Like so many people now days, I have made the transition from lawn and garden tractors to sub-compact tractors. Let’s set the stage for all the change. First off, this all started back in early 2008, and I have just shy of three acres of property on hilly terrain to maintain. My transition went from three 20 hp Wheel Horse machines to two 2000 series John Deeres, the 2305 and the 2520. The fact that I could no longer add a brush attachment to my 15+ year old Wheel Horses is what started the whole process. And thinking that as long as the machines and attachments were going to be all new, I thought that I may as well get what I really want and need.
The first driving factor after the brush was to move up to a 72 inch deck, really wanted to cut down on mowing time. The 2520 came in as the smallest machine to fit this size deck, and then came the 2305 with the 62C deck the following year. I wanted to stay with in the 2000 series as then they can share the attachments. As far as attachments, I have since added a loader, box blade, 3pt sprayer, 3pt tiller, front mount snow blower, 3pt spreader, and of course the brush. The tractors with these attachments really have no limits as to the amount of work you can accomplish. Both of these machines are foot pedal controlled hydrostatic transmissions with power steering, what a dream to drive.
As I made the transition I had a couple of decisions that plagued me. One was tire selection, and I was not really sure about going to the R4 as the Wheel Horses had the R3 (turf) tire. Well, I decided on the R4s and for all of my tasks this has been a good choice. Particularly when doing any loader or dirt work. I was also concerned that the R4s would be harsh on the lawn as these machines are now my mowers. All has turned out well here too; they are just fine for mowing. The second concern was the transition from a gas powered machine to diesel. Again, this has been a great change, as I have found not only are these machines well sized in power, but the fuel economy is amazing. I now have more power with even less fuel usage.
Other things I had to learn about were, 3pt hitches, locking differentials, 4 wheel drive, power take offs (PTO), quick hitches, and how to actually use the loader. There would be no way I could ever go back to those smaller lawn and garden machines. Oh, and one last thing, this has opened up a whole new world, I highly recommending you joining us on GreenTractorTalk.com.
After months of looking and reading, more looking and more reading, I am starting to see what i really need to look at for size and capability of a compact tractor. These guys might be smaller than their agricultural brothers, but they carry a price tag that demands research.
Some of the questions you need to know the answers to.
How many acres of land will I be using my tractor on? Not only how large is my land, but also what type of land is it. Does it have a lot of hills, wet spots, thick woods, rocks? All of these things go into what type of tractor you might want. For example, Hilly terrain will call for a wider tractor with a low center of gravity.
What problem will be cause with a too small or too large of a tractor? I’m most cases, a smaller tractor can do most of what a larger one can, but it will take more time. As you get larger, you have to deal with a heavier and physically larger tractor that cannot get close to homes and trees as easily. Most on line tractor selectors will ask you how much lawn mowing or material you need to move in how much time. The more you have to do in less time, the larger the tractor. Be sure to think of all the tasks you want to do with this tractor because most people will size it correctly to mow grass, but not to till a garden, push snow, or move gravel.
What features or attachments will I need? Once you have a grip on the size tractor you need and you start to configure your tractor, don’t freak out! Ask for help with words that you don’t understand. Specific brands use different words that describe things most tractors have. They list electronic PTO clutch or Motion Match as benefits, but how do they benefit you? Look on the manufacturer’s website, or get involved in a forum where people can help you understand what these options do. Also try to size the implements you purchase to your tractor. John Deere does a good job of listing compatible implements with the tractors on their site. Be sure to think outside the box, especially if this is your first tractor. most people will find that they are very handy and will use them for way more than they expected.
What tires do I need? You can read for hours on this! From my reading, I have found that the R1 tires, or agricultural tires, have the most traction. They are normally narrower than the others and they can tear up areas that you drive one easily. R4 tires are called industrial and are wider than R1s but are made to be easier on grass and other soft materials. They also seem to be made to last longer due to their higher strength sidewall and thicker tread. These are the middle of the road tire. They seem to do a lot of things good, but nothing great. Lastly there is R3s, these are known as turf tires. Most people purchase these for lawn use only as they have little impact on grass. Most compact tractor users use R4s since they do a ton of different things and need a tire that they can mow the lawn with but still be able to work in the garden.
What conditions will I need to use my tractor in? Most of us home use people can decide when they need to use the tractor and can avoid rain and snow. Does your condition or financial position allow for a cab with heat or air conditioning? Different size tractors may come with cabs or you can get aftermarket cabs for the smaller ones.
Do I need 4WD? 4wd is critical if you want to use a loader on the front of the tractor. For basic mowing on relatively level ground, 4WD doesn’t really offer any advantages, and it may do even more damage to finished lawns than 2-wheel drive tractors. The only time 2wheel drive is clearly a better choice is when driving the tractor for long distances at road speeds. Performance and maintenance requirements are about the same in both options. In almost all cases, the bigger price tag of 4WD tractors is worth the investment. Tractors with 4WD will usually have substantially better resale values.
What Transmission? While manual transmissions used to be the standard for tractors, now the hydrostatic transmission, which allows clutch-free operation in a range of speeds, has become far more common than in years past. Hydrostatic transmissions are the best choice if the primary operators of the tractor aren’t familiar with using manual transmissions. However, they’re more expensive, and they reduce the available horsepower slightly when compared to manual transmissions. If your operators are comfortable with using a clutch, you can save some money and get a little more power out of your tractor by choosing a manual transmission. Depending on the work you do, a hydrostatic might be easier. The rule of thumb is that if your work is mostly in a straight ling, go with a gear machine. If you have turns and do a lot of forward and reverse, go hydro.
