Trailering your Tractor

If you are a hobby farmer with one tractor just to use on the farm and not for show, then you may be better off hiring your few hauls out. If antique tractors and shows are your hobby then you need a truck and trailer. Just keep in mind as with tractors, safety and COMMON SENSE, are the two most needed items.

Getting Ready

Trucks and trailers all have gross vehicle weight and max. towing ratings that will be in the owners manual - do not exceed them. For an all around rig you will need at least a HD 1/2 ton truck and a trailer with a 6000 GVW ( this includes the trailer weight ) with brakes. Most compact trucks don't have the power or suspension to do the job. Remember that the listed shipping weight for most tractors is based on standard equipment. Besides the weight of any implements that may be mounted or carried with the tractor, the accessories can be substantial. Rear wheel weights typically run 150# each, fronts maybe half that. PTOs, power lifts, etc. all add up. A 24" rear tire could have 300# of water in it. Once all these items are added , add a good margin for safety. When buying a trailer 2 axles are better than one and always overbuy on GVW because your next tractor may be larger.

Hitch. Most step bumpers have trailer ratings, however a quick look will sh ow them bolted on the very end of the frame with 2 or 4 7/16" bolts - not real strong. A receiver type frame hitch is needed to pull equipment trailers (the bumper hitch will pull your bass boat OK but the tongue and total weight of a boat is far less than most all tractors). Based on the capacity of the towing vehicle, you may need to use an equalizing hitch. the big spring beams of an equalizing hitch have to be chosen for the proper gross weight you are hauling. The idea is to move part of the weight from thr rear to the front of the vehicle. A 5th wheel hitch ( in the bed of the truck ) and 5th wheel trailer is an option for very heavy loads.

Safety items. With a loaded trailer behind your truck you need a trailer brake control, different types are made and all do the same job. Camper type mirrors are needed to see the trailer and behind it. Tires on the truck and trailer need to be in good shape and inflated to max. pressure to handle the extra weight. Lights on the trailer need to be checked each time you use it to ensure the guy behind you knows you are about to stop as in alot of cases the truck lights will be hidden. Pay special attention to proper grounding on the trailer. Most strange light behavior can be traced to either a bad ground between the light bulb and the trailer or the trailer frame and the truck hitch.

Time to buy. The suppliers of tow vehicles, trailers, and hitches have all sorts of free info. available. The truck companies have sales brochures that are targeted directly at trailering.

Time to load up and hit the road

Loading. Have your rig in a straight line and on a level surface. Chock your trailer wheels. Drive the tractor up to the ramps and move them so the tires go up the center of the ramps and the tractor will be centered on the trailer. Be sure the ramps have a positive lock on the trailer - bolts on the ramp go thur holes on the trailer or angle iron flats thur slots in the trailer. Ramps made out of wood are OK for small tractors but larger tractors need steel ramps. Rubber tires have very little traction on wod or steel when it is wet, crawler tracks even less, so be very carefull in the rain or snow. In low gear drive up onto the trailer. When the weight of the tractor is on the rear of the trailer and ramps the rear of your truck may be off the ground, this is OK and why you need chocks and ramps secured to the trailer. If your tractor is so heavy that the rear of the trailer needs support while loading, you should use a trailer with built-in/hinged ramps that have support built into the ramps. This way the ramps will hold the rear of the trailer up. In some cases it is better to back on. It puts the weight farther forward in most cases. This is especially helpful if you are loading straight on the truck, rather than using a trailer. It also gives you better control when unloading, since many tractor brakes work better forward than backward. Visibility of the ramps is usually better this way too. If the front and rear axles are not set at the same width use additional or wider ramps to be sure the fronts stay on the ramps too. Before loadind or unloading a tractor with mounted equipment, be sure that the equipment is high enough to not hang on the trailer or ramps. Often the "lay of the land" can be used to level out the ramps and make the job easier. Proper balance of the load is one of the keys to good handling and safe trailering. For any dead weight hitch, you should have about 10% of the gross weight of the trailer resting on the hitch ball. If you need to, go to a scale and see how the load balances. If you put too much weight on the hitch, the back end of the tow vehicle will potentially be overloaded and want to sway. If you put too little on the hitch, the trailer will sway and in the worst case throw you off the road. Generally, you should be able to avoid the problem with proper balance. Moving the load an inch or two can make an unbelievable difference. If scales are not close by then move the tractor far enough forward on the trailer to set the rear of the truck down 2-4" lower than normal, this should be OK untill you can get to the scales. Shut the tractor off, put it in 1st gear and set the brake. Remove all lose items - key, seat cushion, etc. Secure moveable hoods and side panels with rubber straps as these latchs were made for 15 mph not 60 mph.

Tie it down. Nylon ratchet straps are out. You need good 3/8" chain with hooks On the rear put a clevis thur the drawbar (not the 3pt) and on the front if no hitch for backing is installed chain around the axle (use towels, blankets, or the short heavy nylon straps with steel ring from trailer suppliers to protect the paint). The pockets on the trailer you attach the chain to need to be at lest 1' behind the rear clevis and 1' in front of the front clevis. The chain should be fed down through the pocket and the hook brought up so that it hangs down on the side of the pocket. This will keep the chain from unhooking if it happens to go slack. The 1' or more will make the chains tight against each other. Never tie straight down. Binders - 2 types are brake over and screw. The screw type are safer to use and can be gotten tighter but they cost more. If you use the brake over type be sure to tie the handle closed with a steel wire or wrap the extra chain around the handle and binder so it will not pop open. Go down the road a mile or so and stop to check your load, the chains should still be tight,if not redo the binders. The chains, even on rough roads, should have no slack.

Driving on the road - plan ahead. Stopping, turning, and passing - remember you now have a rig that is 2-3 times longer and 2-3 times heavier than your truck. Height - Most states say 12' is max. height for a load, on large tractors you may need to remove the muffler. Watch wher your trailer ends up relative to the lane stripes in your outside mirrors. It will help you get a feel for the space you are taking up. If the trailer starts swaying badly apply the trailer brakes by themselves. This often helps calm things down. Remember if it tends to do too much swaying, load balance can often be the key to improving it.

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