Love Your Loader? Avoid These 13 Mistakes

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.


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

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

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

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

    Are you trying for the Obscure Writing Award?

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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 .

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Didn’t see many tips concerning hills or inclines. These can be treacherous and unforgiving.

    ALWAYS keep the bucket as low to the ground as possible when on a hill or incline of any sort.

    When I say low I mean a few inches above the ground. This way the bucket will stabilize the tractor when the center of gravity shifts and the bucket can only drop to the ground.

    Sidehilling is the most dangerous by far so approach any grade by trying to go straight up or down.

    Another great piece of advice is to remove the loader and frame when not using it, i.e. mowing (if you have a mmm). It may seem like more work, but the loader adds weight and size and makes the job more difficult. I have done it when I’m in a hurry and it just makes it so much harder. I have hit things with the loader since I am used to fitting in spots without the loader and have temporary brain fade. The damage is already done though when you ‘bump’ something with the bucket.


  • Rear weight design

    I made mine too heavy and the bell housing broke. We welded it all back okay. Zetor 67hp. At the time I thought the heavier the better. Now I’d use 20 -30 gall concrete max.

  • Go reasonably slow with a raised load in a hydrostatically driven tractor. I was hurrying while slowing up to make a sharp left turn. When you let up on a hydrostatic, it’s like putting the brakes on, not a good move. The left rear tire found air but fortunately I had my had on the loader controls and almost simualtaneously dropped the loader to stop the roll!

  • The best advice I know on a loader is to “THINK” before you act. What might seem reasonable when you really think on it you might prevent a problem.

    Was removing a tree from hurricane from my Mother in Laws roof and chained the tree to the loader so it could not slip off and drop doing more damage and did not think about how the chain would be twisting the loader as I raised the loader lifting the tree. Got tree off safely, only cost about three thousand dollars. I knew better.

    Have two friends one gave the other a simple lift up in his and she got scared and jumped. Crushed both ankles. His insurance had major bills to pay and at least twenty years later she sill have issues with her ankles.

    If the loader will drop by operating the levers when engine is off it does not have check valves to prevent the loader dropping if a hose or valve were to fail.

    Oh yes, hyd oil burns almost as good as diesel fuel.

  • Don’t overload bucket attached forks. They can bend the underside of the bucket.

  • if i remember from m college correctly lifting and turning at the same time for a crane is not advisable, lthe physics likely apply to our tractors perhap the manufacturer or a a crane operator could better explain. also wrt pushing trees over oi know of one guy that was killed using the tractor to try to push over a tree, tree came down the wrong way nd flipped him

  • common sense is your best tool, use it often. if you are in doubt about what you are about to do, don’t do it.

  • I am like Bob

    I have taken a FEL and kept the tip straight down, even to the ground and did back dragging on fresh gravel.

    While the FEL is not a scrape blade and should not be used as one it will make a nice finish to gravel that has just been dumped on a drive.

  • Om your first comment, I have used a 2000 bush hog loader with a Meyers snow plow on my 1942 Farmall M since the early 1980’s to plow snow on our .3 of mile drive way. Works great with tire chains on rear wheels. I would not use for pushing dirt however.

  • Always check inside your bucket before you get on the tractor to use it You, or someone else may have left something in it and forgotten to take it out.

    I move things or transport things with my bucket all the time. It is the primary use I make of the loader, and it can be easy to forget that I left something in it.

  • 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.

    Should the above last sentence read “Either can cause . . .” Or what is the reason not to tilt the bucket more than 15 degrees ? I’ve been doing both for 10 years with no cylinder issues on my Kubota. Just saying.

  • Thank you all for these suggestions and warnings. As a new 6075 Mahindra owner and a past owner of a skidsteer, I thought the 2 had similar capabilities. I was so wrong. The tractor seems so much more delicate and off balance than the skidsteer.
    Like night and day. I have a lot to learn about the tractor and its abilities. I appreciate all the knowledge and advice posted here.

  • Think about where the bucket is going. I haven’t hit the garage yet … doubt if I ever will.

  • Avoid dropping a loaded bucket quickly, then suddenly stopping the drop…this severely stresses the entire front end of the tractor…including and specifically the FWD

  • Don’t travel in a field with the bucket closer than 3 feet off the deck. All it takes in one hidden stump in tall grass to destroy both hydraulic cylinders at best and countless other damage at worse. Don’t ask how I know this either.

  • I would totally destroy a FEL on a small tractor. I own a John Deere 520 backhoe, I have run a Cat 928 loader with a root rake. With those if the load is too much either the back end lifts up or it does not lift at all. Even if you lift on one corner nothing twists or breaks, trust me, I have tried.

