How Does A Tractor Work - Parts & Information

A tractor is a vehicle specifically designed for agricultural tasks such as plowing and the transport of farm produce. While steam-powered tractors were invented by Richard Hornsby in England in 1812, modern tractors as we know them today owe much to German inventor David Benz who built his own four-wheel motorized version with two axles and one horsepower in 1885. By 1900, there were several manufacturers of these new motorized vehicles with steering wheels instead of levers, which made them easier for one person to drive and led to many more people taking up jobs on farms throughout Europe and America.

How Does a Tractor Work
How Does a Tractor Work - Source: Marek Musil /

How Does a Tractor Work?

A tractor, or "tractor unit," is a powerful machine that is used to pull farm equipment and other heavy loads. It consists of a power take off (PTO) shaft and three main parts: the engine, transmission, and drawbar. A typical tractor has four wheels , with the rear two acting as brakes . The front wheels steer the tractor and help with turning. The drawbar is a stout metal bar attached to the rear of the tractor and serves as a frame for pulling equipment or other loads behind it, such as a trailer .

The engine supplies power to both the transmission and PTO shaft. On most tractors, this is done through a series of belts that run on pulleys . However, some tractors may use hydraulics or electric motors instead of belts. The transmission is the system of gears on the tractor that allows it to move forward and backward, as well as turn in different directions. This part includes a clutch , which disengages the PTO so the operator can switch gears without the engine continuing to run. The PTO is located underneath the tractor's body and connects directly to the transmission . It spins at an extremely fast speed, sending power to any equipment hooked up behind the tractor.

Types of Tractors

There are three major types of tractors: wheeled, tracked , and articulated. Wheeled tractors have four rubber tires and a cabin. Tracked tractors consist of a pair of tracks that the tractor uses to move instead of wheels. Articulated tractors, or "artics," are built by connecting two tractors together through a hinge in the middle. An articulated tractor is able to turn its body on its axis, allowing the operator a wide radius of movement. Artics are best suited for fields that require the tractor to go over rough ground, such as plowing , but have been known to flip over if it is not properly loaded or driven. Although each type has its advantages and disadvantages, wheeled tractors remain the most popular choice for farms around the world.

Why Tractors Were Invented

Before tractors were invented, work on a farm was done by having people or animals pull equipment . This meant that no single animal or person could work for very long before becoming exhausted. By harnessing the power of an engine , farmers were able to use machines such as plows, cultivators , seeders, harvesters , and even combine grain harvesters . These machines drastically increased production capacity, allowing farmers to feed more people throughout the world than at any other time in history.

The tractor is one of the most important pieces of equipment on a modern farm. It does not only assist with plowing and planting crops but provides "live" horsepower for irrigation booms , electric fences, and feeders . Tractors also assist with rounding up cattle , pulling trailers down the road to market , as well as many other jobs that need to be done on a farm.

What Does a Tractor Do on a Farm?

One of the most important jobs for any farm tractor is to pull implements such as plows, mowers, disks, cultivators and similar machines. The weight of these plus their required attachments multiplied by the grade they are crossing over determines how much power at what RPM (revolutions per minute) is needed to do this job successfully every time. A typical modern farm tractor has between 300 to 500 horsepower available in it's engine which can be used in several different ways to get enough torque (turning power) at all speeds including very slow ones to do the job properly depending on how heavy an implement it is pulling.

Tractor pulling was originally conceived back when steam engines were replaced with gasoline or diesel powered units but quickly became just one of many popular events during county fairs or other agricultural shows. These types of contests are now usually done on specially designed tracks where the same specific type of implement is used for every single run (such as a disk) and how much actual power is produced by the engine (not what the operator wants it to do with any less than full throttle) determines their final finishing position in comparison to other competitors.

In addition to pulling implements one common use for both crawler and wheeled front end loaders is digging holes, filling them back up again after leveling out an area, moving dirt from one place to another, loading / dumping trucks etc. This requires a lot of physical effort which can be exhausting if a normal person did it all day long and they often complain about it getting hot and sweaty even in cold weather. However, this is not an issue for farm tractors since they are usually fully enclosed with filtered air coming in the vents under the floor. This also keeps dust down which can commonly be found inside city garbage trucks or city street sweepers that do not have this luxury to work in .

