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I have a diesel tractor with a generator. After sitting for a long period the battery was low so I used a portable jumper battery but mistakenly hooked up the cables in reverse. This caused smoke to come from the positive terminal hookup and fried the jumper battery which I replaced. I recharged the battery on the tractor and it turns over very well but the engine won't start.

Could I have damaged the electrical system in the tractor? If so what would be the fix? Could the electrical system be reversed polarity. This tractor always started up when battery was charged. The fuse on the dash appears to be OK The tractor is a 1955 INTERNATIONAL 504 DIESEL.

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    Can we assume that the magic smoke started the instant you touched battery cables, and that you did NOT push the starter button? – zipzit May 25 '16 at 15:13
  • Define "sitting for a long period" – Moab May 25 '16 at 17:26
  • Why would a bad electrical system cause a diesel to not start? Don't these tractors have mechanical fuel pumps, with mechanical control linkages? There aren't any electrons anywhere in that chain, unless there is a fuel shut off solenoid stuck closed somewhere... – zipzit May 25 '16 at 18:11
  • @zipzit, well, no starter for one right? And do tractors not have glow plugs for starting (honestly have no idea)? – JPhi1618 May 25 '16 at 18:35
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    The only shut off on this should be manual, I'd bet. They didn't put much in the way of electronic anything on diesel tractors this old. My bet is the fuel system is clogged and is not wanting to flow anything. You could use starter fluid in the intake tract to see if it will fire over, but that will only tell you the internals of the engine are doing good. I don't think your battery mishap had anything to do with the no-start situation. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 May 25 '16 at 21:08
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Just wanted to combine a number of the comments into an answer:

Older diesel tractors really didn't have much in the way of electrics for the engine, aside from the starter, and you have already told us the engine turns over nicely so the basic assumption is that the electrics are okay.

Also, as zipzit commented, if the smoke came as you touched the cables to the battery, before you actually tried to start the tractor, it is unlikely you did any damage beyond the battery itself.

So the most likely cause is simple clogged fuel lines or contaminated fuel from sitting for a long time without being run. So test using starter fluid in the intake, and if it runs that should confirm this diagnosis.

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