  • Look for overhead wires and obstacles and obstructions. Also watch swing of bucket and rear attachments.

  • Installing storm shutters in Florida I have raise the bucket to put a second ladder to reach the second floor window at 22′ high. One wrong move could make me fall and land in the pointing up bucket tooth bar.

  • Thank you all. Am somewhat a novice in operation, so all these tips are read and learned. Certainly will save me and my machine much trouble. May God Lead and Direct.

  • Good gracious, if I can’t do any of those things, what would I do with my loader? Thankfully, I’ve done most of these and found out exactly what mine will and won’t do. The tractor lifting off the ground is a very real phenomenon. Other than that, if it is designed correctly, it should quit on you before you are able to destroy it (lifting too heavy, etc.).

    On a serious note, one thing not mentioned is keeping an eye on the hoses. The canvas chafing shield got slid down on mine (while doing at least two of the above items), and caused significant wear on the hoses before I realized it.

  • I have a friend who was using his loader in his farm yard. He raised the bucket way up and hit the over head wires. It blew out both front tires and knocked out the power in the neighborhood. He was not injured except for his pride.

  • Be very careful of power lines. Never drive with the bucket or loader arms in the air this has caused fatalities. Unfortunately it will cause more, we are so used to power lines we don’t see them or forget about them .

  • The ROPs on a BX 23 are really sturdy. I drove mine fully opened through a door on a detached garage. Scraped the crap out of the door, the door frame and the ROPs. The garage door is still bent at the bottom even after trying to straighten it. Now I try to keep the ROPs folded all the time unless way out away from buildings.

  • Be extremely careful on rough ground in cold weather metal becomes brittle at temps close or below zero and shock from the loader bounce when you hit an unseen tire rut can break axles spindles or tie rods it has happened to me

  • All the tips made are very good, however the most important is for all earthmoving equipment operators,
    1/ Never get onto any machine without checking your

  • Back blading with a JD 4300 has cost me two sets of bent / broken bucket cylinder rods (some people don’t learn quickly). First set I attributed to having forks trying to bust up a brush pile and got into the ground with the forks tilted fully down as I backed out. Second set was back blading with the bucket in full dump position. Then read up on the blogs…known bad thing to do! I was used to using an industrial TLB, not a compact utility w/ FEL. Expensive lessons!

  • This article seems to be written by the company that holds the warrantee on my tractor. Mostly good advise but, not real world advise.
    I will say that doing most of those things has probably tweeked my tractor castings enough to cause the hydraulic fluid leaking from the main half joints.

  • Great article! We all need a refresher course now and then. We all get complacent while using them. But we have to remember that they are called accidents for a reason. My worst thing is that I was back dragging with the bucket I guess to steep! You should post a picture of the 15 degree angle so more people understand how little of a angle that is.

  • I do push trees up to 6″. The ground is sandy loam and I have a ratchet rake on the bucket lip. Before the RR was on, I limited pushing to 3″ trees. The sandy soil makes it possible. I think heavy clay would be very limiting.

  • If you bush hog with your bucket on make sure it’s tilted up.. We tend to drive faster while mowing, if the bucket spears the ground very bad things will happen.. Keep that bucket curled up or take it off..

  • If you weld grab hooks on each side of your loader be very careful about lifting heavy objects. It could tip your tractor.

  • The item “Don’t lift heavy objects when on a surface inclined perpendicular to the tractor.” is a bit ambiguous. May I suggest “Don’t lift heavy objects or raise any load higher than absolutely necessary when either side (left or right) of the tractor is higher than the other.” This raises the center of gravity of the entire machine+load, increasing the likelihood of overturning.

  • Get a good tractor, spend the money, it’s worth it. Sorry if I insult but I wore the hat of trying to make a compact work harder than it’s built, so I know. Traded up my NH 55SS for a 70 hp Workmaster…..biiiiig mistake, all it is is cheap, always feeling like it was tipping, most of the time it was, even without a load, I warned NH that it was a death trap with it’s 5 OPS kill switches. Spent the bucks for a TN7.5 and haven’t looked back, I have to work hard at it to get it to tip……..and then it won’t anyway….

  • Hydraulic lines can burst. If yours are worn, consider replacing them. When a line bursts, you get a lot of oil on you or your equipment and the bucket drops instantaneously. Think about that, just like every other item on the list. Number two. Some people can think things through and some people cannot. Know which person you are on a given day. Weigh the consequences on your life and your bank account on each decision. It is a free country. These are your decisions. Accept the consequences Life, Death, and Money risked. (yours and those around you) Remember each designer provides their advice for your evaluation.

  • Do not work on/under a raised machine or any part with the hydraulics and not block it with solid support.

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