A very important job for any self propelled farm tractor is to tow implements it does not have any other way of powering such as corn pickers, spray rigs, hay balers or large disk harrows. There are several different types of hitches available but only one common type (the 3-point hitch) used by all major manufacturers makes it possible attach up to four additional implements on the rear end of a tractor. The small amount of power needed to do this job properly can usually be provided by almost any modern farm tractor even if it is only 50 horsepower or less which is one of the reasons why they are so popular with smaller farms.

What is a Tractor Used For?

All wheel drive (AWD) is designed to improve tractive effort or pulling power by getting all four driven wheels to apply torque (turning force) at the same time. This was not possible until after World War II when automatic transmissions were developed that included a low range to give enough multiplication of engine power to get the additional traction needed for this type of use. However, even then it was mostly used on full sized high horsepower farm tractors since they usually had big heavy wheels and tracks so they could take advantage of this added grip in tough soil conditions where smaller units never got stuck but would just spin their rear tires helplessly because it can only put so much power to each driven wheel before else limits how much torque the engine can provide to the wheels. Before that, most had to rely on locking differentials or power take-offs (PTO) where some implements could be engaged or disengaged by moving a clutch lever on the side of the transmission which put additional stress on any gears inside them not designed for it.

Wheeled tractors are far more popular than crawler ones these days which require even greater amounts of horsepower to operate since most are bigger and have heavier tracks so they have much higher ground pressure per square inch than their track counterparts do. Crawlers can usually only carry between one fourth and one third as much weight per square inch under the same sized metal wheels especially when they are road legal because of this reason plus their extra weight decreases steering effort making them require more power to turn.

Tractors used in construction or farming that are not capable of cross country travel on their own (all four wheels must stay in contact with the ground at all times) are known as crawler tractors and they were very common before World War II where most farm work was still done by draft animals such as horses, mules or oxen until gasoline powered tractors replaced them after the war when many could be converted to rubber tired front end loaders instead of having heavy metal wheeled ones bolted directly onto it. These can usually only go about 20 miles per hour (MPH) maximum speed even if completely unrestricted which is why most only had one differential locked differential with most manufacturers (which is known as skid steering) instead of two like most smaller tractors still do today.

How Do Tractors Help Farmers?

Tractors today are used primarily for two or more of the following reasons:

1) To pull an implement with a motorized engine such as a disk harrow, plow, cultivator, sprayer, mower etc.

2) To power an electric generator which is most commonly known as a PTO shaft that goes directly from inside the tractor's transmission straight to almost any other locally powered device such as a sickle bar mower or stationary thresher where it is either driven by belts off of the tractor's slowly turning metal wheels turning faster when going faster or by direct gear reduction from them called a Power Take-Off (PTO).

3) To provide extra tractive effort that increases traction on slippery surfaces or hilly terrain which is always called four wheel drive. Each of these have different benefits and drawbacks over each other depending on what the tractor is being used for.

10 Uses of Tractors on a Farm

  1. To pull things like firewood, logs and junk behind it in the form of a flatbed trailer or sled until its dropped off at your destination out in the woods somewhere.
  2. Use its front end loader to push dirt and debris around which can be used for various purposes like making paths, roads and laying down weed mat underneath fruit trees or bushes where nothing will grow during the time you need to make money doing other things on your farm.
  3. Mowing grass with a mower (not using the PTO) since this doesn't require any power from its engine like riding lawnmowers do plus can also help save on your gasoline bill since they don't use much fuel at all when in use.
  4. Moving large objects like tree trunks, rocks and bushes inland away from the beach which usually takes a small bulldozer or skid steer to do whenever a person has inherited land that's been filled with debris left behind by high tides or storms.
  5. Using its front end loader to clear out your barns, garages and out buildings of junk so you can store more things inside them after making room since it can also be used for cleaning up spilled grain around livestock feeding areas without having to get down onto knees and elbows anytime you need to quickly clean it up instead.
  6. Driving stakes into the ground which are placed there before fence posts so they will stay in place to let you know exactly where they are because this prevents fencing from being put up crooked.
  7. Smoothing out bumpy fields with its blade or box blade since tractors look hot when driven across grass at high speeds so people can see them zooming by plus it's convenient for farmers who don't have any money to pay anyone else because it requires no fuel, oil changes or parts to buy which means they're practically free if your tractor ever breaks down.
  8. Moving piles of dirt around in the form of large round bales that are about twelve feet tall and thirty feet wide which is done by using a front end loader bucket in order to make small hills for growing crops like hay, vegetables and raspberries.
  9. Using a front end loader to scoop up manure from your livestock stalls and putting it into a wheelbarrow whenever you need some on hand for mixing with straw or sawdust inside a new compost pile that's been made recently plus it avoids having to bend over all the time which becomes harder as you grow older since this helps avoid injury to your back whenever lifting heavy objects is concerned.
  10. Scooping water out of a pond with its bucket in order to transport it somewhere else so plants will be watered throughout the day instead of just waiting for rain drops to soak everything during one short period of time every couple of days or less than that depending how much there has been lately since this can be very time consuming when it comes to large livestock production.

