New Tractor Owners – Eight Big Mistakes
In the years we’ve been selling Massey Ferguson tractors, we’ve seen new tractor owners make some of the same mistakes over and over. Here are the top eight and how to avoid them.
Ignoring Tractor Roll Bar Height
We’ve heard this one an awful lot: A new owner tries to park the tractor in the garage without checking the roll bar height, and takes off the garage door.
There’s no reason to do this, though. Remind yourself when you’re sitting in the tractor seat that your head is not the high point. The top of the roll bar is. So when you’re going through a garage door or into a shed, remember to look up at the top of the roll bar and determine if it will clear.
Roll bars are jointed, and of course, a jointed roll bar helps when you’re riding under tree branches. But it serves the same purpose when you’re trying to park your tractor in places where the ceilings are not commercial height. Eyeball the rollbar and your garage door will stay intact.
Oil Puddles Make You Nervous
But they don’t have to. A few drops, or even a small puddle on the floor is not a call to panic. It happens fairly frequently, and it’s perfectly normal. That’s because every tractor has fluid reservoirs which include something called a breather. The breather is there to let a little bit of fluid spill out of the reservoir. Without it, the fluid would build up pressure. Eventually, that could potentially crack or damage something. However, if the puddle on your floor seems quite large, go ahead and check that the reservoir is not actually leaking.
Improper hydraulic fluid filling, however, can cause a problem. When you are checking your hydraulic fluid level, be sure the loader and 3-point are all the way down. If they’re not, you can potentially overfill the reservoir, and you will see fluid coming out of the top breather. In fact, you should always check fluid level with all the hydraulics in the down position. That’s because the cylinders on the loader, if extended instead of retracted, can make a difference in how the fluid level appears. Most manuals suggest to check with the loader down, bucket curled. Be sure to check with your tractor manual for specific advice.
You Ignore Your Implement Hydraulics
Think it doesn’t matter? A new tractor owner might want to preserve as much garage space as possible. The reasonable thing seems to be to back the tractor backhoe up against the rear wall of the garage. Don’t do it! You might come out the next morning to find that the backhoe has pushed right on through the drywall.
Sound crazy? Turns out, hydraulics “leak” over time when not operation. If you park your tractor with your loaders lifted up in the air and your backhoe stabilizers hanging up, they are inevitably going to “leak” down. It’s considered normal for things to settle; there are even published acceptable rates for this. Ask the service department. We can pull out the documentation and show you the allowable numbers.
So get in the habit of letting things down almost to ground level. After you turn off the engine, go through all the levers/joysticks for the front end loader and backhoe. Let everything drop to the ground, wait until they stop moving and 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. No one wants to have to repair their drywall, and we can bet you don’t want to have to repair your car!
Moving Tractor Loads with a High Bucket
This is a serious error, capable of really hurting you and your machine. When your bucket is raised and carrying a load, it also raises the center of gravity for the tractor. This makes the tractor top-heavy and therefore unstable. A top-heavy tractor can easily tip over. A sudden turn, or raising the tractor on one side, can cause a side rollover. And an unevenly distributed load in the bucket can easily compound the problem. Keep the bucket low while transporting loads. Avoid traveling downhill or across a steep slope when the bucket is up. This is not a lesson you want to learn after the fact.
Breaking or Bending an Arm by Pushing Backwards with the 3-Point
Pushing backwards with your tractor demands caution. Move backwards too fast with a lot of inertia and the force could be enough to bend you lower arms. Tractors are designed to have more strength pulling than pushing. So always go slowly in reverse. If you hit an object that won’t budge, you’ll most likely just spin your tires and stop. And that’s true for going forward, too.
We’ve also had customers who bent or broke the lower lift arms by pushing in reverse, often when using a box blade in reverse, like a dozer blade. The combination of wet snow and a rear blade may also damage the lower lift arms.
Don’t Risk the Wrong Size PTO Shaft
Tractor implements are powered by a PTO shaft that connects the implement gearbox to the tractor PTO. Often, the shaft that comes with your implement is too long and must be shortened for a proper connection of the implement and your particular tractor.
When the shaft isn’t the right length, implement being used can severely damage the tractor’s PTO, the implement’s gearbox, or both. Lifting your implement on a too-long shaft can actually force the shaft back into the PTO. And that can shove the mechanical components back into your tractor transmission. Sub-compact tractors and compact tractors almost always need to have these shafts trimmed to a shorter length. Bigger HP tractor implements come with longer PTO shafts so that they can fit on a range of tractors.
Unfortunately the shaft cannot be cut to length before it is delivered because each tractor brand and model may demand a different shift length. That must be done specifically for your tractor. Check with your dealer before you take the implement home.
Did You Remember to Check the Lug Nuts?
It’s a fairly common mistake. The break-in period comes and goes, and the new owner forgets to check the lug nuts on the new tractor. But it’s easy enough to check with a torque wrench yourself, making sure those lug nuts are good and tight. Skip this maintenance step and you may have to replace studs, or even the rim itself.
Buying a Smaller Tractor Than You Actually Need
Think you can save money by buying the smallest tractor you can? Don’t do it. It’s best to get more horsepower than you need. If you buy a machine at the bottom of the HP range you think you need, your tractor may really struggle to complete routine tasks. That can damage the tractor. And that means you’re going to be spending money on frequent repairs. A slightly larger tractor with higher horsepower will also let you comfortable perform tasks around the place that you might not have considered before.
A quick note on HP: engine horsepower is not the same as PTO horsepower. The PTO horsepower is the amount of horsepower available for running your tractor implements. Most tractors have a Power Take Off shaft, the connection to your implements that helps power them. This shaft draws power from the engine, and the PTO horsepower indicates how much power is available to run various implements. Hilly or weedy terrain and demanding implement tasks lower HP. Ask one of our tractor specialists if you are unsure how much HP and PTO horsepower your new machine should have.