On some tractors the distance between the wheels is adjustable. In other words the distance between the front wheels can be made wider (or narrower), and the same goes for the rear wheels. The distance between the tractor wheels is known as the wheel track, and adjusting it can reap many benefits.
You might be wondering, why would you ever adjust the distance between wheels? Isn’t the wheel track chosen by the factory or dealer (or the neighbor who sold you the tractor) a good one-size-fits-all option?
Maybe, or maybe not. It depends on how you intend to use the tractor. An adjustable wheel track can make a huge difference when you’re cultivating rows of crops and need to drive your tractor through the fields without damaging plants. By adjusting the wheel track to match the spacing between rows, you can achieve a setup where the tractor wheels drive safely between rows.
Since the spacing of rows will vary depending on the crop you’re growing, an adjustable wheel track gives you the options you need.
Why You Might Want to Adjust Your Tractor’s Wheel Track
Even if you’re not cultivating crops, you may want to adjust the wheel track on your tractor. A narrow track is more maneuverable, allowing the tractor to fit through tighter spaces (useful if you’re driving through woodlands to harvest firewood). A narrow wheel track can also help with turning tightly.
Those old three-wheeled tractors with either one front wheel or two front wheels spaced very close together are masters at turning tightly.
But on the other hand, a narrow wheel track is less stable. Three-wheeled tractors in particular are in danger of tipping over, especially when navigating sloping ground. If you’re going to tackle lots of bumpy or sloping ground, setting the wheel track wide will make the tractor more stable (though you should still exercise great caution when operating on slopes).
How to Adjust the Wheel Track
How do you adjust the wheel track? It can vary from one tractor the next. On the front wheels, there might be a telescoping design for each wheel with several different spacing options, as shown in the photo at the top of this article. You’ll remove the bolts, adjust the spacing as desired, and reinsert the bolts to lock your chosen spacing in place.
For rear wheels, you may have the option to install the wheel hubs at different points along the axle to change the spacing. You can gain even more possibilities by flipping the wheel rims around (since the wheel rim installation point is often offset from the center of the tire) or by installing wheel spacers.
Setting the tractor wheel track extremely wide can increase the strain on the axle. But as long as you’re opting for a configuration outlined in the tractor’s user manual or other documentation, you should be good to go.
Not everyone will need to adjust their tractor’s wheel track. If all you do is tow a wagon around flat fields, the exact spacing of the wheels is unlikely to be critical. However, it’s worth the effort to adjust the wheel track if you’re going to be tackling projects where you’ll benefit from a wide, narrow or specific wheel track.