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A Guide to Buying the Right Compact or SubCompact Tractor There are a number of industries and professions where a compact or sub-compact tractor is going to be an essential part of your working machinery: • landscaping work • smallhold farming • sports ground or golf course maintenance • smallscale building and construction work • maintaining horse stables and feed stores
Alternatively, it might be the case that you don’t use one on a day-to-day basis as a part of your work, but there are other reasons why you need to run a small, versatile tractor: • large garden to mow and maintain • running a small orchard or market garden • maintaining a weekend or holiday property As there are so many different uses to which a compact or sub-compact tractor can be employed, it’s important when you are considering purchasing one that you select a machine that is designed and built to suit your specific needs.
this means they won’t need to work as hard to generate the horsepower you need. Lower-rated engine speeds improve your machine’s durability, and also mean you’ll get better fuel economy and generate less noise when you’re working. As it’s likely that you’ll be using your tractor with a variety of additional implements (mowers, backhoes, buckets, etc.), it is also important that the tractor is designed with drivetrain components that allow you to operate a PTO (ideally, one that operates at 540 rpm) without affecting engine power. Tractors of this size frequently have to work in difficult conditions, whether it be mud, soft ground, or uneven terrain, so an ideal engine for a compact tractor lets you continue to power through hard going without having to downshift constantly. Most compacts come
Compact and sub-compact tractors come with a range of horsepowers, from as low as 23hp, up to 46hp. Generally speaking, the more frequently you need to use your machine, the greater the horsepower you’ll need. Most engines in this range come in either 3- or 4-cylinder diesel models, which should be very fuel efficient, and it’s advisable to look at engines with as large a cubic-inch displacement as possible, as
with a conventional front-wheel drive (although four-wheel drive models are available), which is a good choice if you’re working in poor traction conditions, as you have less wheel slip and increased drawbar pull. It also makes sense to opt for a differential lock (usually operated by a heel pedal) which will lock the rear wheels together if you do lose traction in difficult conditions.
Compact and sub-compact tractors will usually have one of two transmission types: a hydrostatic transmission or a sychronised shuttle shift gear transmission. A hydrostatic transmission (HST) is the most favoured choice, as it gives smooth and easy operation and allows you to adjust your speed, and change between forward and reverse, using foot pedals, one for each direction, which can be accomplished without needing to use the clutch or shift levers. (This is particularly useful if you only use your machine occasionally, or are not especially experienced in operating a tractor.) HST should also come with cruise control, and you can expect to be able to do about 16kmh in both forward and reverse gears.
“A sub-compact tractor is an essential piece of machinery both for professionals in a wide range of fields, as well as those who have large areas of land or gardens to maintain” Some versions of HST come with an additional dual power feature, where there is high and low option at any speed in either range, meaning you can downshift for extra power and then upshift again without changing speed. If you need to move between forward and reverse gears constantly (if you’re doing loader work, for instance), a synchronised shuttle shift (SSS) will likely best suit your needs. The shuffle lever and
the gears are synchronised which means you don’t have to stop before shuttling or changing gears.
By their very nature, compact tractors are often needed to work in confined spaces, such as in and around stables, or with little turning room, like when mowing or grading, and so the ease with which you can manoeuvre your machine will be important. There are tractors available that can enable you to turn up to 75०, which will save you a good deal of time and increase your efficiency when working in tight spots. A front-wheel drive axle (FWD) can also help to reduce the size of a turning circle, so if you ned to turn sharply or move around obstacles, this will be a good option. There are also four-wheel drive (4WD) axle and clutch systems available for compact tractors that engage (to provide additional traction in slippery conditions) and disengage automatically, depending on the conditions and terrain, so that you get power and added traction precisely when you need it.
