Brush Up On Your Lingo With These Tractor Terms

Brush Up On Your Lingo With These Tractor Terms

PHOTO: John Deere

If you’re shopping for a new tractor, this glossary of 30 tractor-related terms will get you up to speed on all the lingo.

Air Filter

Engines need oxygen to run, and the air filter helps protect dust, dirt, grass clippings and other contaminants from entering the engine.

Bias Tires

An old-fashioned, inexpensive tire design offering rugged performance in exchange for a bumpy ride and less traction than radial tires

Which tires are better for farming—radial or bias?


The frame of the tractor, supporting all of its other parts

Clutch & Gear Transmission

A transmission using a complex array of gears to achieve different speeds and directions of travel. It’s the transmission of choice for activities requiring a specific speed to be maintained (such as seeding) and for use on sloping terrain.

Compact Utility Tractor

Smaller than a utility tractor, but larger and stronger than a garden tractor, a compact utility tractor is ideal for small-scale farmers who need the expandability of a utility tractor, but without the expense, size and power of a larger machine.

Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF)

A blend of 32.5 percent synthetic urea and 67.5 percent deionized water, injected into the selective catalytic reduction of diesel engines to break down nitrogen oxides in the exhaust


This metal bar, often removable, is installed at the rear of the tractor. It serves as a hitch for attaching implements such as hay balers and wagons.

Engine Block Heater

A heater installed in the engine to keep it warm and facilitate easier starting in the cold


Typically exchangeable with the bucket on a front-end loader, a forklift attachment allows the tractor to transport round hay bales, logs or pallets of supplies.

You can even clear snow with your front-end loader!

Front-End Loader

An adjustable bucket installed on the front of the tractor, used for scooping and transporting dirt, manure, gravel, snow, tree branches, etc.

Four-Wheel Drive

This means the engine provides drive power to all four wheels, increasing traction over challenging terrain.

Fuel Filter

Filters debris from fuel to keep the engine running smoothly. Contaminated fuel can degrade performance and wear out engine parts prematurely.

Garden Tractor

A high-end riding mower with more power and greater expandability than a lawn tractor


Traditional term for measuring engine strength. Power take-off and drawbar horsepowers are related terms denoting the power available to a tractor for operating or pulling implements.


The fluid-driven systems that provide the means for lifting implements and powering attachments such as front-end loaders and backhoes

Hydrostatic Transmission

A transmission using hydraulic fluid and a variable displacement pump to dr

ive a hydraulic motor

Implement (or Attachment)

A piece of machinery—such as a plow, snow blower or box blade—attached to a tractor to expand its capabilities

Lawn Tractor

A basic riding lawn mower, good for mowing grass and pulling small carts

Oil Filter

A filter for removing contaminants from engine oil. Regular replacement is advised.

Power Steering

The use of hydraulics to aid in turning the wheels of a tractor, making steering easier

Power Take-Off (PTO)

A rotating connector, usually at the rear of the tractor, providing power to implements such as mowers and hay balers

Radial Tires

An advanced tire design offering a smoother ride and greater traction than bias tires, albeit at a higher price point. They’re less suitable for extremely rugged or hilly terrain.

Rollover Protection Structure (ROPS)

A sturdy frame arching over the seat of the tractor, designed to protect the driver from injury in the event of a tractor rollover

Be careful how much you try to lift with your tractor.

Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR)

The system by which diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) is released into the exhaust of a diesel engine to break down nitrogen oxides and reduce pollution

Spark Plugs

A key component in gasoline engines, providing the electric spark needed to ignite the fuel

Subcompact Tractor

Typically a diesel-powered garden tractor offering greater expandability through the addition of a PTO and three-point hitch

Three-Point Hitch

An industry-standard means of rigidly attaching implements such as plows and mowers to the back of a tractor. Hydraulics allow the implements to be raised and lowered.

Utility Tractor

This is your stereotypical “tractor,” a full-sized machine offering the strength and versatility to handle any job. Engine horsepower can exceed 100 horsepower.

Zero-Turn Mower

A specialized lawn mower designed for maneuverability and speed

If you familiarize yourself with these terms, you’ll have everything you need to make an informed decision when buying your next tractor.

Tractor Companies

These tractor companies are a great place to start your buying journey!

  • Bobcat
  • Branson
  • John Deere
  • Kioti
  • Kubota
  • Yanmar

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of Hobby Farms magazine.

Watch the video: 3 PT Hitch and other Tractor Parts. TRACTOR TERMS on compact Tractors PT 1 (December 2021).