Why are Tractors Dangerous?

Any implement or engine powered machine that has a power take-off (PTO) shaft needs to be engaged by use of a clutch lever which can be dangerous if not operated safely. If disengaged while rotating it will accelerate to full speed requiring anyone standing near them to either move out of the way quickly or risk being severely injured or killed by any number of parts that could fly off or simply getting caught up in its heavy rotating blades before they eventually stop after running into something too hard to push aside first, usually with disastrous results since nobody has ever invented a safety clutch to disengage them easily.

Another point of concern is that most tractors today do not have self-propelled rear wheels and only used for pulling things so they cannot steer down slopes and many farmer's can't afford the high money to buy front wheel assist units that at times still require some skill or strength to keep from tipping over sideways when going up hills but this problem was diminished somewhat when hydraulics were finally allowed on tractors by the government in 1938 after much debate about their use since many people didn't trust them even if it meant more safety features could be added to them which helped increase their popularity with farmers everywhere, especially after World War II was over and gasoline powered lawn mowers began being sold at retail stores to the public everywhere where they could be used inside a garage instead of having to be stored outside like all riding ones.

The most common tractor accident is when someone gets run over by one or its heavy front end loader which can weigh up to 7,000 pounds if it's hydraulic and has no PTO shafts either since these types need three point hitches (chains) with a matching arm to attach them and also requires six foot wide tracks called crawlers (so-called because only the bottom six inches of the main wheels actually touches the ground as it moves along but doesn't slow down very fast unlike rubber tired ones which easily bog down in deep mud, sand or snow even on dry pavement) that are bolted onto each of the four wheels which is what makes them so heavy.

The crawler track on a Caterpillar D7-G Crawler Tractor is one of the most identifiable parts of the machine since they are not only wider than itself but have wide flanges that hold them onto its main wheels where tractor owner's can often be seen driving around without any track at all just using their bare metal wheels underneath requiring these people to have some serious skills using both hands to drive it where it has also been known to run over bigger objects like small trees, stumps and rocks if someone wasn't careful about which direction its steering wheel is being turned plus having enough horsepower under its hood to actually move something except for pulling another object behind it.

Another point of concern is that many people underestimate the weight of an empty tractor since it will still weigh up to 3000 pounds which isn't very heavy at all but becomes much heavier when filled with gasoline or diesel fuel (approximately 1100 gallons), three point hitches, front end loaders and other attachments like mowers, plows or hay balers.

One final thought about safety is to always keep its PTO shaft disengaged by use of the clutch lever whenever transporting it empty on public roads because if not, anyone can easily run into you which could cause severe damage or injury to yourself or others who might be following too close behind you since they probably won't see anything until its too late even though some tractors have flashing lights for this purpose.

Tractor Manufacturers

Today there are hundreds of tractor manufacturers worldwide making everything from small tractors for domestic use to huge ones used in industrial farming . The first company was Holt Manufacturing Company of Stockton California which started mass-producing and selling the first commercially successful lines of high wheeled steam tracked tractors, starting 1881. They later added gasoline engine manufacturing to diversify their product line because demand for steam propulsion components dropped off at the end of the century as more efficient locomotive boilers were developed. Today most large agricultural equipment manufacturers such as AGCO, Case IH , Fendt, John Deere , Kubota, New Holland (formerly Versatile) and many smaller ones like Premier Ag (formerly Mid West), Väderstad focus primarily on their large equipment.

