13 Tractor Terms Every Hobby Farmer Needs To Know

Tractors can do a lot of things, so naturally they have a lot of features with their own unusual names. Here's your lesson in the lingo of tractor terms.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Shutterstock

Purchasing a tractor is a huge step for your farm: You’ll be the proud new owner of a powerful machine that will allow you to handle heavy work with ease. From plowing and mowing fields to cutting and baling hay, tractors can do pretty much any farm-related task that you need them to.

But because they’re capable of so many tasks, tractors are complex machines with a lot of parts and features, and if you aren’t familiar with tractor terminology, hearing or reading about hydrostatic transmissions and three-point hitches can be akin to deciphering a foreign language. To guide you through these unfamiliar waters, here’s a glossary of common tractor terms.

1. Chassis

The first of these tractor terms describes the physical frame or structure of the tractor, and all of the tractor’s systems and parts attach here in some capacity.

2. Drawbar

This is a thick metal bar, removable in many cases but occasionally a part of the tractor frame; it serves as a hitch to allow the tractor to pull implements and attachments.

3. Front-End Loader

One of the most useful attachments for any tractor, this is a large heavy-duty bucket at the front of the tractor that can be raised, lowered, and otherwise adjusted for the purposes of handling and transporting materials, such as dirt, gravel, wood, snow and debris.

4. Horsepower

This is a numerical measurement of a tractor’s power, and the only one of these tractor terms that doesn’t describe a physical aspect of the machine. Higher numbers mean more power, which translates to more tasks that the tractor can handle. Horsepower is sometimes measured in terms of engine horsepower and PTO horsepower. (We’ll get to PTO in a minute.)

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5. Hydraulics

Much of a tractor’s versatility comes from its hydraulics system, which provides power for lifting attachments or powering implements, such as a front-end loader.

6. Hydrostatic Transmission

A hydrostatic transmission is powered by hydraulic fluid and allows for seamless adjustment of tractor speed without changing gears. A tractor with this transmission can be easier to drive and control.

7. Implement

Also known as an attachment, these work tools, such as loaders, backhoes and mowers, attach to a tractor and perform specific farm tasks.

8. Joystick

If you’re purchasing a front-end loader to use with your tractor, you can opt to control it with traditional dual-steering levers or a hydraulic joystick. The joystick will cost more, but it’s a smoother way to use the loader.

9. Power Take-off

Commonly known as the PTO, this is a rotating connector usually positioned at the back of the tractor that provides power to attachments such as hay balers. These pieces of equipment have an arm or other mechanism that attaches to the PTO.

10. Powertrain

Like a car, this is the mechanism that transmits the drive of the engine to the axles and, subsequently, the wheels.

11. Quick Hitch

If you’ll be switching between rear-mounted attachments frequently, the quick hitch system will save you considerable time. They’re built to make three-point-hitch attachments easy, reliable and fast.

12. Rollover Protection Structure

No tractor should be without one of these, which serves to protect the driver from injury in the event that the tractor should tip or roll over during work. The ROPS can be installed in the cab of the tractor if it has one, or it might be a steel bar that curves above the driver’s seat on a tractor without a cab.

13. Three-Point Hitch

A specialized hitch for attaching implements that uses three points of connection to the tractor, offering a stable and simple way to expand your tractor’s abilities. The tractor’s hydraulics system allows these implements to be raised or lowered as necessary, useful for attachments such as mowers.

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