Different categories of 3-point hitches | country family homestead (2023)

For someone buying their first tractor and wondering what size to get, or maybe you just bought a used tractor and are wondering what implements will fit my 3-point hitch. Some people wonder, "Are all 3-point hitches the same size and can they handle the same weight?".

There are different categories of three-point hitches.When it comes to garden tractors, sub-compact tractors and compact tractors, there are probably only two you need to know: Category 0 and Category 1. Larger tractors have Category 2, 3, or 4 clutches depending on the size or horsepower of the tractor.

This article explains how the 3-point hitch works and breaks down each category with dimensions, weight capacity, typical equipment used with it, and also discusses some variations on the standard 3-point hitch categories.

How a 3-point hitch works

A 3-point hitch is typically permanently mounted at the rear of a tractor.The hitch consists of two lifting arms and an upper link. The lift arms are controlled by the tractor's hydraulic system to allow up and down movement of the arms and therefore the attached implement. The top link keeps the implement in the same vertical plane when raising and lowering. The length of the top link is adjustable to keep the implement level or tilted as required.

There are holes at the end of the lift arms and top link that mate with pins on the attachments.This allows for easy attachment and removal to quickly change implements on the tractor. With each increasing category of 3-point suspension, the holes and pins also increase in diameter. Thus, a certain category of equipment must be adapted to the size of the 3-point hitch on each individual tractor.

General dimensions and capacities of 3-point hitches

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This table shows some overlap in categories and tractor hp because tractors of this size could have either the lower category or the upper category in the overlap area. For example: A Massey-Ferguson 1750M is a 48hp tractor with a Category 1 clutch, while the Massey-Ferguson 2604H is a 45hp tractor with a Category 2 clutch that also converts to a Category 1 can. Here in this example the difference is because the 1750M is considered a compact tractor and the 2604H is considered a utility tractor.

Category 0

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Category 0 three-point hitches are found almost exclusively on garden tractors and lawn tractors.They are considered lightweight and accommodate devices that are 20″ wide. The dimension from the bottom pins to the top link pin is typically 12″.

Many manufacturers have tractors with Cat 0 hitches including Bolens, John Deere, Cub Cadet, Case and many more. The range of work tools is quite extensive and includes tillers, plows, cultivators, rear knives, lawn mowers and more. Some implements were specific to the tractor as not all Category 0 couplings were standardized and the implements driven had different methods such as belts/pulleys or drive shafts from a PTO.

A used category 0 hitch garden tractor in good condition with multiple implements fetches a hefty price. They were fairly popular in the 1970's to 1990's but I'm not aware of any new garden tractors with a category 0 hitch. Some were made in this century but a thorough internet search turned up nothing recent.

There are many different attachments for category 0 couplings. Both used and new. Building or modifying these devices is also a fairly popular DIY project.

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IMPACT Implements manufactures a rear dozer blade, box scraper, landscape rake and disc/plough harrow that are lighter and meet Category 0 specifications. All of these devices including this onerear bladecan be found on Amazon.com

Some older mini tractors were originally fitted with Category 0 clutches, such as the Sotah Beaver. Over time, however, almost all small cars were given a category 1.My Bolens G152 has only 15hp but a category 1 towbar.Most new mini tractors start at around 20hp and come with a Category 1 or restricted Category 1 3-point hitch, which we'll cover next.

Category 1

Category 1 clutches are typically found on micro and compact tractors from 20 hp to around 50 hp.The top link pin is 3/4″ in diameter and the lift arm holes are 7/8″. The distance between the lift arms is approximately 26″ while the mast height is 15″.Mast height is the vertical dimension between the center of the lift arm pins and the center of the hole that the top link goes into.

Not all Category 1 implements are compatible with all tractors with a Category 1 hitch.For example, a 6-foot, heavy-duty, Category 1 rear shield weighs over 300 pounds, which might be a bit much for a small subcompact like my Bolens. But a Category 1 5 foot tail blade weighs about 200 lbs and works great behind my tractor.

The same comparison applies to tillers. My Bolens G152 can handle a medium 4ft tiller, but not bigger or heavier. My father-in-law's John Deere 2025r can easily handle a 5 or 6 foot tiller.Pay attention to what the tractor itself can do, not just adjust the category size.

