Tractor Tips

Loader's 3rd Function and Front Power Beyond

Front loader 3rd function and power beyond hydraulics, why have them & what's the difference?

The vast majority of subcompact, compact and larger compact utility tractors in the North America market are equipped with front end loaders. Many, if not most, come from the factory with the loader already installed. 

When you look more closely at how tractor owners are putting front end loaders to work, you see that manufacturers are taking many steps to make the very popular front loader option more versatile and easier to use. Scooping stuff with the loader bucket is just not enough anymore. Tractor owners want pallet forks, bale spears, grapples and a host of other loader attachments.  

To boost ease of use and versatility, manufacturers build loaders with quick attach systems making changing loader attachments fast and easy. With Yanmar tractor loaders, quick attach is standard on all Yanmar loaders. For the subcompact SA Series tractors, it is a Yanmar quick attach sized to the capabilities of the subcompact tractors. On the loaders for the larger YT2 and YT3 Series tractors, the loaders have an industry-standard, skid-steer style loader quick attach as standard equipment. That opens up the universe of loader attachments for skid-steers and tractors that all use the skid-steer style quick attachment. Some tractor brands use a proprietary quick attach design that does not allow "open - sourcing" your loader attachments.

If you'll pardon the expression, let's dig a little deeper into what is being done to make front end loaders more versatile and powerful tools. Loaders have long been about hydraulics to lift the loader and dump and return the bucket or other attachment. But when you move into the wider world of loader attachments, you find things like the increasingly popular grapples that need a 3rd function hydraulic circuit to operate the opening and closing of the grapple. Another 3rd function example would be attaching a hydraulic-turn snow blade to the loader.  Still another example is using a 4-in-1 bucket that provides an attachment able to scoop, grapple and more in one attachment operated by the 3rd function hydraulic circuit. 3rd function circuits are usually an optional feature. They can be both factory installed and field installed by tractor dealers.

Because the universe of loader attachments is large and diverse, there are attachments that demand more than what 3rd function hydraulic circuits are designed to supply. Now we enter the world of "power - beyond" hydraulic systems. What is a front-end loader power beyond kit and how is it different from a 3rd function valve?

Power beyond kits let you use loader attachments that require high-flow hydraulics to power the attachment. Popular examples are snowblowers and rotary brooms for snow removal and grounds care work. On compact tractors, this is often accomplished by attaching an auxiliary hydraulic power unit to the 3-point hitch which is powered by the tractor's rear power take off (PTO). The higher flow required to operate more demanding attachments like snowblowers or brooms is provided by this PTO-driven power pack that includes a hydraulic pump and hydraulic oil reservoir large enough to power a blower or broom through a long work day. The high hydraulic flow is routed through larger dedicated tubes and hoses to the front of the loader where it is delivered to the high flow attachment. 

Equipping your tractor with a front power beyond kit makes the tractor even more versatile. Owners can quickly change from a hydraulic snowblower to a snow blade or back to the loader bucket. The loader stays on the tractor.

Snowblowers, brooms and other high-flow-required front attachments come in many sizes and specifications. Compare your loader lift capacity specifications, your hydraulic power pack specifications and the total attachment weight and flow requirements before you take the plunge on assigning your tractor and loader to run one of these tools. Your tractor dealer can help you make a correct match among tractor, power pack, loader and attachment.

Adding a power beyond kit to your tractor/loader package is different from another popular front attachment solution for subcompact and compact tractors. This other solution requires removing the loader arms and installing a front hitch specifically designed to operate blades, snowblowers and brooms. Front attachments on dedicated front hitch kits are a highly effective and affordable way to add from attachment versatility to your tractor but you have more steps to follow to switch between front attachments and using your loader.

Already today the tasks you can accomplish with a front-end loader have expanded far beyond scooping material with a bucket. New tractor and skid-steer loader attachment inventions appear every year. Selecting 3rd function and power beyond hydraulic kit options for your tractor and loader opens up all these possibilities.