non-running Farmall 656 Hydro off a trailer?

    The long version: You know that little voice in your head that tries to warn you when you are about to do something dumb? (Mine sounds a lot like my wife ) Well, I went to buy a little flatbed trailer that I found on Craigslist a few weeks ago. When I got to the place, it turned out to be a big estate sale. None of the kids wanted to move back from the city after their folks went to a nursing home, so everything was being sold and hauled off. One of the kids took me around back to show me the trailer. He told me that it had a tractor on it that he couldn't figure out and asked if I would take it with the trailer at full asking price just to get it out of there. Before that little voice had a chance to stop me, I agreed to buy the trailer with the mystery tractor on it before we had even gotten to it.

    It turns out the trailer was worth every penny of the $1400 I paid. All the lights and brakes work! Solid deck and good tires, what more could you ask for?

    I have no idea what I got myself into with the tractor... It is a Farmall 656 Gasoline Hydro and other than a lot of bird poo on the hood and seat, it is cosmetically in great shape. The engine is free; I can wiggle the crank pulley back and forth a few degrees. I have no idea what condition the hydrostatic drive is in. All that appears to be missing is the rotor off the distributor... a common way to lock-up your tractor around here. I know absolutely nothing about the tractor beyond what I just wrote here. I have a manual on the way, but I need to get it off the trailer before it will get here. Is there a freewheel lever like a riding lawn mower to disengage the hydrostatic and let me roll it off the trailer?

    My plan is to get it running again. I think it would make a great brush-hogging and snow plowing tractor.

    Does anyone have any tips or helpful hints for me? I've never owned or worked on anything with a hydrostatic transmission before.

    Thanks in advance. Pictures will be posted as soon as a have it off the trailer and in the shed.
    BigJim55 likes this.
    '50 Model M w/electronic ignition, 12v conversion, and a 3pt conversion plus a homemade snowplow, a Deere Model 51 trailer plow, a Woods RM59 finish mower, a Bark Buster splitter, and a few other toys.
    '69 Sears Suburban 14 48" deck and 42" back blade, an estate rake, and a sweeper.
    '07 F250 XL Powerstroke, crew cab, short box, 4x4.
    '85 F150... I finally sold my very first truck after racking up over half-a-million miles on the original drivetrain.

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    rtgt's Avatar
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    Sweet!

    I don't know squat about that tractor so I can't help you there, but it sounds like you have a new toy to play with.

    I wouldn't have listened to that little voice either...

    Enjoy your new "project"

    Looking forward to the pictures...
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    ilmo's Avatar
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    HI/LOW/NEUTRAL Shifter? Seems like there should be a neutral you can get in to??
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    Evergreen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ilmo View Post
    HI/LOW/NEUTRAL Shifter? Seems like there should be a neutral you can get in to??
    To be honest, I checked the crank pulley, made sure the chains were set right, drove it straight home, and threw a tarp over it. It is still tarped... I haven't even climbed onto the operator's platform yet. My wife knows I have something on a trailer, but if she knows it's another tractor then she hasn't said anything. And if she does ask, she won't be able to argue with "free tractor".

    I have found a few clips on YouTube which show a small lever to the left of the hydrostatic control lever on the left side of the dash. I'm going to assume that is the high/low/neutral shifter.

    Once I get "Red" into the garage I plan on trying to get the engine going again. I don't think it will take much because I know the pistons aren't stuck. Just to be sure, I think I will put a little diesel or marvel mystery oil in each cylinder and on the valves/rockers and spin it over with a wrench a few times before I try to crank it. All the spark plugs were in it and there was both a coffee can and a flapper on top of the exhaust so nothing should have been able to get in there. Then again, there are only two reasons to put a tractor on a trailer... And I doubt this one was going to a show.

    Hey, it's a free tractor... What could possibly go wrong?
    '50 Model M w/electronic ignition, 12v conversion, and a 3pt conversion plus a homemade snowplow, a Deere Model 51 trailer plow, a Woods RM59 finish mower, a Bark Buster splitter, and a few other toys.
    '69 Sears Suburban 14 48" deck and 42" back blade, an estate rake, and a sweeper.
    '07 F250 XL Powerstroke, crew cab, short box, 4x4.
    '85 F150... I finally sold my very first truck after racking up over half-a-million miles on the original drivetrain.

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    Dingeryote's Avatar
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    656's were pretty awesome back in the day.
    SCORE!!!!!!!!!

    I do remember the things were kinda expensive, and the old timers were leery of drive troubles, that "So and so" had with his, and cost as much as a used tractor to fix.

    If you get good compression, and get it to fire on Ether, I'd be nervous about why it was parked.
    The rotor was pulled, and it was on the trailer, so somebody was concerned about it getting started and driven off...I have my fingers crossed for ya!
    DRobinson, rtgt, ilmo and 1 others like this.