Restricted Category 1

Some smaller mini tractors have what is known as a Category 1 three-point hitch. Limited Category 1 hitches have the same mounting dimensions as a standard Category 1 hitch, but the difference is in the tractor and how much ground clearance and lift arm lift it has. A tractor with a limited Category 1 hitch may not be able to properly raise some implements to function properly.

Category 2

Tractors with at least 40 hp are equipped with a Category 2 trailer hitch.The maximum horsepower for cat. 2 clutches is approx. 125 hp. These 3-points use 1″ top link pins and 1-1/8″ lift arm pins. Lift arm spacing is 32″.

Category 2 devices are much more robust than Cat. 1 stuff. There are usually less used pieces for sale as well. Most of this equipment is purchased through dealers and cannot be found in the tractor box stores.Most Category 1 devices can be modified for use on Cat. 2 either by swapping the pins or using bushings to get the correct diameter.Some Category 2 hitches have interchangeable balls on the end of the lift arms to accommodate Cat 1 pins.

The basic tools like back knives, crate scrapers and rakes are all Cat 2 but are usually much larger and heavily built. Many agricultural equipment such as sprayers and planters are typically designed for Category 2 or larger hitches.

Category 3

Category 3 hitches are found on tractors from 80 hp to 225 hp and have 1-1/4″ top link pins and 1=7/16″ lift arm pins. Lift arm spacing is approximately 38″. There's also a Category 3N hitch, which has the same pin diameters, but the lift distance is tighter at 32″.

Category 3 tractors are beyond what most home residents will have, but if you're aware of the difference between the cat. 3 and Cat. 3N devices upon purchase. Quick couplers are available that allow conversion of a cat. 3 clutch up to 3N. The 3N, which is the same width as a Category 2, will accommodate these devices even if sockets are fitted to the pins.

Applications for Cat. 3 include: medium-sized 3-point devices, e.g. B. hoes or field cultivators.

Category 4

Category 4 hitches are found on tractors 180 hp or larger and have 1-3/4″ top link pins and 2″ lift arm pins. Lift arm spacing is approximately 46″. There's also a Category 4N hitch, which has the same pin diameters, but the lift distance is tighter at 38″.

quick couplings

Quick couplers mount to a tractor's 3-point hitch to allow for easy attachment and detachment of attachments. Many tractor manufacturers make quick couplers specifically for their tractor brand and attachments, such as: B. the John Deere iMatch quick coupler. There are also aftermarket brands of quick couplers that are usually much cheaper, like this oneTitanfound on amazon.com.

Quick disconnects usually require bushings to be added to the device to avoid an uneven fit since the quick disconnect hook size is larger than the standard pin size.The other issue is that some devices may not be compatible with a quick coupler due to the way they are made.This is usually because the hooks on the hitch don't have enough room. Adapter brackets are available that allow attachment in some situations.

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One attachment that definitely won't work with a quick coupler is an auger style post hole digger. look at thatVideos on YouTubeto see why that is. When you see the geometry of the post hole digger you will see why it won't work with a quick hitch.

If you are considering buying a quick coupler, it is best to carefully measure your existing equipment you intend to use it on and compare it to the dimensions of the quick coupler. Once you get comfortable with your quick coupler, any new equipment you decide to buy will only take a quick look to see if it works or not.

Older Variations

Although the 3-point hitch has been around for almost a century, most antique tractors were not equipped with it. Ford had blocked the patent for a long time and farmers with towed implements were reluctant to invest in all the new 3-point implements if the old ones were still in good condition.

However, there were some competitors like Farmall's Fast Hitch in both a one-point and two-point version. This system was not introduced until the early 1950's and was specific to International Harvester and their own line of implements. The Super C that we have here at the homestead has the quick hitch system with a couple of attachments which makes it pretty handy. Our Super C also has a 3-point adapter to be able to use many other devices as well.

A few other tractor brands also had their own proprietary attachment systems. Allis Chalmers made the Snap Coupler system and Case had the Eagle Claw clutch. You see these systems still in use on the old tractors. All of these old-style hitches have their pros and cons, but what really signaled their downfall was the fact that the 3-point patent expired, allowing many tractor manufacturers to adopt it and the mass of attachments available for it.

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