Tips for Tractor Maintenance and Farm Safety

Learn how to choose the right tractor implements, keep the machinery running smoothly and stay safe while plowing.

| January/February 1986

  • Figure 1
    A two-bottom plow works best in heavy clay or rocky soil because it means less work for the tractor engine.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 097-084-01i1
    Tractors can be valuable assets to the farm, but they can also be dangerous if not handled properly.
    PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Tractor Figure 2
    Disk harrows are used to eliminate lumps and clods left in the field after plowing.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Tractor Figure 3
    Switching your disk harrows to the open position after going over the field once with them closed, allows the discs to chop up the previously loosened soil, leaving a relatively fine seedbed.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Tractor Figure 5
    Spiked-tooth harrows are used after disk harrows when an even-finer seedbed is required.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Tractor Figure 4
    Notched disks are more efficent for chopping up sod or stubble, but are more easily damaged when run up against a big stone.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Tractor 6
    A free smoothing harrow can be improvised by dragging a set or two of discarded steel-framed bedsprings behind the disk harrows.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Tractor Figure 7
    Like walk-behind tillers, tractor pulled rotary tillers pulverize the soil and leave it ready for planting in a single pass.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Tractor Figure 8
    Scraper blades are most often used for plowing snow, although they also work well for scraping and smoothing gravel roads or driveways.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Tractor Figure 10
    A roll bar protects you from a potentialy fatal rollover accident.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Tractor Figure 9
    A logging winch is a superb tool for the woodlot owner who wants to do some selective cutting with minumum damage to the residual stand.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Tractor Figure 11
    A roll over can happen when the tractor pivots around the immobile wheels, this can happen in a fraction of a second.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Tractor Figure 12
    A set of front-end weights will help keep the tractor wheels down, making for a more positive steering experience and increased safety.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Tractor Figure 13
    The whirling PTO shaft can grab onto loose clothing with potentially gruesome results; wear fitted clothing to avoid this hazard.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Tractor Figure 14
    If the electric connection is working you should see a strong blue spark leap across the gap of the spark plug when you test it.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Tractor Figure 15
    Most tractor carburetors can be split into two halves, like a clamshell, by removing a few screws and bolts.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

  • Figure 1
  • 097-084-01i1
  • Tractor Figure 2
  • Tractor Figure 3
  • Tractor Figure 5
  • Tractor Figure 4
  • Tractor 6
  • Tractor Figure 7
  • Tractor Figure 8
  • Tractor Figure 10
  • Tractor Figure 9
  • Tractor Figure 11
  • Tractor Figure 12
  • Tractor Figure 13
  • Tractor Figure 14
  • Tractor Figure 15

Previously, we took a long look at farm tractors for the small landowner — at how they work, what they can do, and how to select the right one for your needs. Now it's time to think about how you'll use your machine, how you'll keep it in good running condition and keep yourself in safe condition, as well. We'll start by considering some of the implements and attachments that you're most likely to need.

Tractor Implements

And you will need some implements, because a tractor by itself is not particularly useful. A plot of land with a bare tractor is analogous to a kitchen with a well-stocked pantry but no pots, pans, or utensils. Fortunately, though, the tractor itself is the most expensive and complicated component in the system, and if you've chosen a tractor — new or used — that's common in your area, you shouldn't have any trouble finding the right accompaniments for it. Here, without further ado, are some of the tractor implements most likely to appear on your wish list.

Plows are described in terms of the number of furrows they leave in the soil with each pass. A plow with a single cutting blade is a one-bottom plow, one with a pair of them is a two-bottom plow, and so on. The monstrous wheat-field tractors used in the wide open spaces of the Midwest can pull a 10-bottom plow without straining — but a small — farm machine, probably in the 30-horsepower range, is intended for use with a two- or possibly a three-bottom model. In heavy clay or rocky soil, the two bottom is a better bet, since it means less work for the engine.

There are many subtleties to plows and plowing, however, and I urge you to seek some advice from your neighbors, or perhaps from the county agricultural agent, before buying one. These individuals probably know more about local conditions than you do, and can help you make an informed choice. You can expect to spend around $150 for a used two-bottom plow in good condition (new ones range from $350 to $800). And if you're using a midsize tractor like I suggested, be sure to get a plow to fit a Category 1 three-point hitch. (Category 2 implements, by contrast, are for large tractors, while Category 0 implements fit compact or lawn-and-garden machines.)



Disk Harrows 101

Disc harrows are used to eliminate the lumps and clods left in the field after plowing. A tandem type is probably what you'll want. These consist of four separate gangs of discs — two in the front and two in the rear. The positions of the gangs can be adjusted relative to one another. In the closed position, the discs will slice deeply into the soil without displacing it very much. Switching them to the open position after going over the field with them closed allows the discs to chop up the previously loosened soil, leaving a relatively fine seedbed.

Don't buy a bigger set of disc harrows than your tractor can handle. For a 25- to 30-horsepower machine, an 8-foot wide tandem harrow is the practical maximum. Most harrows in that size range will be fitted with 18-inch discs, either plain or notched. The notched ones are somewhat more efficient at chopping up sod or stubble, but are more easily damaged when run up against a big stone. A replacement disc of either style costs $8 or $9.

J._2
6/25/2007 4:01:43 PM

looking for replacement disc's for harrow. 11 inches acrosss with 1 inch diameter center. Thank you very much. John T






Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters