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What to Check Out on That Used Tractor You Want to Buy

Tires, Body, Appearance

If it looks like a well-maintained tractor, it probably is a well-maintained tractor. Dents, bad paint, and bulging or cracked tires mean that a tractor was probably kept outside or misused. Bad tires could cost up to $30,000 to change. Don’t decide before you’ve used a tire guage and measured the depth of the tread and compared that to the tire manufacturers’ website so you have a good understanding of how much wear there is.

Check out the articulation point visually and by operating it. This is the most important moving part, so it needs to be kept greased. Look for shards of metal. They are a sign of bad maintenance.
To check how it operates, drive the tractor forward and backward. A knock means there might be a transmission slip. Then, turn the wheel both ways. Does the wheel wander? Is it loose? If so, the pin might need replacing. If it’s hard to turn the wheel, the pins might need to be grease or the hydraulic cylinder may be busted.

Engine Compartment
To check the engine, start it, look at it running and look for leaks, from the engine itself, the hoses or the hydraulics. Look for cracked hydraulic, fuel or coolant lines. Look at the engine plate to ensure that that particular engine meets whatever emission standards are present where you work.
Put a mechanic’s stethoscope against the engine block. You should listen for scratching or knocking in the cylinders. Then turn the engine off and take off the air filter. These should be changed ever 100-200 hours (or 300-400 hours if in-cab). If the filter has been changed frequently enough, it won’t look dirty.

Look in the cab for dirt or mud. Those could be a sign of bad maintenance. Get a look at how many hours the tractor has been in operation. A tractor that has worked for 4,000-5,000 hours still may be in great condition because of great maintenance. Check if any guidance system has fully functional displays, receivers and other components. Such a system can be expensive to fix.

Power Take Off Shaft
You need a working PTO shaft for anything with a mechanical drive. That includes manure spreaders, grain carts and augers. Check that the PTO fits the specs for your attachments (i.e. 540, 720, 1000 or Big 1000 RPM). Look for a tractor that fits your needs in horse power, PTO, and so on. In the end, you’ll thank yourself for the fuel economy and the ability to expand to big jobs as your farm grows and changes.
Turn on the tractor and PTO to make sure it rotates smoothly. Listen for weird sounds, like knocking, from the shaft. Fixing a PTO is expensive since much of the rear of the tractor has to be taken off to gain access to it.

Hydraulic Power
When you look at the hydraulics, check for any leaks or bad seals which may indicate damage to the hydraulic tank or outlets.Think about what attachment you’re planning on using when checking on the outlets/ return/ auxiliary lines. If you want to use an air drill, you’ll probably at least need three hydraulic outlets in addition to one auxiliary line that has 38 GPM. Some air drills need more. So make sure that tractor you’re looking at buying has what you need now, and what you’ll need in the future.

Documentation and Logs
Those selling a tractor should have a record of all maintenance, lists of inspections, work orders, and any other relevant paperwork. You should ask to look at these. They will show the frequency and manner of repairs.

You may want to know what the tractor was used for, specifically. It’s worth a try to ask the auction site how to get in touch with the seller so you can talk to them yourself.

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