A tractor inspector gives tips for buying a used tractor.

Barry White has been inspecting machinery for his auction house for about 11 years. He figures he inspects up to 700 pieces a year, mostly tractors. Here are his pointers to follow when inspecting a used tractor.

Fire or flood damage. Machine will likely be repainted. All seals and rubbers around the cab, engine, rear differential, etc. will have been replaced if fire damaged.

Wear and tear. Cab and tire wear should coincide with tractor hours. Low hours will show little wear on the foot pedals, carpet and mats around the pedals; age or newness of tires should reflect hours.

Tire kicking. If the remaining tread depth is worn down to half its original lug depth, the tire may not transfer all of the tractor's power to the ground; watch for uneven wear. If the serial number is ground off, it's a manufacturer's second.

Steering. Move the steering wheel back and forth with some force. It should feel right. While driving, turn a corner to be sure the differential locks into place.

Look for leaks. Streaks of oil across tires and hubs may mean a defective shaft seal; check hydraulics for leaks.

Battery. Watch for low water level, green deposits on poles or a moist layer of dirt on top.

Damaged cables and defective or poorly adjusted lights can mean the tractor was treated rough.

Inspect the engine. Check the O-rings on the crankshaft. A cold engine should pick up speed right away. Black smoke billowing from a diesel on start-up is okay. If it doesn't clear, or if it's anything but black, there's an engine problem. Check the engine's ventilation by closing the end of the pipe with a piece of paper or your palm to collect any oil that blows out.

Take out the dipstick. Oil will indicate timely fills. Dark black or a burnt smell suggests oil was not changed at the proper intervals. A gray tinge or tiny water bubbles on the dipstick suggest that water has mixed with the oil. If the oil spits more than usual when the dipstick is pulled out, the rings are probably bad and oil has gotten in the oil pan: The engine will possibly need an overhaul.

Oil film in the radiator and antifreeze indicates problems.

Swivel pin and hitches. Check the 4-wd swivel pin at the pivot point. The wear should coincide with tractor hours. Look closely at the hitch hole. An oblong hole means high hours, as can a rebuilt or replaced hitch.