Turning tight with tractors fitted with mechanical front wheel drive can be a problem, especially when plowing or chiseling. An Ohio farmer says he's solved the problem with an uncomplicated add-on switch that automatically deactivates MFWD on turns.
Steve Kimmel, who farms near Bluffton, first got the idea when applying anhydrous with a 12-row applicator. With the MFWD activated on his 4650 Deere, he couldn't make the sharp turns he needed on head-lands. But he didn't want to have to manually turn the front-drive on and off. "My switch shortens the turning radius and also saves wear and tear on tires. The most stress on front tires occurs when they're pulling through turns. My tractor has nearly 700 hrs. and the front tires show much less wear than normal. The shut-off switch also saves wear and tear on the front drive joints," says Kimmel.
The add-on kit consists of a 4 1/2-in. dia. steel washer that mounts on the steering arm. The washer is fitted with two adjustable cams. The washer simply installs between the mounting nut on the steering arm and the body of the power steering unit. A microswitch attaches to the side of the power steering unit. As the steering arm turns, the washer moves with it and the cams off to either side of the washer strike the microswitch, which is wired to the solenoid that activates and deactivates the MFWD. The cams can be adjusted to strike the microswitch at any degree of turn (you can set it to shut the front wheels off right at the beginning of the turn or anytime after the tractor has already started its turn). Once the turn has been made, the switch automatically reactivates the front drive.
The kit installs without any modification to the tractor. The washer is slit so it slips onto the steering arm without pulling it from the power steering unit. The microswitch is wired directly to the existing in-cab MFWD shut-off controls. There's no need to cut any existing wires. When desired, the automatic shut-off switch can be turned off so the MFWD stays on through turns.
"I talked with officials at Deere & Co. and they told me there's no problem caused by turning the front drive on and off so often. I've used the switch in my own tractor for more than a year and it works great. Once you get used to it, you leave it on all the time," says Kimmel, who's gearing up to sell the do-it-yourself kit. It'savailable only for Deere tractors from the 4050 and on up. He's working on kits for other MFWD tractors.