Trailer updates

If you’ve been following along, you know that I purchased a tractor with a loader and a bush hog, and a 20 foot flatbed trailer.  After doing some reading, I found that my trailer needs some equipment to meet the federal requirements.  And to pull the trailer with my truck, it needs some additional equipment as well.

For the truck, I need to add a brake controller.  I’ve never had a trailer with brakes before, so I didn’t need this until now.  To connect the trailer and activate the brakes, I also need a 7 pin connector.  Right now, I only have a 4-pin connector that handles trailer lighting only.

I decided to replace/upgrade the trailer lighting by replacing the existing two clearance lights with LED versions, and while I’m at it I’m also adding two additional clearance lights on each side.  Now there will be a total of six clearance lights on the trailer – two at the front corners, two in front of the fenders, and two behind the fenders.  Also, the running, turn, and stop lights at the back will be switched out for LED versions.

Surprise #1 – because my trailer is more than 80 inches in width, I need 3 red lights in the middle at the back of the trailer.  Because the ramps hook into the channel at the back of the trailer, I’m not yet sure where I can place them.  Under the channel won’t work very well, because the trailer is fairly close to the ground and if it bottomed out on the ground, those lights would be history.  I’ll see what I can come up with for them.

Surprise #2 – it is required that trailers with electric brakes have a breakaway system, that applies the brakes if there is a catastrophic disconnect from the towing vehicle.  Basically it is a small battery that connects into the brake wiring, with a switch that is held in the off position by a pin.  The pin is connected to the towing vehicle by a cable and if the trailer disconnects, the pin will be pulled (turning the switch on) and the battery will energize the brakes and stop the trailer.

The breakaway regulation went into effect in 2005 and my trailer was made in 2017, but it didn’t have the breakaway system installed.  And my trailer didn’t grow in width because of excessive calories in it’s diet, so I don’t know why the required center lights weren’t installed.  I’m not sure how that is possible.  It’s like selling a car without the required brake lights.

But I’ll get all of this in place so the trailer is legal and safe.  If a friend hadn’t mentioned the breakaway requirement I would never have known.  I was searching for lighting requirements, not for braking system requirements.

Folks, make sure your trailers are safe and legal.  Don’t wait until there’s an accident and find out that you don’t have the required equipment on your trailer.  That could turn out to be an expensive lesson.

Hitching up

I bought a 3-point quick hitch.  The one I bought is a Speeco product, made for cat 1 tractors and doesn’t need bushings on the pins to make them fit the hitch.  It went on in about 5 minutes, easy-peasy.  It’s kind of awkward to do by yourself, but if you do one draft link at a time it’s not too bad.

One of the downsides with a quick hitch is that older implements won’t always fit without some modifications.  In my case, the implements I have are fairly new and are all quick hitch compatible so I should be good to go.

Also, if you have a posthole auger, it won’t work with the quick hitch since the top link is removed when you hitch up the auger.

After checking everything over, I tried hitching up the implements I have – a King Kutter box blade and a Land Pride RCR1260 bush hog.  The box blade hitched up the first time, zero issues.  The bush hog was another story.  To get it to hitch up, the top hook needed to be angled further away from the tractor, once I figured that out it hitched up just fine.  Connecting the PTO shaft is a little less convenient, but still doable without too much cursing.  One good thing is that the same vertical position of the top hook works for the bush hog and the box blade, so no need to move the top hook when switching implements.  I did remove the slow vehicle reflector, because it made reaching the lock handles harder than it needs to be.

It would be nice to find some pins to use in place of the bolts for the top hook.  That way you could make adjustments to the height of the hook without tools.  I think a 1/2″ pin would work.  I may pick up a couple of pins for trailer hitches and see if they will fit.

So far, I like the quick hitch better than the Pats Easy Change links.  I’ll need more time with it and more hitching/unhitching to make a final determination.

A few little add-ons

I’ve added a few things to the tractor to make it easier to use.  They’re not expensive, but they work well.

The first was to replace the small plastic toolbox with a larger one.  I picked up a surplus .50 caliber ammo box, and bolted it in the same place as the Kubota toolbox.  This one is larger, sealed at the lid, and holds the tools (pliers, adjustable wrenches, screwdrivers, etc) that are useful when using implements.  I added a small 3 pound hammer for convincing tight pins to go in or come out, as needed.  A few shop towels for wiping things clean, such as before using the grease gun on zerk fittings.  Also handy for wiping your hands after greasing.  It also hold extra pins and linchpins, and shear bolts for the bush hog PTO shaft.

The second was a short length of chain to hold the lower 3 point hitch lift arms in so they don’t swing outwards and hit the rear tires.  When not needed (while an implement is on the 3 point hitch) it clips up and out of the way.

