International Harvester 254 – Ignition Switch

photo of International Harvester 254

Just off the trailer in 2003

I purchased a used tractor in 2003 after moving a truckload — literally 14 cubic yards — of gravel with a wheelbarrow, and deciding I didn’t want to do that again. It’s an International Harvestor model 254, a three-cylinder diesel made around 1984. It’s been a workhorse, requiring relatively little maintenance, but age and exposure to weather have taken their toll on the old girl and things are starting to break. With all the other things I need to do around here, routine maintenance is a challenge, and I sometimes let things go until they’re a showstopper. Recently, the key broke off in the ignition switch, but I was still able to start the tractor with a flat-blade screwdriver. Well, the switch finally failed completely. Action was required.

One of the issues with this model of tractor is that it falls well past International’s glory days into that time of transition to Case ownership. The 254 was actually made by Mitsubishi in Japan, and although a quality product, not very many were sold. As I’ve made repairs and searched for parts over the years, I’ve noticed they can be expensive from Case/IH, and almost non-existent from third parties. There just isn’t much of a following for this model. The ignition switch proved to be a happy exception however, and I was able to purchase an after-market version from an online parts dealer with the understanding it would work in my tractor. As an added bonus, it only cost $50 instead of the $225 I was quoted for the exact replacement part from a Case/IH dealer.

photo of the new switch installed

New switch installed

There was a problem though. When I looked the new part over, it became clear that it had the right number of connections, but the labels and positioning were different. I was going to have to determine where the existing wires went on the new switch. Fortunately, I had purchased one of those mini shop manuals years ago, and some kind soul had posted a typical Kubota wiring diagram on a tractor forum. By comparing the two diagrams, I was able to make good guesses on the new switch wiring without too much trouble. An hour or two of work, the new switch was in place and the tractor started the first time. Now I can catch up on those tractor tasks I’ve been delaying.

I’d like to pay it forward though. I’ve been continually impressed as the Web has developed by people’s generosity. They have written about their discoveries and helped me out. So, here’s a diagram of the old and new switch wiring on an International Harvester 254 tractor and the new Kubota ignition switch. Hope it helps someone else out!

diagram of Ignition Switch Wiring IH 254

Ignition Switch Wiring IH 254


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