Love Your Loader? Avoid These 13 Mistakes

By TBN February 14, 2018 23:03

Front-end Loader

There are probably 10,000 different things you can use a front-end loader for. They are the most popular attachments for tractors, and for good reason. But whether you’re new to tractors or seasoned vet, it’s possible to abuse a front-end loader if you misuse it. Fortunately, our members have put together a long list of things you should NOT do with your front-end loader (unless of course you want to damage it).

  • Don’t use it as a bulldozer or to ram things. They’re loaders, not bulldozers and not excavators. Plowing with blades attached to loaders should be done with springs to soften the impact on the loader arms.
  • Don’t push or pull tree branches or tree trunks that can act as a huge spring and damage your machine (or cause injury to the operator) when they snap back.
  • Don’t push over trees which can break off high up and crash down on you.
  • Don’t use a loader without adequate rear ballast. Your rear end can lift up, or on hills, your entire machine can tip over.
  • Don’t transport weight in the loader when the bucket is elevated. It is easy to dump objects and material back on yourself and the tractor if you are curled ALL the way back and raise to MAX height so be mindful of bucket position when lifting high.
  • Don’t raise the loader any higher than you need to. Keep your loaded bucket close to the ground.
  • Don’t lift heavy objects when on a surface inclined perpendicular to the tractor.
  • Don’t let people people in the loader. It’s too risky and if somebody falls out, they’re going to be under the tractor before you know it.
  • Don’t lift or push anything with the corner of the bucket. That can twist the loader frame.
  • Don’t back drag with the bucket tilted forward beyond 15 degrees. Do not back drag with front wheels off the ground. This can cause the cylinders to break.
  • Don’t drive recklessly with a loaded bucket (or any time for that matter). Especially on uneven ground, that load will change the performance dynamics of your tractor significantly.
  • Don’t use your bucket as an extension ladder! We’ve seen this done so many times but it’s still dangerous and if something goes wrong, somebody could get seriously injured.
  • Don’t forget to read the manual and stay within your loader’s operating capacity/limits. Two trips with the loader is better than one broken loader.

Anything we missed? Add it in the comments below.

By TBN February 14, 2018 23:03
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  1. George February 14, 23:32

    And it’s a FEL, Front End Loader.
    A FEL doesn’t always include a bale spear, a bucket, a grapple, pallet forks, etc.

  2. Jerry February 22, 11:34

    very good advice

  3. John Labouchere February 22, 12:18

    It’s not meant for putting posts in the ground. I have seen the middle section of a 4″ round post spring and break to 30 yards away. That would have hurt or worse. (The loader had most of a ton of sand in it).

  4. Mike February 22, 12:58

    Don’t forget to periodically check you attachment hardware. Mine frequently came loose and I ended up with broken bolts in my frame and doing helicoil repairs.. Finally fixed the problem by drilling the bolt heads and using lock wire to keep them from backing out.

  5. George February 22, 13:18

    Inadequate air pressure in the front tires of a front end loader can de-bead a tubeless tire on a turn. Tractor tires do not show low air pressure because they are stronger than automotive tires

  6. TugHillDog February 22, 13:32

    Particularly with utility and compact tractors, the sensation that the device is a tank must be restrained. The loader can do much of what the “big dogs” do, but in much smaller bites. Don’t be afraid to move a dirt pile….but not in one push. Take smaller and more appropriate bites and the result will be more harmonious for you and your machine.

  7. Texas J February 22, 13:40

    Thanks for the reminder. Been doing some of these things and forgetting about safety.
    Thanks again.

  8. Neighbor Al February 22, 14:19

    Don’t use your FEL to move burning debris. You hydraulic hoses are exposed to the heat and it can go very badly. Hasn’t happened to me, but I’ve heard stories…

  9. Rodney February 22, 15:00

    If a loader breaks from trying to lift a weight greater than the rated capacity, shame on the manufacturer! The relief valve is supposed to limit the force to the rated capacity.