I put a 2″ ball on the drawbar so that I can move trailers around with the tractor.  The 20′ flatbed trailer is heavy and not easily moved around but the tractor makes quick work of that.  In the future, I might drill a hole through the bucket so that a trailer ball can be installed for positioning trailers.  A nice feature of using the bucket is that you don’t need to move the tongue jack to set the trailer on the drawbar hitch, just drive under the hitch and lift.  The flatbed trailer uses a 2 5/16″ ball, but a 2″ ball fits all of my trailers and is fine for moving them around.

I’m considering adding a scabbard to carry a chain saw to the tractor so that it’s with me and I won’t need to make a trip back to the cabin to pick it up.  Especially handy when you’re out clearing brush and downed trees.  There are several types available, one that clamps around the loader post, and another that clamps onto the ROPS bar.  I haven’t decided which one yet, but it will be one of those two designs.  Either is better than just putting the chain saw into the loader bucket.  It’s too easy to forget it’s there and either load dirt or gravel on top of it, or accidentally dump it out and lose it or worse, run over it.  Neither of those are good for the saw.

I might add some LED work lighting to the back of the tractor, probably mounted on the ROPS bar.  That would help when unhitching an implement or working at dusk.  Sometimes you just want to finish up a job and you wind up needing another half hour or so after the sun goes down.

Maintenance items

If you recall, I added Pat’s Easy Change hitches to the lower lift arms on the 3 point hitch.  Without a doubt they make it quicker and easier to hitch and unhitch an implement.  But there is a potential issue that you should consider.

The Pat’s hitches move the attachment point about 4″ further from the tractor, so the amount you can lift goes down a bit.  It probably won’t be an issue for most of us, but for those that are wringing every bit of performance out of their tractor it could cause a problem.  Secondly, due to the 4″ extension to the left arms, the top link may now be too short to properly angle the implement.  Even if the top link is actually long enough, you may not have enough threads engaged in the body.  This will weaken the top link and could cause it to pull through.  My original top link body was 13 1/2″ long, so I decided to pick up a new, longer top link.  The body on the new one is 16″ long.  Not the full 4″ that the Pat’s hitches added to the lift arms, but is definitely longer and will have more threads engaged.

Going over the bush hog more carefully, several items need attention.  The original blades are in rough shape, mostly from striking objects while mowing.  The blades pivot when they strike an uncuttable object to prevent damage to the PTO shaft and gearbox, but the cutting edge takes the brunt of the strike.  They can be ground back to a serviceable cutting edge, but I chose to replace the blades.  They’re not overly expensive, and If I’m careful they will last a long time.  I borrowed a 3/4″ impact wrench from my cousin and that made quick work of replacing the blades.

The tailwheel yoke axle and spindle need greasing.  I removed the tailwheel yoke and checked it over.  The spindle is bent to the side a little, but the bigger worry is that the top part has worn down to 1 1/8″ from 1 1/4″.  I also decided to replace the yoke.  The wheel, hub, and axle are fine, just need a little cleanup and some fresh grease.

Once these items are finished, the bush hog will be ready to go for a long time, and periodic regreasing will keep it running smoothly.

My first implement purchase

I finally was able to track down the box blade I decided on at a Rural King store in Jeffersonville, Indiana.  I chose this one because of the weight and the way the top link frame was built and welded.  It is made by King Kutter and is 5 feet wide.  It’s painted red, but I’ll live with the color disparity.  The welds are good and the way the scarifiers are attached is very solid.  The cutting edges are reversible and replaceable as well.

The first chore was to unload it from the truck bed.  I have a good 3/8″ logging chain to use and my cousin is going to stop by to help mitigate the process so that I don’t bang it into the truck or do something else stupid while I’m unloading it.  He also has some pallets I can use to set it and the bush hog on so that I don’t have to set them on the ground.  The pallets will make it easier to hitch them up as well.

Unloaded the box blade using the loader and a chain.  Lifted it up and then drove the truck out from under it.  Set it down on the concrete and that’s done.  I did order 2 Bolt On grab hooks for the bucket.  That will make it a lot easier and safer to load/unload things from the truck bed.

Now to see how badly I can tear up the gravel driveway with the box blade.

Making changes to the tractor – now and down the road

Some changes are in order for the tractor, to make it easier to operate and hopefully faster at getting things done.

The first update was to add a bucket level indicator.  This add-on allows you to know if the bottom of the bucket is level or not.  This is a big help when moving dirt or gravel.  With experience, you recognize if the bucket is level by the way the top of the bucket looks from the seat, but this takes time to learn.  Using the bucket level indicator you can mostly eliminate the learning curve.  I chose the product from and it fits and works perfectly.  It took longer to find my rachet than to install it.  A really nice add-on.

