If you own a fully loaded tractor, one with a 3-point hitch system complete with the two hitch-lifting arms, you’re probably going to experience issues with this system at some point.
One of the common problems with the 3-point hitch system is when the hitch arms aka tractor lift arms fail to work, that is won’t go down
But there’s no need to break a sweat just yet as there are several reasons for the tractor lift arms not going down. That said, here’s why the tractor lift arms won’t go down and a few fixes to resolve the issue.
Understanding the 3-Point Hitch System
What is a 3-Point Hitch?
The 3-point hitch is like the “handshake” between your tractor and the tools it powers. It’s a specialized hitch that connects plows, mowers, and other implements to your tractor. Picture a triangle or the letter ‘A’; that’s the shape this hitch often takes.
Why does this matter? Well, the 3-point hitch does more than just connect; it also transfers the height of the implement to the tractor’s drive wheels. It’s like putting on a backpack—the weight is distributed so you can carry more, more efficiently. This gives your tractor better traction, making it a workhorse on the field.
Let’s break down the “who’s who” in this system:
- Hydraulic Pump: The heart of the operation, pumping life—hydraulic fluid, in this case—throughout the system.
- Lift Control Lever: The steering wheel for your hitch. It dictates when the arms go up or down.
- Control Valve: Think of this as the traffic cop, directing the flow of hydraulic fluid based on your commands.
These components work in harmony, like musicians in a band, to make sure your tractor and implement are in sync.
How does it work?
So, how does this all come together? The hydraulic system is the star of the show here. It’s the engine that powers the lift, controlled by the lift control lever and directed by the control valve.
- Lifting and Lowering: The hydraulic pump energizes the system, allowing the lifting arms to raise or lower the implement. It’s like flexing your muscles to lift a weight.
- Control and Adjustment: The lift control lever and control valve are your control knobs. They let you adjust the height and angle of the implement, much like adjusting the height of your office chair for comfort
- Draft Control: Some systems even have a draft control mechanism. Ever set cruise control in a car? Draft control maintains a constant depth for your implementation, making your work more consistent.
Reasons Why Tractor Lift Arms Won’t Go Down
Reason 1 – Problem with the Hydraulic System
The 3-point hitch system is controlled by the tractor’s hydraulic system, therefore if the lift arms won’t drop, that’s the first place to check for problems.
Given that the hydraulic system is one of the biggest components of a tractor, check the hydraulic flow speed control valve for damage.
This valve in most tractor models is located under your knees beneath the seat and is secured with a knob all the way.
How to Fix?
If this knob isn’t closed all the way to the top, then great chances are that the lift arms will not go down.
If the valve is closed all the way, check if the speed of the control valve is on point.
You can do this by first disconnecting any equipment or tractor implements from the 3-point hitch so that nothing is attached to it.
Shut off the tractor, and then uninstall the entire speed control valve assembly.
When doing this, make sure you wear safety gear because oil can shoot out of the valve under pressure.
Reason 2 – Contamination of the Hydraulic Oil
If the tractor lift arms don’t drop after checking the valve, then there’s probably a mechanical failure that’s causing a binding in the shaft mechanism or left piston.
In most cases, this type of tractor arm failure is caused by contamination of hydraulic oil with moisture or water for prolonged periods.
Even the slightest amount of contamination of hydraulic oil with water or moisture can result in oxidization and cause the tractor arms to get stuck.
How to Fix?
The first thing to do in this case is disassemble the cylinder and inspect it. If the cylinder shows signs of rust or is damaged, the only option is to replace it with a new one.
Reason 3 – The Spring On the Top of the Rear Valve is Damaged
The tractor lift arms at times may go up but will get stuck somewhere in the middle when coming down.
There could be several reasons for this issue, but the most common is that the spring on top of the rear valve is out of place or damaged.
How to Fix?
To get to the spring, you have to remove the rear valve completely.
Depending on your tractor model, it could have two rear valves, and since you don’t know which one is faulty, you’ll have to remove both and check if the springs are out of place or damaged.
If the springs are out of place, simply secure them in the right position, and replace them if there is any damage.
Reason 4 – May be Out of Adjustment
The components of a tractor especially small ones can get misconfigured after a period of use.
These components include bolts and levers and the only way of checking if this is indeed the reason why the tractor arms won’t go down is by checking if the bolts are tight.
How to Fix?
To get to the screws and bolts, you must remove anything that’s shielding them such as covers and guards.
Check to see if all movable components are tightly secured to the tractor and if the bolts are screwed in well and not rusted.
Pay special attention to the 4 bolts on the lever flange and retighten them if loose.
Reason 5 – Tractor Arms Go Down but Very Slowly
There may be times when the tractor arms go down but extremely slowly.
This is not only frustrating but also could cause a big delay in your work.
If this issue is neglected, the tractor arms may go up but will fail to go down completely.
How to Fix?
In the event this happens, the adjustment of the speed of the drop needs to be corrected.
Correcting the speed of the drop is a technical task so it’s best to speak to your tractor dealer to get it looked at.
Reason 6 – The dial that Regulates the Height is Turned all the Way Up
There is a dial that’s located under the user’s seat, which if turned all the way up will not allow the arms of the tractor to go down.
This issue is commonly seen in John Deere tractor models, generally when they aren’t used regularly.
How to Fix?
It may be hard to locate the dial as it is usually tucked away somewhere under the driver’s seat. Lift the driver’s seat, and look closely for the small dial.
If the dial is turned all the way up, turn it down a few notches or completely if you want the tractor arms to drop all the way down.
Does a 3-point hitch have down pressure?
Yes, a 3-point hitch can have down pressure, depending on the type of tractor and hydraulic system it has.
Down pressure is typically achieved through the use of hydraulic cylinders that push down on the implement attached to the 3-point hitch.
Down pressure is often used for tasks that require deeper penetration of the implement into the soil, such as plowing, subsoiling, and tilling.
With down pressure, the weight of the tractor is used to push the implement into the ground, which can improve the performance of the implement and increase its effectiveness in breaking up soil and removing weeds.
If your tractor’s arms aren’t going down, there’s no need to break a sweat just yet as there may be several causes for the issue.
The most common reason why your tractor’s arms won’t go down is a problem with the hydraulic system as that is a system that’s responsible for the up and down movement.
If you aren’t technically oriented, I’d refer to the owner’s manual on how to fix the issue or call a local professional.
I’m Bryan Livingstone, a farmer with 21 years of experience, and I founded FarmingHandbook.com to share the wisdom I’ve gathered. Inspired by my own handbook, this site is your ultimate guide to all things farming. Read More!