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    Tractor Tim's Avatar
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    My uncle had a 656 gas Hydro. I loved driving this rig. It was the first Hydrostatic transmission tractor I had ever seen.
    It worked great on PTO implements...mowing, grinding feed, etc. It was also really good on a loader for the obvious reasons.

    Some negatives...
    I cultivated corn with it one summer. The rear-end got incredibly hot when used for long term. The platform would get so hot that it was hard to keep your feet on it.

    The transmission failed repeatedly. Even then (mid 70's), it was $5,000+repair each time. It simply wouldn't handle any ground engaging implements, even something fairly light draft like a row-crop cultivator as I mentioned above.

    International Harvester really took a risk with this tractor. It was WAY ahead of its time. When it worked, it was as smooth as today's hydrostatic tractors. ...and it was incredibly fun to drive. Many of us consider the hydrostatic "normal" now, but back then it seemed like magic.

    Having said all of this, I have no idea how to help you with your question. I just couldn't resist reminiscing a bit about the 656.

    If you can get it running, it will be perfect for mowing and plowing snow.
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    Evergreen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dingeryote View Post
    The rotor was pulled, and it was on the trailer, so somebody was concerned about it getting started and driven off.
    That thought had crossed my mind too. I'm trying to be cautiously optimistic and not get too excited.

    I hadn't thought about starting it on ether first. That's not a bad idea. I figured I would have to drain any old gas and clean out the carb, but ether might be safer and easier than gasoline to get those first few rotations.

    I have heard from others that it doesn't make a good tillage tractor because of the hydro drive. I'm kinda bummed because I was considering the idea of making it into a puller. Still, 60 horsepower will make a monstrous brush hogger and snow power for what I need. I would really like to find a loader for it... assuming of course that I can wake it up!
    Dingeryote and rtgt like this.
    '50 Model M w/electronic ignition, 12v conversion, and a 3pt conversion plus a homemade snowplow, a Deere Model 51 trailer plow, a Woods RM59 finish mower, a Bark Buster splitter, and a few other toys.
    '69 Sears Suburban 14 48" deck and 42" back blade, an estate rake, and a sweeper.
    '07 F250 XL Powerstroke, crew cab, short box, 4x4.
    '85 F150... I finally sold my very first truck after racking up over half-a-million miles on the original drivetrain.

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    A FARMALL gas 656 Hydro as a pulling tractor is not a good idea. The gas engine limits HP, the hydro sucks up HP. Diesel gear drives make the best pullers.

    The hydro speed & direction lever is on the left side of the console, the range lever on the right, high & low, and in the middle is neutral, which should be safe to tow the tractor. I think the 656 had mechanical brakes so should be able to stop without the engine running, think it steers too.

    FARMALL built their own hydrostatic drives. They were able to be used for heavy pulling, but their best use was pulling PTO implements in variable conditions, and as loader tractors. The thing they were most sensitive about was not having the oil & filter changed as specified. And IH Hy-Tran was the preferred oil.

    IH ended up making hydro tractors over 100 PTO HP eventually, a 4WD hydro with a cab made an excellent snow blower tractor. IH also made several sizes of smaller hydro's, and most of their construction line of tractors had a hydro transmission option. A lot of other equipment companies bought IH hydro tractors to mount their attachments to, Barber-Greene asphalt paving machines, Chisolm-Ryder harvesting machines. I've never heard of another company making a hydro tractor in the range of sizes IH did, 40-50 HP to 113 HP, maybe some short line company like Toro, or some imported turf maintenance company, but not Massey- Ferguson, Deere, Allis, Ford, or White.
    Dingeryote, rtgt, BigJim55 and 2 others like this.

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    Evergreen's Avatar
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    Update!

    Climbed under the tarp to look some things over today and here is what I found:

    The good news: The hydrostatic range lever was left in the LOW position. I'm going to assume that meant that the tractor was driven onto the trailer. In addition to a rear remote, there also appears to be hose hookups for what I assume to be a loader resting on the back of the bell housing.

    The bad news: This thing must have hydrostatic steering too because when I grabbed the steering wheel, it turned but the wheels didn't. It didn't spin freely... it felt like trying to turn the wheel on my dad's X585 when it isn't running. Can anyone vouch for hydrostatic steering on a 656?

    I think I'm going to have to get it running before I try to unload it. Rolling a tractor without steering off of a trailer is not my idea of a good time.
    Dingeryote and Ffford7.3 like this.
    '50 Model M w/electronic ignition, 12v conversion, and a 3pt conversion plus a homemade snowplow, a Deere Model 51 trailer plow, a Woods RM59 finish mower, a Bark Buster splitter, and a few other toys.
    '69 Sears Suburban 14 48" deck and 42" back blade, an estate rake, and a sweeper.
    '07 F250 XL Powerstroke, crew cab, short box, 4x4.
    '85 F150... I finally sold my very first truck after racking up over half-a-million miles on the original drivetrain.

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    Yes, 656's had hydrostatic steering, but they should provide steering without the engine running. Something else to work on! At least the brakes are mechanical.

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