There seems to be more and more first time owners of sub-compact and compact tractor owners. I too joined this ever growing group back in 2008 when I first purchased my 2520 John Deere with a 72 inch mower deck and 60 inch brush. And then, not to long after the front end loader, a must have if you own one of these machines. A lot of learning now faced me as I started to use my machine. You know, 4wd, differential lock, power steering, 3 point hitch, and not to mention all the cool hydraulics. It does seem like a daunting task but, just take one step at a time, master it, and then move on to the next. And before you know it you’ll know what every lever and foot pedal does.
If you again are like me, then you will be doing your own maintenance on your pride and joy. There is no better way to really know your tractor than to do your own maintenance. And as I already stated, there are some completely new systems on these machines. For example, all new to me is the hydraulics, not so much the hydrostatic drive, but the increased complexity and all the auxiliary options. Then there is the added fact these machines are diesel, which again, is all new to me, and lest we forget, a cooling system and 4wd to learn and take care of. This is just the maintenance to deal with just the tractor alone. Along with it come all the attachments that require their own understanding and maintenance. But, that is completely another topic.
Once you thoroughly learn all about your tractor you are ready to test your knowledge and put it to use. Suddenly you are finding tasks using your new powerful machine to do things you never dreamed of before. And the ones you did know of have become so easy and pleasant they are not enough to feed your desire to spend more time in its seat. Moving mulch, mowing the lawn, grading the lane, and re-contouring the landscape is actually become tasks that you are looking forward to doing. And now suddenly you have noticed that the hour meter is hitting that precious 50 hour mark. Why is the 50 hour mark so important? It is where John Deere recommends that the oils and filters be changed.
As big a company as John Deere is I must give them credit in that they really do a pretty good job with their owner’s manuals. Now mind you, the still make a few mistakes here and there, but on the overall they are pretty good. I know that from tractor to tractor some of the maintenance intervals very. But, my point being that the owner manual won’t let you down. So just follow it step for step and you will make for some happy tractor time. And if that still isn’t good enough, just come and join us at GreenTractorTalk.com.
There is more to a mower blade than most people realize. At first glance they seem overly simple, yet there is a lot going on here with that single blade of steel. I will not get into the engineering details of material selection, hardness, or other specifications here. But, what I will cover is some important basic details that one should know about in order to properly care for their blades. I am not going cover all the blade types, high lift, mulching, and such. If properly maintained you will have a smooth running and cutting blade. The blades and the deck need to act as one to lift the grass, cut it, and then discharge it.
Let’s first discuss a brand new blade and its cutting edge and length. Have you ever noticed when looking at a new blade the cutting edge is what would appear to most of us not sharp? This cutting edge and angle is actually at the perfect configuration for a clean and smooth cutting blade. Contrary to what most of us think, the cutting edge does not need to be razor sharp. In fact, a slight 1/32 blunt face will cut just fine and actually maintain its sharpness longer. The angle of the cutting edge is also important. If it is too steep the blade will not cut the grass, but tear it instead. If it is too shallow, it will dull quickly and not push the grass around to the deck discharge chute efficiently. This is why it is important to maintain the cutting angle when you sharpen your blades. Also, blades are measured diagonally from cutting tip through the mounting hole center to opposite cutting tip.
Now, let’s talk blade sharpening. The first thing I do after removal is to thoroughly clean the blade of all old dirt, grass, and grime. I then inspect the blade for wear and straightness. If bent, I straighten it if I can. If not, it is time for a new blade. I then clamp the blade in a vice and use a 4 inch angle grinder with a flap wheel. I have found this to be the easiest and fastest way to sharpen blades. As mentioned earlier, you must maintain the cutting angle and it does not need to be a razor sharp edge. Once both cutting edges are sharpened you need to check balance. This can be done with a very inexpensive balancer or something as simple as a nail in a vice. You of course will need to remove material from the heavier side to get good balance. If you ignore balancing, you’ll find you will have a very rough running deck. Not to mention you may experience prematurely replacing spindle bearings. Make note that each time you sharpen your blade you are also making it shorter.
One other thing you should be aware of when inspecting the blade. Make sure that the turned up wing behind the cutting edge is in good condition. If the undercut is excessive, you’ll have a very dangerous situation where the wing could become a flying projectile.
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.