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Troubleshooting Compact Utility Tractors

Compact Utility Tractor Troubleshooting Tips

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It has happened to everyone at one time or another. You’re ready to begin a day’s work – but your compact utility tractor has other ideas.

From starting trouble to engine issues, there is a host of problems one can face when operating a CUT on a daily basis. Some issues may require an elevated level of expertise and work, in which case a trusted, local dealership with certified service technicians is the best route to take. However, many tractor complications are fairly minor, and can be addressed by the operator.

Below are three of the most common CUT operating issues, along with possible causes and the corresponding troubleshooting tips.

Note: Always consult the operator’s manual for troubleshooting help. Before proceeding with any troubleshooting, make sure the machine is on a flat, stable surface and the engine is turned off.

From the Start
If the engine is hard to start, won’t start at all, or starts but stalls almost immediately after, there are several potential causes to investigate.

Possible Problem Area: Battery
Troubleshooting Tip: Ensure the battery is fully charged, and posts and terminals clean. If the problem persists, replace the battery.

Possible Problem Area: Electric Circuitry
Troubleshooting Tip: Check for a blown fuse and replace if needed, as specified in the operator’s manual.

Possible Problem Area: Fuel System
Troubleshooting Tip: First, ensure the fuel shut-off valve is open/on and adjust if needed. Next, check to see if a dirty or clogged fuel injector or fuel filter is the problem. Clean or change if needed. If the problem persists, the fuel may be stale or contaminated. Drain the fuel and replace with a fresh fill. A final check should be made to the fuel lines to ensure there are no loose connections.

Possible Problem Area: Air Intake
Troubleshooting Tip: Clean the foam pre-cleaner with warm, soapy water. A paper air filter element should never be cleaned, as it can easily become damaged from wiping or blowing air. Instead, always replace a dirty filter.

The Heat Is On
Excessive heat is one of the leading causes of engine failure. If the engine overheats and the tractor isn’t being operated at overload, consider the following.

Possible Problem Area: Oil
Troubleshooting Tip: Check the engine oil level and fill to the proper amount if needed.

Possible Problem Area: Coolant
Troubleshooting Tip: Check the coolant level and add engine coolant if needed.  

Possible Problem Area: Fan Belt
Troubleshooting Tip: First, adjust the fan belt to ensure it’s to the specified tension. If upon examination, the fan belt appears damaged or broken, replace it.  

Possible Problem Area: Air Flow
Troubleshooting Tip: Clean the foam pre-cleaner and/or replace the paper air filter element. As mentioned above, never attempt to clean a paper air filter. If the issue isn’t the air filter, air flow may be restricted. Clean the area around the engine, ensuring there’s no buildup of dirt or other debris.

Steering In the Right Direction
If the tractor’s steering seems off, there are a few possible culprits.

Possible Problem Area: Oil
Troubleshooting Tip: First, check to be sure the transmission/hydraulic oil is at the proper level, and fill if necessary. Then, allow the engine to run a bit to ensure the transmission/hydraulic oil isn’t too cold.

Possible Problem Area: Filter
Troubleshooting Tip: Check the oil filter for dirt, clogging or damage, and replace if needed.   

Possible Problem Area: Lack of Lubrication
Troubleshooting Tip: Lubricate the steering linkage.  

Possible Problem Area: Bent Front Axle
Troubleshooting Tip: If the axle is bent, the tractor should be brought to an authorized service center to be fixed properly. 

Encouraging Uptime
The best possible defense to tractor problems is first having a solid offense. Most common issues can be avoided altogether with proper preventative maintenance. Dedicating just a few minutes each day or even every week is the best way to avoid unplanned and costly downtime.  

In the event an issue does arise, knowing what to look for and properly diagnosing the problem are important first steps in fixing the issue and getting the tractor back into the field.


About The Author
Joe Gonzalez is Product Specialist Manager for RDO Equipment Co. in Imperial, CA.

For more information on service for compact tractors or your entire fleet of agriculture equipment, visit your local RDO Equipment Co. store