Owning new, unfamiliar equipment can be challenging. There’s a lot to learn, and you just want to get busy! But even the most experienced operators make mistakes. Here are the most common tractor fails and a few “nuggets of knowledge” to help you avoid them.
- Not performing a walk around before you start. Some folks just hop on their tractor turn the key and go to work. This is one of the worst habits you can have. Taking a few seconds to walk around the tractor and visually check it over can save you lots of time and potentially prevent injuries. Look for low tires, leaks, missing linkage pins, and debris in the grill.
Nugget of Knowledge: Always always always pull the dipstick and check your engine oil before you start your tractor for the first time each day. You will get the most accurate reading because most all oil has had time to drain back down into the pan.
- Wearing loose clothing – there’s nothing funny about getting a sleeve caught in a wrap point. You could lose an arm! Wrap point incidents are the most common types of tractor injuries.
Nugget of Knowledge: Always wear close-fitting clothing and tie up long hair when working around tractors.
- Using the wrong fuel. Some tractors and lawn equipment use diesel, others use gasoline. You’d be surprised at how often new owners get confused and use the wrong fuel. It’s easy to do, especially if you own several different machines.
Nugget of Knowledge: Keep fuel specs handy, just in case. In fact, a checklist of pre-startup procedures including specs is a great idea. But a label on the gas cap works pretty well, too.
- Smoking cigarettes while refueling. Some of the most spectacular and deadly fails have happened when an operator decided refueling time is a good time for a smoke break. It’s not.
Nugget of Knowledge: Use the same caution with diesel and gasoline that you would at a gas station. Don’t light up or use anything that might cause sparks while refueling – which includes your cell phone.
- Not balancing your load. Oh, boy. There are so many epic tractor fail videos about tipping and rollovers. Most tipping incidents are due to working on sloped or soft ground, or to heavy, unbalanced loads.
Nugget of Knowledge: Stay off YouTube (and out of the hospital) by being aware of the conditions you’re working under and the limitations of your equipment. Make sure you’re on solid ground and you’re using the right equipment for the job. On a slope, for example, you want a heavier tractor and wide tires with good traction.
- Reckless driving. Your tractor is not a race car and most don’t turn on a dime. Even when people are honking at you on the road between fields, keep your cool and drive carefully, especially when you’re carrying a load. Reckless tractor driving also includes turning too fast.
Nugget of Knowledge:
Know your tractor’s limitations and optimal speeds under any circumstances you’re facing for the day. If you’re heading out to a new job site, find out all you can about the terrain, how much your bucket can carry, and then check your manual for top speed. A few minutes of research can save you from a major tractor fail!
- Mistaking your bucket as a carnival ride. Your bucket is not an extension ladder or a fun place to ride. A surprising number of accidents happen when people fall out of buckets.
Nugget of Knowledge: Treat your front loader bucket like the tool it is…and know how much weight it is designed to carry and what the lift capacity is with a full load.
- Missing maintenance. Tractors last a long, long time, but only with proper maintenance. Just like a car, you need to change the oil, use fresh fuel, and regularly check belts, lights, lubrication, and every part of the machine that can possibly go wrong. It’s just too expensive not to.
Nugget of Knowledge: Most tractor manufacturers publish a maintenance schedule based on hours used. Keep track of working hours and stick religiously to your maintenance schedule – your tractor and your wallet will thank you for it. Learning to do regular maintenance, like clean filters, grease the joints, and check fluid levels will help you avoid trouble. And remember, we have a full service department if you need help with that.
- Using the wrong tractor hitch pin. Hitch pins are such a small thing that people don’t give them much thought. If you have a tractor that requires a hitch pin to pull implements, make sure you get the right size or you could cause all kinds of havoc.
Nugget of Knowledge: Eyeballing it isn’t accurate. You need a pin that’s small enough to fit the hole, and strong enough to pull your load. Don’t guess.
- 10.Taking out your garage door. The ROPS bar is much higher than your head. If you’re driving into a garage or under a low threshold, be aware of the relative height of your machine.
Nugget of Knowledge: Some ROPS are foldable. Before you drive under the door – or under anything low – collapse the bar to avoid a door disaster.
- Changing implements while you’re in the middle of the tractor. It’s pretty common for helpers to climb up on the equipment, or try to guide the hitch by hand while attaching an implement…but it’s not very smart. It’s a pretty good way to lose an arm, or worse.
Nugget of Knowledge: Attaching implements is easy on purpose. Stand back and let the equipment do its job, and don’t ever stick your fingers – or insert your body – between the parts.
- Wearing your bling. Rings, watches, necklaces and earrings might dress up your work duds, but you’d be surprised at how easily (and often) they get snagged in the machinery.
Nugget of Knowledge: No jewelry at work. Before you start, pocket that bling!
Tractor fails are often hilarious, but not when it happens to you. They can be dangerous and expensive. Be careful and stay safe!