Buying a Used Farm Tractor: What to Look For - Pt. 1

2/20/2017 9:30:44 AM by Carissa Shaul

If you are a farmer looking to buy a used tractor, you probably already know what you need. Whether it is a John Deere 9630 4WD tractor, a 2011 New Holland T7060 MFWD tractor, or a 2011 Challenger MT865C tracked tractor with specific farm attachments like hydraulic outlets.

Though you may know the make, model and specifications you are looking for, you should always inspect a tractor before you buy. Use our agricultural tractor inspection tips as a general guideline to find the right tractor.

  • Body, Tires and Overall Appearance

A tractor that looks well-maintained usually has been well-maintained. Peeling paint, dents or even weathered, cracked or bulging tires are signs that a tractor was likely stored outside and may need some work. Depending on the type of tractor, replacing those tires could cost you thousands of dollars. If the tires do seem to need replacing do a search on to find cost effective used ones that could make the purchase worth it.

Before you make a final decision, use a tire gauge to measure the tread depth left on the tires and compare to the tread depth measurement on the tire manufacturer'€s website to get a good idea of how much life is left in the tires.

  • Articulation Point

Conduct both a visual and operational inspection of the articulation point. As the major moving part on the tractor, it should always be greased. Check for any metal shards. Shards are signs of wear and most likely a result of improper maintenance.

For an operational inspection, start up the tractor and drive it back and forth. If you feel a knock when moving, a transmission slip could be the culprit. Next, turn the steering left and then right. Check for any wandering or looseness in the steering as this could mean that the main pin may be bent or damaged and needs to be replaced. Tight or difficult steering could signify that the pins need to be greased or that the hydraulic cylinders might not be in proper working order.

  • Engine Compartment

As with all pieces of equipment, start the tractor up, lift the hood, let it run and check for any signs of leaks from the engine, hoses or hydraulics. Check for any cracked or worn hydraulic, coolant or fuel lines. Find the engine plate and check for the amount of horsepower and make sure that the engine meets emission standards for your jurisdiction.

Use a mechanic€'s stethoscope, though some buyers use a screwdriver, and hold it up to the engine block. Listen for any knocking or scratching sounds coming from the engine cylinders.

When the machine is off, remove the air filter. Air filters should be replaced every 100-200 hours, 300-400 hours for in cab filters. Check the operator’s manual for the manufacturer'€™s recommendation. If regularly replaced, the air filter should not appear dirty.

  • Cab

Open the door of the cab and take a look inside. Dirt and mud inside the cab could be signs of improper maintenance. Step inside the cab and check how many hours of operation the tractor has performed. Remember: some tractors may have up to 4,000-5,000 operating hours but may still be in very good shape because they have been taken care of properly. If the cab includes a guidance system, check that all displays, receivers and other electronic components are in working order. Guidance systems can be costly to replace or repair.

Use our farm tractor inspection tips as a general guideline and be sure to look for replacement parts at and you will be well on your way to a new reliable, used tractor.

Next week we will discuss the other key areas to inspect when purchasing a used tractor. Stay tuned!