How Well Do You Know Your Tractors?


By: Gavin Thagard

6 Min Quiz

Image: GT1976 via WikiCommons

About This Quiz

There aren't many innovations that have affected agriculture since the beginning of the 20th century quite like tractors. These machines have completely reshaped how farmers work and at what pace they can complete a task or produce a crop. As with any innovation, though, there were bumps in the road, but in the end, further changes have made tractors essential for any farm owner.

Tractors, of course, are not used for any single utility, but instead, they have a multitude of purposes, some that have nothing to do with running a farm. Since its use can vary, a tractor has to be studied in order to fully understand how one can benefit an owner. Understanding the usefulness of a tractor has as much to do with how it operates as it does with all the different purposes it can be used for. 

Are you prepared to test your tractor knowledge by challenging yourself with this quiz? From how the first tractors operated to their current uses, you'll be tested on a variety of subjects that will make even the most veteran farmers question their tractor knowledge. 

If you're willing to put as much effort into acing this quiz as it takes to raise a crop, you might find yourself with a high score, so get started and see if you really know your tractors.

Something's always left behind as innovation occurs. Do you know which farm animal was replaced by the tractor?

Horses remained prevalent farm animals until the 1940s, as they couldn't fully be replaced before that. The reason they lasted for nearly 35 years after tractors came about was that farmers couldn't afford tractors during the Great Depression, but WWII changed that.


If you need to dig deep into the ground to further till the soil, what would you use?

Typically using a single blade with a sharpened tip, subsoilers can penetrate tough soil, piercing the ground to depths of around 12 inches. This process can be used to help with drainage problems, as it loosens the soil so the water can drain.


Name the type of tractor attachment that uses a bucket connected to a hinged arm to excavate the land.

Backhoes are used to pull dirt toward the back of a tractor, which is where its name comes from. The arm of the backhoe consists of two parts: the boom that's attached to the tractor and the dipper that holds the bucket.


A haulm topper can be attached to a tractor to help with the production of which crop?

Since potatoes grow in the ground, the crop has to be trimmed down to make harvesting the potatoes easier. A haulm topper serves this purpose by trimming the crop without removing the potatoes from the ground.


To let out harmful gases, how are tractor exhaust pipes designed?

There are many benefits of having an exhaust pipe run vertically from the tractor toward the sky. One of the biggest benefits is that the exhaust fumes won't damage the crops below as the tractor runs over them.


A planter is a piece of farm equipment that plants seeds. What's another name for this process?

When it comes to sowing seeds, it's important to know how deep the seeds can be planted to grow appropriately. Seeds planted too far into the ground won't muster enough energy to ever pierce through the soil.


What's the purpose of a differential lock on a tractor, a system usually engaged by using a pedal?

The differential lock causes both of the tires on each side of the tractor to operate as one unit instead of separately, which means they spin at the same speed. This means a tire won't continuously spin in the mud while the other tire doesn't move, providing better traction.


John Deere is one of the most well-known tractor companies in the business. When did its first major tractor hit the market?

When John Deere purchased the Waterloo Engine Company in 1918, the Waterloo Boy became their first major tractor to hit the market. Thousands of these tractors were sold to farmers between 1918 and 1924, at which time John Deere came out with the Model D.


Do you know what's used to keep a tractor from rolling on top of the operator?

Tractors are the leading cause of death on farms, with most of those deaths being due to overturns. However, a rollover protection structure used in unison with a seat belt can prevent deaths 99 percent of the time.


The vehicle's primary purpose, tractor comes from the latin word "trahere," which means what?

Though tractor comes from "trahere," the immediate predecessor to the word was "traction engine." However, the use of tractor to mean "an engine or vehicle for pulling" dates to the very end of the 19th century.


There are many benefits to a diesel engine in a tractor, but what's not one of those benefits?

Spark plugs are critical for gas engines because they are part of the ignition system, which gets the engine to start. Since a diesel engine doesn't require the same level of heat to fire up, they use glow plugs as part of the ignition system.


Get stuck behind a tractor on the road, and you'll realize they don't have much speed. Why do they sacrifice speed?

Because speed isn't necessarily important on a farm, tractors are built to achieve their purpose of dragging equipment along. To accomplish this, a tractor engine is built with less horsepower so that it can maintain its pull power even as the RPMs drop.


You're not getting very far on a tractor if you can't use the clutch. Do you know its purpose?

The clutch on a tractor is used much like the clutch on a manual car, as both help the vehicle shift gears. However, unlike a car, a tractor can start in a high gear, like fourth gear, without having to shift through the other gears first.


Producing a consistent cut for lawns, name the mower attachment that has multiple helical blades rotating in a circular motion.

A reel mower attachment cuts grass in a scissoring motion using anywhere between three and seven blades. It's the most common type of mowing equipment used to cut the grass at golf courses, where an even cut is required.


A little momentum can go a long way. How were the earliest tractors powered to get their momentum moving forward?

The steam tractor, which used coal as its power source, was inspired by the steam engine that powered trains and boats. These engines were used in tractors until the 1920s, when combustion engines became prevalent.