Versatility is a key for any compact or subcontract tractor. They are designed to be used with loader buckets, forks, mower decks and backhoes, and you will need to be able to shift between these simply, conveniently and, sometimes most importantly, single-handed. It’s also important to take note of the bucket size the tractor can handle - a larger bucket will save you time and increase your efficiency, so take the time
positioned in such a way that their use quickly becomes instinctive. This is particularly important with regards to a joystick used to operate a loader, or a shuttle shift. Take a look, too, at the dashboard, and make sure that it has easy-toread and well-positioned gauges. A steering wheel that tilts can be a useful additional feature, as is an operator’s seat that is adjustable and has comfortable suspension.
to find out what bucket sizes are compatible with any model you’re considering. A 3-point hitch is the best method for attaching implements, and additional useful features to look for might include: flexible link ends; a crank-type levelling mechanism; telescoping stabilisers; and a swinging or extendible drawbar. A high-capacity, live hydraulic system with a large lift capacity will enable you to use your tractor in the widest possible variety of work situations, and to use the largest number of implements. An added convenient feature should be an adjustable stop on the hydraulic control that means you can return the 3-point hitch to a preset position. Consider also the engagement and positioning of the PTO; the easiest engagement is possible when it is run on an independent electro-hydraulic system, while a mid PTO as well as one at the rear, means that you can also run mid- and frontmount implements.
Operator controls and comfort
Even if you’re not using a compact tractor every day, chances are that you will be spending some long days in the driver’s seat. In this case, operating your machine needs to be as simple and comfortable as possible. Look for an operator platform that is easy to get in and out of, and gives ample legroom for even the tallest operator. Controls need to be clearly marked and, more importantly, designed and
Cruise control, which is usually operated by a rocker switch, is another feature that you can find on a number of makes of compact tractor (with HST transmissions), and this undoubtedly makes long hours mowing, or when you’re moving from one worksite to another, more comfortable. In terms of operator safety, an operatorpresence switch that can turn the tractor off if left unattended is extremely useful, and of course ROPS is essential. Some makes of compact will come with a foldable ROPS, which means you can still store your tractor securely if you have limited space.
“Compact tractors need to be versatile, easy to manoeuvre and straightforward to operate” Visibility
Visibility is crucial when operating a tractor, and so its design needs to allow an operator to see both forwards and backwards easily (a swivel seat is very helpful), and to be able to have an unimpeded view of any implements that are being used front and rear, such as a loader bucket or a backhoe. Tractors designed with sloping hoods are especially good in this respect, as are makes with the muffler under the hood, so that your vision is not impeded in any way. Look also at the lighting on the tractor (both front and rear) if you are likely to be working in the early morning or evening, and the positioning of the external mirrors.
Servicing and maintenance
Whether you’re using a compact tractor in your business, or just to keep land and gardens in shape, excessive time spent servicing and maintaining your machine is lost time, so it makes good sense to look for a compact tractor that makes this process as quick and uncomplicated as possible. Routine maintenance points should therefore be easy to reach, and it is extremely useful if you can check the engine oil level without needing to lift the hood or remove a loader attachment. Other fluid level checks (transmission, rear axle, hydraulic system) should also be quick and easy. For access to the engine, it’s wise to look for a single, one-movement hood that opens even when there is a front-end attachment in place, so you can get to the engine without having to remove any side panels, and one that is kept open with gas struts. The capacity of the fuel tanks will be important, as is the filling location - a well-designed machine will have wide fill necks in a position where any splashes can’t damage the paintwork (which will often be behind the operator’s seat).
“A sub-compact tractor needs to work with great efficiency, be easy to use and operate, and be able to be serviced and maintained quickly and conveniently” The service intervals required are also an important factor, as you want your machine to be as robust and durable as possible. 300hour engine service intervals and 400-hour transmission service intervals are good benchmarks to aim for.
Further Advice and Guidance
In order to help you make the right choice when you’re purchasing a compact tractor, get the advice of an expert local dealer who can guide you towards the right machine for you and your needs. There are a wide variety of design features that can make the operation and maintenance of your tractor easy and straightforward, so it’s important that you know what options are available to help you find the machine that will work best for you.
Lewis Construction Equipment, based in Adelaide, are one of Australia’s leading suppliers of agricultural machinery, including the outstanding New Holland range of Boomer compact and sub-compact tractors. For further details about New Holland tractors and agricultural machinery, contact Dylan Caldwell at Lewis Construction Equipment on (08) 8268 3428 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
www.lewco-equip.com.au This article was written and distributed by Cadogan and Hall, a team of freelance writers based in Adelaide, South Australia. We specialise in producing online content, websites, blogs, articles and press releases for small- and medium-sized buisnesses.