The mini-tractor or garden tractor is a true all-rounder that should not be confused with the ride-on mower. While the tractor-mower is a mower that can be hauled, the mini-tractor is a machine that allows you to do more: ploughing, harrowing, cultivating, and towing trailers and other equipment. The mini-tractor is more powerful than a power tiller with the advantage of being a ride-on mower at the same time.
Mini-tractor: main characteristics
Mini-tractors are machines that meet the following characteristics:
Diesel engine: The diesel engine is the only one to provide sufficient power and endurance for intensive work. The mini-tractors are available in powers ranging from 12 HP to approximately 30 HP.
Transmission: A mini-tractor has several gears and a reduction gearbox to work at very low speeds but with high tractive power, whether with 2 or 4 wheel drive. There are also tracked mini-tractors on the market as well as micro-tractors with articulated chassis that are much more maneuverable on slopes and rough terrain but at a professional cost.
Driver’s cab: The mini-tractors have a ride-on driver and a real driver’s cab with controls for driving the machine and the various accessories that can be fitted to it. The roll bar protecting the driver in the event of the mini-tractor overturning is compulsory both on the road and on private property.
Power take-off and 3-point linkage: The power take-off is a shaft coming from the engine to which the shaft of the accessories requiring movement (mower, shredder, brush cutter, mower, etc.) is connected. The 3-point attachment is the standard system for fixing and adjusting the working height of the various attachments in relation to the ground.
Hydraulic power unit: On some mini-tractors, a hydraulic power unit is used to operate specific accessories (log splitter, shovel, elevator, etc.). On most machines without hydraulics, it is nevertheless possible to adapt an optional hydraulic power unit for greater versatility.
Good to know: to operate on roads open to traffic, the mini-tractor must be approved. Beware of age and driver’s license exemptions, which are only granted to agricultural tractors attached to a farm or forestry operation, or to an agricultural cooperative or company.
Criteria for choosing a mini-tractor
Whether you are considering buying a new or used mini-tractor, a number of criteria should guide your choice of machine.
The power of micro and mini tractors is expressed in HP (from 12 to 30 approximately) but not always. It is then the number of cylinders (2 or 3) and the total cubic capacity (from 850 cm³ to 1,500 cm³) that give information on power.
Good to know: air cooling of the diesel engine does not seem to be best suited to mini-tractors, which is why liquid cooling is preferred.
There are fewer and fewer 2WD-only mini-tractors on the market, as 4WD is now popular. In a 2-wheel drive, differential lock is indispensable.
Number of gears
A minimum of 6 speeds, of which at least 2 reduced, plus 2 in reverse, is essential for mini-tractors with gearboxes. The hydrostatic transmission allows continuous adjustment of speeds without the use of a gearbox.
Every mini-tractor must be equipped with an anti-roll bar, a seat filtering vibrations, and silencing and/or engine encapsulation devices reducing the engine’s noise level. In addition, for road use, it must be equipped with white headlights at the front and red reflective devices at the rear.
Since the machine works in time rather than distance, it must be equipped with an hour meter in order to schedule maintenance. Oil level and oil pressure alarms are necessary on a machine designed for heavy use.
Carriage and traction
The PTO is equipped with at least 2 speeds, the machine must be equipped with a standardized 3-point linkage and a trailer hitch. The presence of a hydraulic power unit is appreciable.
Good to know: A mini tractor approved for road use has a registration certificate (car registration document). Without this certificate, it is necessary to consider an individual acceptance at the Department of Mines and thus transport the mini-tractor on a trailer to the departmental center.
Whether 2 or 4-wheel drive, the mini-tractor is dependent for its progress on the size and tread pattern of its tires. Large and narrow wheels promote traction on greasy ground, while small, wide wheels prevent sinking. The tread patterns deeply mark the ground (mowing) to progress on loose soil (ploughing).
Good to know: for working mainly in green areas and on lawns, there are “lawn” profile tires that do not sink into the ground and do not damage the lawn.
The most famous brands in mini-tractor are Iseki, John Deere, Kubota, Shibaura, Yanmar, etc… (non-exhaustive alphabetical list).
Attention: It can be difficult to obtain a registration certificate for some models. Talk to a professional to seek good advice.
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