Tractors are designed to pull equipment. What's the proper name for these attachments?

Implements originally pulled by horses did not directly translate when the first tractors started coming out. Though some farmers tried to attach implements meant for animals, it often resulted in injuries or mechanical problems because tractors wouldn't stop when a problem arose, like if the implement caught a tree stump.


Are you familiar enough with tractors to know what's used to attach equipment to the tractor?

Tractors are not the only type of hauling vehicle that utilizes drawbars. These couplings are used to attach loads to a variety of transport equipment including trains and roadway vehicles.


Can you identify the hitch that became popular for tractors when it was pushed by Henry Ferguson?

Using three points of attachment, the three-point hitch helps disperse the weight of farm equipment on the drive wheels of a tractor. Distributing this weight provides the tractor with more traction as it moves along.


Most modern hitches can lift equipment by using what technology?

Though not all hydraulic systems are exactly the same, there are a few components they must all have in common. Those components are a container for the fluids, a pump, a valve and a cylinder, all of which work together to make the hydraulics operate.


When an implement is in use, it needs power. How's this done?

The power takeoff became popular in North America in the 1930s, which had a huge benefit on agriculture. The stubs that are operated by the power takeoff, however, are extremely dangerous and have been a major cause of farm injuries.


Giving a rod the ability to bend in any direction, which type of joint is used to transmit rotary motion?

The universal joint has been around for over 2,000 years, where it was once used by ancient Chinese civilizations. The earliest versions of the joint used interlocking rings to allow candles to remain upright while in motion.


Tractors need what type of torque to work effectively?

Torque is important for the movement of a tractor, as it relates to the amount of force a tractor can generate. However, the torque also benefits the attachments on a tractor because it determines how much rotational power a tractor can exert.


Are you familiar with the purpose of a front end loader on a tractor?

Front end loaders on a tractor can be very dangerous because they change the weight of the tractor, affecting its center of gravity. To help combat this, tractor operators can keep the bucket low to the ground while moving so that the bucket will hit the ground if the tractor starts to tip over.


You're not rolling very far without wheels. How would you best describe tractor wheels?

Tractors wheels are larger in the back and smaller in the front for two main reasons. First, this helps to keep the front of the tractor from rising up since the axle is higher off the ground. Second, the engine is at the front of the tractor, so larger tires in the back help balance out the weight.


Modern tractor tires are made out of which type of material?

Prior to the implementation of rubber tires, tractors primarily used steel tires, which caused great discomfort for the operators. The 1930s saw a change to rubber tires, as testing throughout the decade proved that rubber tires were far superior to their steel predecessors.


In the earliest years, who dominated the tractor market?

Around 75 percent of the tractor market in the United States was controlled by Ford in 1923. Only five years later, though, competition had grown so fierce that Ford was out of the tractor business.


Do you know what the number one selling tractor in the world is?

After teaming with International Harvester in 1962, Mahindra started developing tractors for its market in India, where the company was founded. The company wouldn't enter the American market until 1994, but has since come to dominate its competition because of the tractor's reliability on tough terrains.


Every farmer needs help during planting season. Identify the farm equipment that tills the soil.

A cultivator can be used both before planting and after planting. Before planting a crop, the cultivator helps stir the soil to make planting easier. After a crop is planted, a cultivator can destroy weeds that may damage a crop.


A muck spreader can benefit any farmer, but can you recall what it spreads?

Manure helps fertilize the soil for planting crops but can be both labor-intensive and unpleasant to spread. To make this process easier, muck spreaders were invented with the capability of both breaking up the manure and spreading it evenly across the ground.


Which type of mowing equipment uses a long bar with mounted fingers to cut down grass?

A sickle mower attachment is best for mowing down tall grass or thick vegetation. This type of mower has this benefit because the cut vegetation won't get tangled up in a series of spinning blades like in other mowing equipment.


Tractors can move bales of hay around using what type of equipment?

Bales of hay are rolled into a round shape to prevent contact with the ground to keep the bale from rotting. These round bales, which are too large to be carried by hand, are hauled around using a bale lifter on a tractor.


To help farming tractors turn, how many brakes do they have?

When a tractor is pulling a load, the load is taken off the front tires, resulting in a lack of steering control. To combat this, tractors come with two brakes, which allows a tractor to make a much tighter turn.


Tractors don't come in one size. Select the proper name for a small tractor with less power but that still has agricultural uses.

Compact utility tractors have a 540 RPM PTO and are capable of using many of the implements that a larger tractor can. However, these tractors usually weigh less than 4,000 pounds, and their attachment output is less than 40 PTO.


So as to not destroy a crop, which type of tractor is used to drive through a crop?

Tires on row-crop tractors are designed where they can appropriately space themselves out so they don't run over a crop but instead run in the rows between crops. Though the term is not often used today, row-crop tractors can be traced back to the 1920s.


Can you identify the type of tractor propulsion system that operates using a continuous band of threads?

Track systems can benefit a tractor user who wants to spread the contact pressure of the tractor across the ground. However, spreading this contact pressure depends on the psi of an inflated tire, as tires with less than 20 psi are actually better for the ground than a track system.


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