New Tractor Owners’ Common Mistakes

Common Mistakes Many New Tractor Owners Make

We’ve been selling Massey Ferguson tractors for decades, and sometimes it seems like many tractor owners just learn things the hard way. Here are some of the most common issues we’ve come across, and the ways to prevent them.

Ignoring the Height of the Tractor Roll Bar

Unfortunately, we’ve heard of more than one customer who forcibly removed his garage door the very first time he went to park the tractor in the garage. It’s really easy to avoid this, though. Just remember that when you’re sitting in the tractor seat, your head is not the high point. The top of the roll bar is. That means that if you’re going through a garage door or into a shed, you need to keep an eye on the top of the roll bar to be sure it can clear. This is one of the reason they put joints in the roll bar. Sure, this feature helps when you’re riding under tree branches, but it’s also because a lot of guys park their tractors in places where the ceilings are not commercial height. If you remember to eyeball the roll bar first, your garage door will not suffer. Even sub-compact tractors have roll bars, so don’t assume a small tractor will naturally fit wherever you want to park it.

Oil Puddles Cause Freakouts

small oil leakA little drip or a puddle on the floor? No need to panic. Every tractor has fluid reservoirs and come with something known as a breather. The breather lets a bit of fluid to spill out of the reservoir. Without it, the fluid would build up pressure and potentially crack or damage something. So a couple of drips on the floor will happen fairly frequently, and that’s perfectly normal. On the other hand, if the puddle is quite large, it’s a good idea to check that the reservoir is not actually leaking.

However, improper hydraulic fluid filling can be a problem. Be sure the loader and 3-point are all the way down when you check the hydraulic fluid level. If they’re not, you can potentially overfill the reservoir, and it will start coming out of the top breather. Always check fluid level with all the hydraulics in the down position. It’s really pretty common for the cylinders on the loader to make enough of a difference when extended instead of retracted. And yes, that will be noticeable on the dipstick. Most manuals suggest to check with the loader down, bucket curled. Be sure to check with your tractor manual for specific advice.

Ignoring Your Implement Hydraulics

Boy, here’s a new tractor owner horror story for you.

The owner wanted to preserve as much garage space as possible, so he backed up his tractor with the backhoe right against the rear of the garage. What could go wrong, you ask? Overnight the backhoe relaxed and pushed right through the drywall.

How could that happen? Turns out, hydraulics “leak” over time when not operation. Park your tractor with your loaders lifted up in the air and your backhoe stabilizers hanging up, and they are going to “leak” down. It’s actually normal for things to settled after a few hours – in fact, there are even published acceptable rates for this. Ask the service department, and we can pull out the documentation and show you the allowable numbers.

This means you need to get in the habit of letting things down almost to the ground. Turn off engine and then go through all the levers/joysticks for the front end loader and backhoe. Let everything drop to the ground, and wait until they stop moving and the pressure is released from the hydraulic system. Treat the tractor 3-point the same way.

And always make sure your backhoe stabilizers are stable when the tractor is parked. It’s bad enough having to fix the drywall. Car repair is going to be a lot more expensive.

keep tractor bucket lowKeeping Your Tractor Loader Bucket High When Moving Loads

Using your bucket and raising it with a load also raises the center of gravity, making the tractor top heavy. And that makes it unstable, which may allow the tractor to tip over. A sudden turn, or raising the tractor on one side can cause a side rollover. And when the loader has material in it, especially if it is not evenly distributed, it can easily compound the problem. Keep the bucket low while transporting loads, and don’t travel downhill or across a steep slope with a loaded bucket. You’ll be a lot safer.

Breaking or Bending an Arm by Pushing Backwards with the 3-Point

Always be cautious when pushing backwards with your tractor. All tractors are designed to have more strength for pulling than pushing. When you are going slowly in reverse and hit an immovable object, lower traction and less inertia will most likely make you just spin your tires and come to a stop. Pick up too much speed and have a lot of inertia, and the force could be enough to bend you lower arms. Hitting something while slowly moving forward will also make you stop, but you won’t damage the tractor.

We’ve had reports of people bending or breaking lower lift arms by pushing in reverse, often with a box blade used in reverse the way a dozer blade would be. Wet snow and a rear blade may produce similar stresses, so remember that your tractor is designed for pushing forward.

Having The Wrong Size PTO Shaft

pto shaft sizingTractor implements get their power from a PTO shaft that connects the implement gearbox to the tractor PTO. Sometimes, the shaft that comes with your implement is too long. If that’s the case, it must be shortened to ensure the proper connection of the implement to your particular tractor. If this shaft isn’t the proper length, operating the implement can severely damage the tractor’s PTO, the implement’s gearbox, or both. if the shaft is too long, lifting your implement up can actually force the shaft back into the PTO and shove those mechanical components back into your tractor transmission. Sub-compact tractors and compact tractors will almost always need to have these shafts trimmed to a shorter length.

Unfortunately there is no such thing as “one size fits all” for PTO shafts, and the shaft cannot be cut to length before it is delivered. That must be done specifically for your tractor. Every tractor brand and model may well have a different shift length requirement. Bigger HP tractor implements come with longer PTO shafts so that they can fit on a range of tractors. Check with your dealer before you take the implement home.

Forgetting to Check the Lug Nuts

It’s a fairly common mistake. New owners forget to check the lug nuts on their new tractor after the break-in period. Your owner’s manual will tell you that the manufacturer recommends you check with a torque wrench yourself. Make sure those lug nuts are still good and tight. Because if you don’t, you make find yourself having to replace studs, and maybe even the rim itself.

You Want to Save Money and Are Buying a Smaller Tractor Than You Actually Need

The best advice is to not do that. Get more horsepower than you need, because “less is more” never applies to tractors. If you think you only need a 25 HP tractor, you’re better off buying something slightly more powerful. You don’t have to go much beyond your needs, but if you buy machine at the bottom of the range, your tractor may have to strain to complete routine tasks. That can mean frequent repairs. And because owning a tractor is going to make your outdoor tasks so much easier, you may want to add projects around your place. A low HP machine will limit what you can do.

By the way, engine horsepower is not the same as PTO horsepower. The PTO horsepower is the amount of horsepower available for running implements with your tractor. Most tractors have a Power Take Off shaft, the connection to your implements that helps power them. Because the shaft draws power from the engine, the PTO horsepower indicates how much power is available to run various implements. Hilly or weedy terrain diminishes HP, as do demanding implement tasks. Ask one of our tractor specialists if you are unsure of how much HP and PTO horsepower your new machine should have.

Read some more tractor safety tips here.

And if this will be your first tractor, here are some tractor buying tips.

Nate Meyette