Does your tractor need hydraulic fluid or hydraulic oil? What’s the difference? When you go to the store, do you know what type of hydraulic fluid your tractor needs? In this article, you’ll learn more about maintaining the hydraulic system of your tractor using the right fluids for your tractor.
How Do Hydraulics Work?
Hydraulics work using liquid to transfer force. It’s basic physics. Liquid cannot be compressed. When you push a plunger down, the liquid must go somewhere. That force moves something else within the system. Although your tractor operates on a much higher level, it’s this concept that makes your tractor effective.
The hydraulic system of your tractor lets you accomplish a significant amount of work with minimum effort. Your tractor does the heavy job of lifting through a mechanical system. The hydraulic system is made of many parts, valves, a pump, reservoir, fluid, cylinder, hose, and filter. A motor is the power source that operates the pump. The hydraulic pump uses the fluid as the vehicle that transfers force from one point to another one. The fluid provides energy in the form of pressure to create a mechanical force or work.
Today’s hydraulics are very sophisticated. Some systems control many different devices that make work easier. The technology is advancing very quickly, but some of the basic principles of fluid dynamics stay the same. Hydraulic fluid is vital to the system. The more components that the hydraulic system controlled, the more critical it is to keep your tractor in peak condition. Even though electronics control many of the parts, the hydraulic fluid maintains control internally of the system.
Why Is Tractor Hydraulic Fluid Important?
Hydraulic fluid is under a great deal of pressure, 2,000 psi (pounds per square inch) or more. Compare that to your faucet, which operates about 40 psi. Hydraulic fluids transfer energy into the system, but they do other jobs in the tractor, which is why you need to make sure you have the right hydraulic fluid for your machine. Some hydraulic systems are tied into the transmission system of the tractor, which requires a different formula than one that operates the hydraulic system.
Hydraulic fluids lubricate the moving parts of the system, reducing friction to make the different parts last longer. Mineral-based fluids usually have additives that prevent rust and oxidation within the tractor. Water-based hydraulic fluids are fire-resistant and prevent heat transfer. Synthetic hydraulic fluids are another type of fluid that have properties of both mineral- and water-based fluids. Synthetic fluids are often more expensive and may not work with the gaskets in your system.
Hydraulic fluids pass through a filter that removes impurities. This filter needs to be replaced for the maximum performance of your tractor. When you’ve invested in a tractor, you want it to last for years. Changing the fluids and filters at regular intervals is an investment in your equipment.
How Can You Find Your John Deere Tractor Model?
If you have a John Deere tractor, you’ll find the model number on the operator’s manual. You can also enter the Decal Model Number on their site to find the information for the right hydraulic fluid to use. The main site also has information on finding the correct parts for your tractor. Generally, with any make and model of tractor, you can do a search on the manufacturer’s website for information on what fluids work most effectively in your tractor. You can also call the dealership to get the right fluid. Using the wrong fluid in your system could be damaging. This is not something that you want to leave to chance.
You can get universal hydraulic fluids but check your manufacturer’s recommendations before buying one. Hydraulic fluids are labeled as ISO (International Standards Organization) and AW (anti-wear). ISO is a viscosity grade. Viscosity is how the internal friction of the fluid is measured. ISO and AW have the same viscosity, but the AW type adds anti-wear properties. Buy AW if possible because it is higher in quality. John Deere engineers recommend specific hydraulic fluids that optimize the performance of their machines.
General tips for checking your tractor’s hydraulic fluid
Just as your car needs to have the oil, transmission fluid and antifreeze topped off every season, your tractor needs to have the hydraulic fluid checked and added when it’s low. It’s recommended to check the fluid levels after 50 hours of use or every week. Add fluid only if necessary. Checking the hydraulic fluid itself is much like reading an oil dipstick, but there are some things you do need to take into consideration.
Get an Accurate Reading
Check the level of the hydraulic fluid when the tractor is cold. Make sure that the vehicle is on level ground. Lower the boom and buckets cylinders. This isn’t just to make sure that the machine is in a good position, but to keep you safe while checking the reservoir. While checking the fluid, don’t get dirt into the reservoir or on the dipstick.
- Remove the cap from the reservoir, which is usually located behind the driver’s seat on John Deere tractors. On some models, you may need to remove a side panel and engine cover.
- Pull out the dipstick and read the level. If it isn’t low, you do not need to add fluid.
- If you do need to add fluid, use a clean funnel to pour the oil into the reservoir slowly. Add some fluid, then check the level to make sure that you do not overfill the reservoir. Once the level is full, replace the dipstick and cap. Reinstall the side panel or engine covers.
Change the fluid
It’s recommended that you change the hydraulic fluid and filter every 1,200 hours of use. That’s about 30 weeks if you run your tractor 40 hours/week on average. You should probably change the oil annually, but it depends on how hard you work your tractor.
Although it might seem intimidating, if you can change your car’s oil, you can change your tractor’s hydraulic fluid. Check the owner’s manual for the exact location of the plugs and filters.
- Drive the tractor to let the engine warm-up. The fluid will be easier to flush if it’s warm. Any contaminants that settle while the tractor sits will mix in with the fluid, which makes them go out with the flush.
- Get your hydraulic equipment ready. You’ll need buckets to catch the fluids.
- Remove the drain plug to drain the fluid.
- Clean the screens.
- Replace the filter.
- Place the plug back in.
- Refill with hydraulic fluid. How much you need will depend on the make and model of your tractor. Your owner’s manual should give information on the refill amount or ask the dealer.
- Let the engine run for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Turn the steering wheel to each direction to make sure you have function.
Take Care of Your John Deere
For best results, use the products recommended by the manufacturer. For John Deere tractors, use John Deere oil and filters. These items are made specifically for your tractor. Ensure that you get the most out of your equipment and maintain its performance by taking care of it. Check the fluids that need to be refilled. Use the recommended fluids and oils. Follow safety procedures.