Sometimes a desire to save time and money can be our enemy. Another thing that falls in that category is a simple lack of knowing better. One case in which both of these things collide is when it comes to stabilizer bars. Sure, they are useful, but in order for them to be worthwhile, they have to be installed and engaged. If you skimp on this, you can pay a high price in terms of implement damage.
Having a three point hitch is wonderful when it comes to attaching a plethora of implements and having them work well behind your tractor. The parts of the three point hitch include lower lift arms which are responsible for the ability of an implement to move from side to side behind your tractor. These arms also enable the attachment of implements of varying widths and can change the angle at which you pull said implements. Lower lift arms are extremely useful in the case of turning with certain implements attached because of the movement they allow. On the other hand, however, the very movement that is sometimes invaluable can at other times be detrimental.
There will come a time that you want the implement with which you are working to stay centered behind your tractor, but the lower lift arms are simply not intended for that purpose. In order to make this happen, you are going to need stabilizer bars. The wrong combination of implement used while stabilizer bars are not present or engaged can result in your PTO taking a hit against the implement, which can cause expensive damage on both ends.
The type of stabilizer bars you need will depend on the type of tractor you have. When it comes to row crop tractors, which have a rear axle that is elevated above the center of the wheel to enable crop straddling, you will probably need to order stabilizer bars to correspond with your tractor from the manufacturer or other similar outlet. For tractors that are of a normal, standard height, purchasing an aftermarket kit is possible and can be done through a parts supplier. These kits usually include a frame which will bolt to the underside of the rear axle. A bar then extends from the frame alongside the lower lift arm and acts as a stabilizer, preventing motion of the implement from side to side.
Stabilizer bars are often confused with stay bars, which are very much a different beast. Stabilizer bars are intended for the purpose of keeping implements tracking straight behind a tractor, such as in the case of box blades, bush hogs, finish mowers, post hole diggers, etc. Stay bars (or drawbar stays) are intended to attach to the three point, 11-hole cross-drawbar for the purpose of towing or pulling. When engaged, stay bars will prevent a shift in weight from possibly flipping the tractor. They should not be used with anything you intend to raise and lower; doing so will damage your hydraulics. Half the battle lies in having the right bars for the job you wish to do, and once they are there, being sure to use them at all times.