I hope this helps you to choose the proper tractor for your use. Do the research and stand by your decision, but mostly, enjoy doing every minute of it.
No matter what tractor you have, the initial tire setting for a 12 inch plow is 23 1/2 inches from the center of the draw bar of the tractor to the inside of the right rear tire. 14 inch plow is 25 inches and 16 inch is 27 inches. You can compensate a little if you are off on these measurements by sliding the plow A-Frame on the plow crossbar.
Once you get to the field, lower the plow and make 1 pass, plowing about as deep as you need. Then the second pass, let your right rear tire drop down into the furrow, lower your plow and start the second furrow. Now, get off the tractor and adjust your right leveling crank assembly on your tractor 3 point until the plow is level with the field, left to right. Next adjust your top link until your plow is level with the field front to back.
Now, plow this furrow to the end and on the 3rd furrow fine tune your plow again by repeating the last procedure. All plows should have cross hitch bars that have the right pin down and the left pin upward (standing behind the plow looking forward). This offset is approx 3-4 inches and is built into the plow.
In extra hard plowing conditions, you can loosen you cross hitch bar clamps and rotate it maybe 10-15 degrees to the back and if the plowing is easy then you can rotate the cross hitch bar the opposite way 10-15 degrees. By doing this final adjustment, the plow will do its best job with less strain on the tractor.
When a plow is set correctly, It will follow the centerline of the tractor perfectly without your riding the brakes and it completely turn over the soil.
Here are the charts showing John Deere Lawn & Garden Tractor models by year and serial number. The charts are broken up by decades, i.e. one chart for the 1960s, one chart for the 1970s, etc. If you are searching for parts, this can be very helpful.
It seems a few owners haven’t gotten their new 1 series tractors equipped with either the 54 or 60D mower setup correctly. This will explain how to do it yourself for the best possible mower performance! Most if not all of this information can be found in the John Deere Owner’s Manuals for the mower and the tractor. The procedure is the same for the 54″ and 60″ decks, mechanical or independent lift. There is one additional step for mechanical lift equipped tractors. More on that later…
First you’re going to need a few tools. A 1 1/8″ wrench, a tape measure or better yet the JD mower leveling gauge p/n AM130907. The tractor needs to be parked on a smooth and level surface.
-This step is for mechanical lift equipped tractors only- To adjust MMM rockshaft lift strap (located between 3PH rockshaft and MMM rockshaft behind left rear wheel) you remove the mower and remove the hair pin clips and pins (D) to disconnect the lift links (E) from both lift arms. Raise the 3PH fully. Rotate mower cut height knob to lock position. Remove left rear wheel. (You might be able to skip this if you can reach the 3 bolts on the lifting strap.) Loosen the three bolts on the lift strap. Rotate mid mount rockshaft (B) forward until there is a small gap (A) between the the height cam (C) and mid mount rockshaft (B). Move lift strap forward to the end of travel slot and tighten the three bolts. (I’d use 1/16″ to 1/8″ for a goal for this gap.) Reinstall left rear wheel and mower.
First you want to adjust the side lift links (E) for maximum lift. To do this you’ll want to start the tractor and raise the mower all the way. Rotate the mower height adjustment knob to the lock position. Now look at the mower height cam (C) above the left rear mower latch. It’s just behind the left rear tire. You want to see a gap at “A”. I’ve found that a gap of about 1/8″ is perfect.
To get this gap set right you first need to unlock all anti-scalp wheels, turn the mower height adjustment knob to the “install” position, and then lower the deck to the ground. Then remove the hair pin clips and pins (D) and adjust both links (E) up equally. Now you need to raise the mower fully and check for the gap (A) between the height cam (C) and the rock shaft arm (B). Repeat this process until you get close to 1/8″.
Here is the gap on my tractor.
The next picture shows the mower resting on the height cam “lock” position.
Now we are going to adjust side to side level. Set your mower height adjustment knob to your desired mowing height and lower your mower. Measure your blade height and adjust the same side links to achieve level within 1/8″ to 1/4″. I was able to achieve the same measurement on both sides. I usually mow at 3″ and marked the scale accordingly.
After you’ve set level side to side, recheck your maximum height setting. Here is my tractor at full travel, mower resting on the lock position, and install position.
To adjust front to rear level we’ll need your mower at your desired mowing height. Measure a blade from the front and at the rear. It doesn’t matter which blade. The optimal setting is 1/8″ to 1/4″ front lower than the rear. This reduces friction on the rear of the blades and make the front of the blade do all of the cutting and discharging. The front draft arms will adjust front to rear leveling. First lower the deck to the install position and loosen the rear draft arm nuts with the 1 1/8″ wrench. (The nuts closest to the mower.) It may help to drive the tractor off of the mower just to loosen the rear nuts. Raise the mower back to the desired mowing height. Tighten the front nuts the same amount (it helps to count flats) to raise the front of the deck. Loosening lowers the front of the deck. Double check your front to rear level once you got the draft arm adjustment nuts tight.
The Auto-Connect carrier bearing needs to be adjusted for easy connection as well. If you remove the mower it will be easier. Lower the mower/mower lift arms all the way to the install position. There is an adjustment bolt under the bearing to adjust for between perpendicular to the ground to leaning ever so slightly forward. I found this makes for the best connection.
Now it’s time to go mow your yard and enjoy your tractor!