Some Helpful Hints from Mike on Using Your Fast Hitch
(that wonderful invention)
Well it is spring again, and the snow plowing is coming to an end. Time to remove the scraper-blade and hitch up the old set of plows. Itís a good thing we have that wonderful fast hitch to make this a painless endeavor! The empty spot along the fence row seems to be a good place to dump the scraper blade. In fact, that is probably the place it sat last summer. Somewhere in the weeds should be the concrete block used to prop up the blade. After backing in nice and close to the fence, you dismount the tractor and start kicking through the weeds with your foot. "Where could that block be?" you ask yourself. Sometimes you are lucky and you find it in one piece. Most of the time you find it in pieces or not at all. If you do find it in one piece, the trip back to the barn for another block isnít out of the picture yet. Letís say you found it in one piece, so you grab it only to find that it is still frozen to the ground. You kick at it some more and free it up, but there is a huge chunk of sod still stuck to it. At least it is still in one piece. Propping it up on one end you try and place the block under the blade, but the hydraulics have bled off when you were looking for that block. Give the old reach up to the lever and raise the blade back up routine. After the block is in place, you lower the blade back down looking very closely at the lift arms for signs of slack. Time to lift the fork latches. The first one comes right up, but the second one wonít budge. Thinking that it might be under tension, you reach up for that lever again to try and free the latch. But those early fast hitch systems have down pressure (WHY?), and you end up crushing the block. Off to the barn for another block and a prybar for that other latch. This time you rotate the block 90 degrees so the blade is resting on the block's sides instead of just the web. Successfully prying the other latch up, you climb back on the tractor and find first gear. With your hand on the lever, you lean over the back of the seat to watch for that sweet spot where there is no tension on the lift arms. Thinking you spotted that chance to pull away from the blade, you let out on the clutch. The blade digs in, and one side seems to want to cooperate, but the other side is still under strain and doesnít want to give. By this time, youíre away from the fence and youíve knocked the block over. Find reverse and crowd the fence again. It has to be as far back against the fence as possible because you plan on mowing around it this summer. Dismount the tractor again and get set up one more time. But before you climb back up, you play around with the level adjustment to fine-tune the slack you need. This time is for certain. Let out on that clutch again, and the blade drags up some sod, and you see the forks come out of the lift arms and nose dive into the ground because you pulled that damn block over again! Oh well, youíll use a weed eater around it anyhow.
I understand that several freeze-thaw cycles will make a set of plows settle into the earth a bit. What I donít understand is how the hitch forks on the plow seem to get farther apart year after year! Every time I back into those plows, one side lines up and the other side is outside of the lift arm. I know it will fit because I used them last year. Sometimes when Iím lucky, Iíll back up to the forks evenly. If not, I end up playing this particular game: Iíll start the closest fork into the arm, so itís just barely on. Set the brakes (safety first!) and dismount the tractor, being careful of not shifting too much body weight around. I donít want to rock the tractor any because the first fork might come off the lift-arm. Walking back to the barn for a spudbar, I think of what other item I should grab to aid my task. A big hammer never hurts anything. Arriving back to tractor I use the spudbar to spread the other lift-arm out. After some wrestling and twisting of the level adjustment, I see an opportunity to grab the rear wheel and try to roll the tractor back. Well those damn brakes are set, so I canít move the tractor. Reaching to release the brake pedals, I know what is about to happen, but I do it anyway. The tractor coasts forward an inch, and I lose the first fork! This is level ground. Why canít it just sit still? I climb back on the tractor, lower the lift-arms and pick up on that first fork one more time. This time I get a little further back so it stays where I want it to without the brakes. Now with the spudbar set up again, I spread the arm out, but now Iím too far back. Not to worry though. The brakes arenít set. I push the tractor forward, line up the other arm, and roll the tractor back again. Luckily the arms will rest there while I carefully climb back up. Once in the seat, I glance down to make sure my creation hasnít come apart. Since this is a Farmall with a T/A, shifting into reverse--or any gear for that matter--will undoubtedly cause some initial grinding. As long as I donít try a forward gear and just concentrate on reverse, the initial grinding should float me back a bit and secure those forks from falling. Once in gear, I continue backing to fully engage the forks. Usually I can get one of the forks to latch within the first 10 feet from where the plow was setting. If Iím up against a fence however, Iíll need to get enough bite on the forks to carry it somewhere with a bit more space. After messing around with the level adjustment and the lift lever for a while, Iíll head for the nearest tree to snap that last latch in place. Several attempts against the tree should close the deal, but this particular day it doesnít seem to work. Satisfied with the holes Iíve just dug with the rear wheels, I head back to the barn and finish seating the other fork with a big sledge. Now I can clean up my tools Iíve strung out over the lot and get to wire-brushing the rust off those moldboards.
Recommended tool list for fast hitch applications:
One small prybar for lifting the fork latches
One 4-pound sledge for beating the fork latches back down
One spudbar for alignment adjustments
One 20-pound sledge to fully seat the forks
One short log chain to tether implement to fence post or tree for un-hooking
One grease gun to grease the level adjustment screw (itís amazing how much water comes out of those things!)
Some baler twine to hold upthe worn-out fork latches while sitting on the seat
A shovel and a rake in case you want to fix all of the sod that gets ripped up during the process