This Idiots Guide to purchasing an older used Tractor
Part 1 of 2

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I thought I would see a tractor and jump on it and get all my work done in half the time and with no worries.

I was sooo wrong. I knew nothing about tractors.

When it wouldn't start I checked for fuel and then looked for the distributor and spark plugs. I couldn't find them and in fact I couldn't understand how it was getting spark. All engines need some kind of spark to ignite the fuel, right? Then I did research, and more research, I did research for days. I know engines I thought, I re-built my 1st go-cart engine when I was 10 so I should be able to find out what is wrong with this DIESEL engine, right?

I found out quickly that Diesels don't have spark plugs nor anything else that fires spark. I now know the basics of diesel engines and love them. The point is, Un less you grew up using tractors all your life, you will find out quickly that tractors are completely different then cars and motorcycles. New tractors are even scarier, they have computers.

Buying an older used tractor can be exciting and frustrating at the same time. Buy one that will last awhile without fixing someone else's headache.

Hopefully this article will be informative and give you some advice that helps you chose the right used tractor for your needs. The following are in no particular order, just as I thought of them.

1st you will need to determine what type of work the tractor is going to be used for so you can determine what attachments it will have to carry, pull, push, and operate.

Road maintenance (Dirt, Gravel, Concrete, Tar. Implements – Grader Box, Grader Blade, Scoop).

Field Work (Cutting, Clearing, Plowing, Planting, Spraying – Rotary Cutter, Sickle Bar Mower, Rakes, Plows, Sprayer, Baler, Trailers, and more).

Landscaping (Tilling, Hauling, Clearing, Mowing, Loader, Excavating, Back Hoe, Stump grinding, Etc.).

Hauling - Pulling (Moving large-heavy items, - Carry All, Boom).

Fence building/maintenance (Auger, Carryall ).

2nd Determine what size (horsepower)(Cat1, Cat2, Cat3) of tractor you will need so when you purchase your attachments they will be appropriate size for the tractor. They do have sleeves so you can use a Cat2 implement on a CAT1 tractor but be careful not to over load or over work the tractor or implement. I found out that the larger the attachment is the more it cost so it is easier to find CAT1 rotary cutters (5 foot) at $200.00 and up (used) where a CAT2 (7 foot) is harder to find and cost $800.00 and up.

This should be done by considering how much area will be covered, and what implements you will be using. Make sure the size of tractor you buy today will work for all the things you might use it for in the future. I bought a CAT1-2 because I plan on expanding my area and don't want to work the tractor to death.

Tractor Size categories

Category Tractor HP Top Link Pin Diameter (imperial)*

0 Up to 20 5⁄8 in

1 20 to 45 3⁄4 in

2 40 to 100 1 in

3 80 to 225 1¼ in

3rd Type of fuel. Gas, Diesel, Natural gas (propane).
If you will be working on your own tractor, and not familiar with a diesel and don't want to learn than stick to a Gas engine. Diesel engines have no spark plugs, no rotors, no points, or distributor caps like in the typical Gas engine. Diesel engines have several advantages over gasoline engines. They don't have the parts that commonly wear out, they are typically designed to last much longer, and they produce more power but the fuel injection pumps are technical and be quite a pain in the rear to work on yourself. Diesels need a Strong Battery for cold weather starting.

DIESEL tractors fuel comes from tank thru a filter into a injector pump to injectors under extremely high pressure and pump a fine mist of fuel into the cylinder, the piston compresses the mist and the mist explodes under extremely high compression of the piston. Off road fuel has less additives and seems to work better for older tractor. There are other reason to use off road diesel so research and see what one would be best for you. Not all Stations have OFF- road, so look at the pumps and don't assume the attendant knows. Diesels tend to be Loud.

GAS tractors seem straight forward- fuel from the tank gets pumped thru a filter into a carburetor then into a cylinder, compressed, ignited by a spark plug that is timed by a distributor that is ran by a cam shaft and timing belt. Coil transforms battery low voltage into thousands of volts to be available for the spark plugs to ignite in the cylinder. Ethanol in Gas creates problems with engine parts.

4th Type of drive. 2wheel or 4wheel drive. If you have hills, sand, snow, mud or difficult terrain you might consider getting a 4wheel drive model. 4WD is easier on the tractor when you are in a tricky situation and have a heavy load.

5th Type of PTO (Power take off). Live, Independant, Direct transmission.

I'm not going to get into this to much but here is a link that goes into great detail about it ( Take Off Types.htm ).

Transmission PTO. The PTO shaft is directly connected to the tractor's transmission. The PTO is only working when the tractor's clutch is released. "Get a Overrun PTO Clutch Adapter". An overrunning PTO clutch is a device that allows a tractor's power take-off (PTO) shaft to be driven in one direction, but to spin freely (freewheel) in the other direction this way the implement can NOT push the tractor. The rotating mass of certain implements, such as rotary cutters, with their heavy blades and blade carriers, had a tendency to push the tractor, even though the clutch was released. This was due to the momentum that had built up in the blades/blade carrier assembly. That momentum simply transferred its energy, via the PTO shaft, into the transmission, and back out of the transmission to the drive wheels of the tractor.

Live PTO. A "LIVE" PTO works with the use of a two-stage clutch. Live PTO and hydraulics means the power takeoff shaft or the hydraulics are not affected by the transmission clutch. Which means you can start and stop the PTO or raise and lower the hydraulics regardless if the clutch is in or not.

Independent PTO. An "INDEPENDANT" PTO means that the PTO shaft is controlled with a separate clutch.

Mechanical independent is essentially identical to a dual clutch live PTO, there are two controls for the PTO. The hand clutch lever and another lever that actually couples/uncouples the PTO shaft in the drive train. To start the PTO first move the hand clutch lever to disengage the PTO clutch. Then, you select the ON position with the PTO control lever. Next, using the hand clutch lever, you re-engage the PTO clutch, which causes the PTO shaft to begin rotating.

Hydraulic independent PTO seems to be user friendly type. User friendly, because one need only move a single lever, or push a button, to start/stop the PTO shaft. You are able to select ON and OFF, independently of tractor travel and speed.

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Pull type ? Actual 6 Horse power.

6th Implements to be used.
Do you need a loader?
If so you will need a tractor with hydraulics and controllers.
Also read the article "Loaders & Lift Capacity By GPS1504, Apr 4, 2014" in Tractorforum.

Some implements are pull type and some are lift type.

Pull type implements are just that, "pulled" by the tractor's Draw bar and/or a hitch that is connected to the draw bar and can be powered by the tractors PTO.

Lift type implements are connected to the 3point hitch. The hitch lifting arms are powered by the tractor's own hydraulic system.
The hydraulic system is controlled by the operator, and usually a variety of settings.

If you are going to use a Hydraulic top link your tractor will have to accommodate it. Hydraulic top link and lift arm leveling makes life a lot easier.

Attachments are now made for almost any Category tractor from a 0 to a 4. I have found that the larger the implement the more they cost, used and new. For example, around here a used 4 - 5 foot rotary cutter at auction goes around $300.00 - $600.00 and I can't find a 7 foot for less than $900.00