The next update was to install Pat’s Easy Change quick hitches onto the lower lift arms at the 3 point hitch.  They install fairly easily, but use the spacer bar to set the hitches the proper distance apart – which will depend on the implement you’re using.  You want the hitches to be parallel to each other when they are the proper distance apart.  It doesn’t have to be exact, but it will be easier and quicker to hitch and unhitch if they are properly aligned.  If your implement needs the PTO shaft, you’ll still have to climb off the tractor to hook that up, and most likely the top link as well.  There is a satisfying clunk when the hitches are secured on the lift pins.  So far, working just as expected.

The Kubota plastic toolbox behind the driver’s seat is handy, but doesn’t hold much.  I picked up a surplus .50 caliber ammo box and mounted it in place of the smaller plastic box.  It seals at the top, so I won’t have tools and pins and linchpins setting in water and rusting after the tractor is out in the rain.

To make it easier to use the loader to move heavy things around, I added a set of Bolt-On grab hooks to the bucket.  I placed them at the outer edges of the top rail of the bucket.  Now that I can left from two points instead of one, having the load swing around should be minimized, and lifting is safer as well.

Down the road:

I need a box blade so that I can properly maintain the driveway gravel.  It can be done with the loader, but it takes longer and is more difficult to get a nice smooth surface.  All things considered, box blades aren’t terribly expensive, so it will be a good implement to help maintain things at the cabin.

I want to have a rear remote hydraulic connection, so that I can use a hydraulic top link.  This makes angling a box blade much easier so that you can work more efficiently while leveling driveway gravel.  The third function valve that powers the rear remotes has a replacement knob for the loader joystick, with two button switches.  These switches control a solenoid in the valve that directs pressurized fluid flow to the rear remote, and the on to the hydraulic top link.  Each button moves the top link cylinder in opposite directions.

While I’m working on the hydraulics, I also want a front remote at the loader so that I can run a grapple or change the angle of a snow blade.  I plan to use a diverter valve on the output of the third function valve, to direct the pressurized fluid flow to either the front or rear remote as needed.  With the diverter valve I won’t be able to run both front and rear remotes at the same time, but I don’t foresee that being an issue.  With the right combination of quick couplers, the loader can still be easily removed from the tractor after installing the front remote.

I want to convert the pin-on loader bucket to use SSQA (skid steer quick attach) implements.  There is an adapter that fastens onto the loader using the same four pins that attached the pin-on bucket.  Then a plate that mates with the adapter is welded onto the bucket.  Some primer and Kubota orange paint and we’re good as new, except that now we can quickly swap loader implements such as a grapple. snow blade, or pallet forks.

I want to pick up a grapple as well.  They are really useful for clearing brush and general cleaning up and moving logs and tree limbs out of the way.  They’re not cheap, and that’s why it’s at the bottom of the list.  To run the grapple, the front remote is needed, and the SSQA needs to be installed on the loader.  So a couple of other upgrades need to be done before I’m ready for the grapple.

Lots of planned upgrades and I’ll do them as time and funds permit.  When I’m finished, I’ll have a very useful piece of equipment that can handle most any job around here.

Taking care of the place

The cabin is in the middle of 40 acres of woods, and taking care of it requires more than a push mower and a string trimmer.

So I’ve been looking for a compact tractor to do the heavy lifting (literally).  I found a Kubota L3301 with the LA525 loader and an RCR1260  5′ rotary cutter, on a 20′ flatbed trailer at a good price.  It doesn’t have a lot of hours and has been well maintained.  It’s a good tractor and the implements are a good start to keep the place well-maintained.

The first problem was that the tractor was in Calhoun, Georgia – more than 400 miles from here.  The second problem was that my little Dakota pickup isn’t up to the task of hauling 7,000 pounds of tractor and trailer up here.  My cousin Mitch offered to loan me one of his work trucks to go pick it up.  His one ton dually with a big diesel engine was easily up to the job, and I don’t think the truck even knew there was a trailer behind it.

It was a long drive down and back, but I did it in one day.  The big diesel just hummed along and did it’s job perfectly.  Zero problems going there or coming back.  You need to be a lot more aware of your position in the lane with a truck and trailer that wide, but I settled in and soon that was second nature.  The narrow country roads around here make that a larger problem, but I got back late so there wasn’t much traffic to contend with.

When I got back, I left the truck and trailer out front and called it a day.  The next morning, I undid the straps and backed the tractor off the trailer.  Then I had to figure out how to turn the whole rig around in a space that really wasn’t big enough.  I finally unhitched the trailer and pushed it back far enough to get the truck out, then pushed the trailer as far forward as I could.  Pushing and pulling a 20′ tandem flatbed trailer around by yourself is a lot of work – I guess there’s a reason you move trailers like this with a truck (or a tractor).

I returned the borrowed truck after filling it with fuel and DEF, and brought my little Dakota back home.  After driving the big truck for more than 800 miles, I am definitely going to consider a Chevy/GMC with the big diesel engine when  I buy a new(er) truck.


Stay tuned…