Most of these companies make some combination of the various types of tracked tractors mentioned above ranging from small units with special features like front loaders or backhoe attachments . The largest manufacturer in Europe also produces tracked excavators and skid steers while some American manufacturers produce wheeled agricultural implements such as sprayers , windrowers and mowers . In addition to all the other brands previously mentioned there are several Japanese tractor manufacturers including Kubota who have been building very high quality tractors for decades. Some Chinese companies have been producing a modest line of tractors in the 50 to 200 horsepower range for several years and have been constantly improving their designs.

Ford is one of the few companies that does not build or even market its own tractor brand but has owned / co-owned / supplied parts to many different manufacturers over the years which it used under their own tractor brands. They also designed and built a number of prototype tractors using engines from other manufacturers such as Continental , Cummins, Nissan, Perkins and more recently Kubota . In addition to building tractors with different features they were looking at a wide variety of alternative power sources including electric, natural gas, propane , hydrogen fuel cells, steam turbines , water turbines and others when Henry Ford died in 1947. The company hasn't built a new full-size tractor since the early 1950's but has continued to sell various attachments for front loaders, back hoes, skid steers and other equipment for their Ford Construction Equipment Division.

The Ford Company made many experimental tractors during its history that were never put into production or sold at all. Amongst these are water-cooled diesel designs, crawlers , articulated four wheel drive units as well as 4WD gasoline powered rotary screw air cooled systems similar to those used on their trucks . Some of these ideas were later successfully developed by other companies while others failed due to being too large, complicated or expensive . At one point in time they had an agreement with Perkins Engines Ltd who was building diesel engines in the UK to use them under license in their tractor designs.

During World War I Ford wanted to help with the war effort by building tractors for military use (mostly to haul supplies over broken roads) but was told they would not be allowed to make any vehicles for civilian use until after hostilities ended. This made them mad enough that they decided to build their own factory and begin mass-producing tractors before then anyway, which was obviously a big success. Before they stopped producing new 'full size' 4WD gasoline powered units Henry Ford had several experimental models built by outside suppliers including Baker, Cletrac , Pittsburg , Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co., Peerless Tractor Co., Hercules Manufacturing Company, Le Roi, Nichols and Shepard and others.

In addition to testing tractors from other manufacturers Henry Ford tried designing his own versions in-house several times over the years and built a huge number of prototypes and test units . These included 4WD models with both gas and diesel engines as well as many different alternatives for power transmission including all types of belt, chain and gear drive systems . He was constantly looking for new possibilities but eventually ran out of time or money to try out most ideas. Since he did not put any serial numbers on the test units they are difficult to tell apart from production equipment unless there is some type of notation such as crankshaft or engine casting numbers that can be cross referenced against factory records. Several books have been published that show photos of the various production models and some of these test units but not all of them or their differences.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, tractors help make everyday tasks much easier on the farm. Farmers can save a lot of time and money by finding the right tractor that suits their needs. With the proper size for their farm and using it as an all-in-one machine to handle whatever comes its way, they can save more money than ever before. Plus, by not having to hire people to do things for them on the farm, farmers can continue producing crops and livestock without interruption which is important in today's economy just like any other organization or company that makes a profit through one of those categories too.

It takes some time and patience when searching for a tractor but it'll be well worth your effort if you know what you're looking for instead of buying something small because you won't get as much done with it as you would with a larger model especially if your farm is large enough so deserves even more than just four wheels to get around.

This is because a smaller tractor will not have the power that a larger one does in order to handle certain tasks that need doing when it comes to farming. This means you'll end up having to rent a larger machine from time to time which can cost more money than owning one outright since you'll be making monthly payments on it instead of just using your own equipment exclusively without interruption so long as it's taken care of properly at all times.

The best advice I can give anyone who plans on buying a tractor would be this --- Always go for quality plus size whenever possible because these two things are directly related when it comes to anything with wheels and tracks, especially ones attached to a tractor or other farm machine too!