Ten Safety Tips for Working on Tractors

Things you should always do to keep yourself and your equipment safe.

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Shut off the fuel cock at the fuel tank when not operating your tractor. This keeps gas where it belongs, in the tank and not on your tractor.

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1. Set the brakes or chock the wheels when you park the tractor. This will prevent the beast from rolling away. And when you are ready to start up again, the tractor stays put until you're ready for it to move.

2. Shut off the gas at the fuel tank. This not only stops an unsightly mess on your tractor's new paint job, but also prevents a fire hazard.

3. Use proper ground at battery. Most 6-volt systems use a Positive + ground: That's the red wire. Most 12-volt systems use a Negative - ground: That's the black wire. Make sure which grounding system is on your tractor before you try to jump-start it or charge the battery. Bad things (like battery explosions) happen when you don't.

4. Shift to neutral when you get ready to crank up your tractor. Do this regardless of whether your tractor is a hand-crank model or one with an electric starter. When the engine fires, your tractor stays in place.

5. Retard the spark when hand-cranking a gas engine. All gas engines are timed to run more efficiently when the spark is adjusted to "before" top dead center of the piston. This is so the exploding fuel will actually deliver its maximum thrust on the piston's downward cycle. If you don't retard the spark to either "top" or "after" dead center, the old bugger could backfire. You could end up with a busted thumb, wrist or hand.

6. Use protective shields over all propeller shafts. Those U-joints can grab a loose trouser leg quickly. Neither the fabric of your pants nor the skin and bone of your leg will stop a spinning propeller shaft. If your tractor doesn't have a cover over the PTO, either spend the extra money and put one on it or never, ever connect an implement to your tractor.

7. Cover sharp edges on disc harrows, cutter bars on mowing machines and similar devices. This protects you and people walking by your exhibit at a show. Many times inexperienced and very young folks attend antique tractor shows. It is our job to protect them and keep them from injuring themselves on our equipment.

8. Use safety pins in wagon tongues or clevises when hitching to a load. Whether you are driving in a plowing demonstration, towing a grain wagon for the threshing operation or driving a people-mover at a show, fasten the hitch pin so it will not bounce out while in motion.

9. Use spark arresters on exhaust stacks when possible. When a tractor is under a load, as when providing power to a threshing machine at a show, it can emit a shower of sparks. One could ignite a stack of dry straw. And if you park your tractor under a canopy (many are fabricated from plastic), hot exhaust could melt a hole in the cover or start a fire.

10. Think safety in everything you do to restore, maintain and operate the items in your collection. As Smokey the Bear might say, "Only you can prevent an accident."