Tractors have two brake pedals, one for each rear-wheel drive. These brake pedals are locked together for road work for smoother braking. However, they can be separated for field or yard work where sharp, nimble turning is necessary.
Drifting In A Tractor
I remember driving my dad’s John Deere tractor around the yard one wet day in my early teens.
I can still remember clearly pressing my foot on the brake pedal. Something felt different. I tried again, and this time the tractor almost slid sideways around the shed corner.
My young mind was both confused and excited at the same time. What have I broken now?
The skidding by the tractor that day was similar to the drifting you’d see on a motorsport TV channel.
The Difference In A Tractors Brake Setup
My father, knowledgeable in all things as he still is, went on to explain to me later that day that the lock on the brake pedals had worked itself loose.
I was using the brake pedals independently of each other.
I was grateful that the excessive skidding was yet another function of this machine I loved to be in, and not as a result of my extremely harsh, thirteen-year-old foot!
First Time On A Tractor
Sitting on a tractor for the first time can be pretty daunting.
Aside from the numerous buttons and levers around you at arm’s length, there are four foot pedals when you look down.
Anyone unfamiliar with tractor driving would expect the standard three like in your car: the clutch, brake pedal, accelerator, or just brake and accelerator if you are driving an automatic.
Let’s look at exactly why tractors have two brake pedals and see how this unique braking system works in practice.
Speed And Braking In A Tractor
The speed capabilities of every tractor vary depending on the size of the tractor.
Driving Tractors On The Road
In the past, tractors were universal, a very slow road vehicle.
Some manufacturers are now producing faster towing tractors, capable of speeds up to 40 to 45 Mph.
These tractors are used similarly to a lorry to cart grain or some harvested produce like potatoes or carrots to merchants or customers.
Invariably, this will lead to incidents where some harsh braking will be needed to stop the tractor and trailer to avoid a collision.
Driving Tractors In Fields
Contrary to that, fieldwork is where a much more refined and slower pace is required. A speed of 4 to 8 Mph is generally the case.
This allows for more accurate work and is within the capabilities of all makes of tractors.
Fieldwork will require a much softer braking style and is much easier on the tractor’s braking.
Tractor Pedal Setup
As mentioned above, apart from the spaceship-like buttons and levers you will be surrounded by, you will notice you have four foot pedals.
You have a clutch pedal, two brake pedals in the center, and your foot throttle.
These brake pedals lock together for road work so the tractor can brake smoothly.
Splitting the brakes means separating the two brake pedals so that the left and right brake pedals can be used independently.
Split braking can be used in the field or around the yard to execute a sharp turn at slow speeds.
If the left brake is pressed, then the right wheel will continue to turn in a sharp arc around it, depending on how far you turn the steering wheel.
It works the same way if the right brake is pressed; the left wheel will turn.
These brakes must be again locked together when out on the road. Trying to split brake on the road at higher speeds would almost certainly lead to a crash and possibly turning over the tractor.
Split brakes can also be used if one wheel loses traction, perhaps when doing loader work on a hill.
By stopping the wheel from spinning, you can use the wheel with traction to pull the tractor onto a fresh set of ground where it can find traction again and get moving.
It would take many years of experience to be able to pull off such maneuvers.
The practice of splitting tractor brakes is no longer as popular as before, as modern tractors are better equipped for challenging environments.
Tractor Brake Systems
Like the steering system, the brake system in a tractor is also a hydraulic-based system that pumps hydraulic fluid to increase braking intensity. The harder you press on the brake pedal, the harder you brake.
There is also a hydraulic-based trailer brake system on most tractors.
When connected up to a trailer, it will help to slow the trailer while braking by using the trailer brakes.
Larger tractors are now equipped with an air brake system which can be used over the hydraulic system.
With the air brakes, there is less of a potential for something to go wrong in the form of a pipe burst or leak.
Which brake is used in a Tractor?
The left and right brakes are locked together and used as the main brake pedal in the tractor. They can also be used individually, known as split braking.
How does drum braking work?
A drum brake works by creating friction between a rotating cylinder-shaped brake drum and a brake pad or brake shoe pressed against it when pressure is applied to the brake pedal. The friction created will then help to slow the tractor’s speed and come to a complete stop if necessary. Pads and shoes tend to wear over time and need replacing.
How many pedals does a tractor have?
A standard tractor has four pedals, a clutch, two brake pedals, and a foot throttle. Tractors also have a hand throttle which can be used for fieldwork to maintain the same speed over the entirety of the field. This is much easier than trying to keep it right with the foot throttle. They also have a parking brake to ensure it doesn’t roll when parked.
Why do tractors have big tires?
The big tires on a tractor increase leverage, improve traction and reduce soil compaction. The huge tires found on a tractor allow for pulling heavy loads and carrying large implements.
How fast can a pulling tractor go?
Your standard tractor can do top road speeds of between 25mph – 30mph. Some bigger, more modern tractors are specifically designed for road haulage, like the JCB Fastrac and some Fendts. They are looking at doing some incredible top speed of 40mph – 45mph.
About The Author
Hi, my name is Niall Molony, and I’m a young dairy farmer from Tipperary, Ireland.
My father and I run a 180 cow grass-based herd on 2 Lely milking robots here at home.
I love working outdoors in the Irish countryside and the variance in farm work from season to season.
I’m looking forward to providing some of my practical experience to these articles, and hopefully, we can all learn as we go along together.