Tractor Tips

Hooking up a PTO

Hooking up a PTO doesn’t have to take a year and a day, with these tips, you will be operating your rear-implement in no time.

Hooking up a tractor attachment or implement that requires a Power Take Off (PTO) connection can be one of the tougher, more time-consuming tasks when it comes to changing rear implements on your tractor. If you keep the following tips in mind, you'll find that connecting and disconnecting the PTO will often go faster and easier.

Safety First
- PTO accidents are one of the most common and severe causes of tractor related injuries. Before doing anything with tractor and implement PTO components, read and follow every safety instruction and best practice in the tractor and implement operator's manuals. Make sure all shielding and other tractor and implement PTO components are in good operating condition. Do not do any work with tractor and implement PTO components while the tractor engine is running or while any portion of the PTO powered implement is still in motion.

Often to connect an implement's PTO drive shaft to the tractor's rear PTO you have to simultaneously bend over while lifting an implement's heavy PTO shaft. Plus, you have to correctly align PTO driveline splines while pulling back on the implement's PTO shaft release collar or pressing the pin-lock release --- all while sliding the implement shaft onto the tractor's PTO. We know that does not sound easy.

To help make this potentially difficult task easier, use these methods from experienced tractor operators. (Wearing gloves while doing PTO connections is another smart tip to help avoid cuts and scrapes.)

First, make sure everything is ready for a PTO connection to happen (reading the tractor and implement ops manuals is the key to knowing the right settings on both machines). Most tractors allow you to put the PTO shaft on the tractor into a neutral position. This ensures the tractor PTO output shaft will spin freely, making correctly aligning the two shafts' splines much easier.

If you are connecting a 3-point-mounted implement, take care that the 3-point hitch is in the full down position to avoid getting accidently crushed if someone was to inadvertently move the position lever. The hitch and implement can lower even when the engine is turned off. If you can't get the PTO shafts to align with the 3-point implement in the full-down position, you may need to remove the drawbar. Often removing the drawbar is a good idea in general when using PTO-powered 3-point implements. This helps avoid damaging the PTO shaft due to the shaft striking the drawbar when the implement drops to the lower travel limit of the 3-point hitch. Check the amount of clearance between the PTO shaft and the drawbar before you begin using a PTO-powered 3-point implement.

If your tractor PTO does not have a neutral setting and the tractor PTO shaft remains locked when the engine is turned off, you might need to mount the implement to the 3-point hitch, raise it and lock it into the raised position before shutting down the tractor - this way you should be able to carefully rotate the implement shaft to align the splines. Take extra care to keep fingers out of the implement PTO shaft universal joint here as there may be a bit of momentum behind the implement shaft's rotation.

Next, the two PTO shaft ends should be clean. Dirty and dry splined shafts can be nearly impossible to hook up. The splined PTO shafts are designed to have a tight fit. Just one small piece of grit from the soil or some crop debris can stop the shafts from sliding together.

Next, to help the two tight-fitting pieces of metal slide together, coat both of them lightly with grease. Clean grease from a clean source is preferred, but your experienced tractor operators know how to improvise in the field. Once lubricated, the two splined shafts should slide together much more easily.

On compact tractors and their implements, the PTO connection is not very far off the ground. It can be easier to kneel to handle the PTO connection. Kneeling and lifting the weight of the implement PTO shaft both can go more easily if you're kneeling on a good surface. An automobile floor-mat, a piece of carpet, or some sturdy cardboard will ease the stress on your knees while you hook up the PTO.

Once you have the splines aligned, press the locking pin button or pull back on the ball-lock collar and push the shaft onto the PTO. If it is stubborn to slide, sometimes jiggling the end of the implement PTO shaft up and down will help get it started.

Once started, slide the shaft all the way on - you might hear a click and your button should retract to the original position or your collar will slide forward all the way. To ensure that the shaft lock is fully seated, pull back on the shaft with your hands off the button or the collar and it should be impossible to remove.

With these simple tips, you can make PTO shaft hookups less time-consuming and move you faster to getting done what needs to be done.