  10. old grayfellow February 22, 15:21

    Suggestion for an addition:

    When adding a loader, especially to a small tractor, be sure a properly designed subframe linking the front frame to the rear axle is also installed. Many tractors are not equipped with this, but rely on the transmission bell housing as the only structural connection. Using a loader puts extra stress on the bell housing and can result in “breaking the tractor’s back”. A properly designed subframe can prevent this catastrophe.

  11. dannoGT February 22, 15:35

    Do not allow anyone to walk/work under a raised bucket.

  12. MikeTheReviewer February 22, 15:44

    Don’t forget to keep it lubed, keep a record and use the best synthetic grease, especially in areas like the northeast where folks use their loader to remove snow in the winter and also have hot high humidity summers. The cold keeps the regular grease from flowing, and in the hot summer sitting in the sun, it’s too runny.

  13. MikeTheReviewer February 22, 16:12

    I re-wrote my comment to better fit the theme of Don’t…..

    Don’t trust your memory as to when the last time you greased the loader, keep a record. Lube it with the best synthetic grease, especially in the northeast where folks use their loader to remove snow in the winter and where the summers are hot and very humid. The regular grease is too hard in the cold weather and too runny in the summer. I use the Milwaukee M12 battery powered grease gun, it’s actually fun to use! There are grease fittings on my tractor that need 3 hands, with the Milwaukee M12 gun one hand can hold the end on the fitting and the other just has to pull the trigger.

  14. JL February 22, 19:33

    “Don’t lift heavy objects when on a surface inclined perpendicular to the tractor.”?

    Are you trying for the Obscure Writing Award?

  15. Linebacker February 22, 20:48

    Most certainly, do NOT attempt to turn while moving with the bucket in the fully raised position. This will tip you over. You will tip over even on a flat surface. If you feel your (inside to the turn) wheels lift off the ground, you are pushing your luck. This maneuver is particularly not advised when the bucket is loaded and you are operating in a wet manure environment.

  16. Doug February 22, 21:06

    Thanks, this is all good info…I hate to admit it, but I am guilty of all…so far lucky but will also change my ways!

  17. Jerome February 22, 21:10

    Always be aware of overhead electrical wires. There are more wires in an Urban jobsite but most homes, Barns, Milkhouses and buildings have at least one electrical hookup on them. Even if the front end loader has rubber tires and operator is not Exposed in the cab, most times there are homeowners, coworkers, children or animals in immediate area. Not only is it embarressing to call Electrical Power Authority it can cause a fire.

  18. Amie February 24, 01:27

    Thanks for the tips ! As a new shopper in the under 40 hp class I didn’t realize that loaders were so dangerous.
    I’ve never had a tractor over a Bolens HT 23 so I appreciate all the tips you send out .

  19. Dirk February 24, 20:52

    Don’t walk or work under a raised FEL that isn’t locked in position.

  20. Jman February 25, 04:57

    This list pretty much has all the things people get loaders for

  21. Bob February 25, 16:41

    Surprised at your caution about back dragging (if I understand you correctly).
    If I dump some gravel in the driveway, What is wrong with back dragging to spread it out with the buck at 90 degrees? I see this done a lot.

  22. Alberta Farmer February 27, 19:20

    Don’t push over trees which can break off high up and crash down on you.

    This suggestion is more of a safety concern, While safety is very important on the farm and elsewhere, this article is supposed to be about preventing damage to your loader. I have personally pushed many dead trees over, and wish it be said that, so long as you use your head, this can be done in perfect safety furthermore will not damage your loader in any way, shape, or form.

  23. Harry May 1, 01:25

    If you need to move a downed tree, use a chain and drag it, don’t use the FEL. It’s very easy to overtorque the loader and then you may have a bent bucket. I made this mistake and now the right edge of the FEL is 2″ lower than the left, which makes it very hard to level a yard.

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