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With the possible exception of a barn, nothing says “farm” quite like a tractor, and for good reason: They’re hard-working, powerful machines critical for many serious farm tasks. Of course, this also means that tractors are complex machines with a lot of parts. If you’re just getting started in the search for a perfect tractor, here’s an introduction to their main parts and the function of each one.
The heart of the tractor, the engine provides the power to do heavy work. Most tractors run on gasoline or diesel fuel, with diesel engines usually offering more power than their gas counterparts. The strength of the engine is measured in horsepower; a higher number means more power, so a large tractor with high horsepower is needed for intense farming tasks.
The type of transmission is a key feature to consider, because it will make a big difference in the way the tractor performs. Some tractors, such as those with hydrostatic transmissions, are driven with foot pedals, and increasing the speed of the tractor is as simple as pushing harder on the pedal, making these types of tractors very easy to drive.
This is a major contrast to tractors with manual gear-driven transmissions, such as synchro-shift transmissions, where changing speed requires the operator to physically shift gears using a control stick—sometimes while the tractor is at a complete stop. This type of transmission makes it easy to maintain a constant speed; the operator simply puts it in the appropriate gear and lets it go. However, they’re not as simple to handle as tractors with foot pedals.
In order for a tractor to be used with other equipment, it has to have at least one type of attachment hitch. One of the most useful is the three-point hitch, which includes a hydraulic lift for raising and lowering attached equipment; simple drawbar hitches are also common, as well as specialized hitches for attachments such as front-end loaders and forklifts.
One of the most important parts of your machine, the PTO is a spinning shaft commonly located at the rear of the tractor. It provides power to attachments such as mowers and hay balers, and often has its own horsepower rating separate from the tractor’s engine.
Hydraulic power is also common and can be used several ways. Hydraulic power-steering can make turning easier, while hydraulic power is also used for lifting attachments and powering implements such as backhoes and front-end loaders.
The tires of a tractor are designed to provide lots of traction so that the tractor can do heavy work. The tires are traditionally filled with air, but it’s also popular to fill them with heavy fluid, such as automotive antifreeze or windshield washer fluid, that will give more weight to the tires and provide even better traction.
Rollover Protective Structure
Most modern tractors of any significant size and power come equipped with a rollover protection structure to protect the driver from injury in the event that the tractor should roll or flip over.
Complicated farming projects often run into the evening hours, and a tractor with headlights will help shine a path through the fading daylight.
This article originally ran in the March/April 2017 issue of Hobby Farms.