Garden Tractor Backhoe

The loaders and backhoes illustrated here are the perfect tools for the care and maintenance of your property and landscaping. Light and powerful, they are great for those hard to get at locations where a larger machine won’t fit and are able to travel over the lawn and landscaped areas with minimum ground compaction and surface damage.

Garden Tractor Backhoe

Garden tractor front end loader

My favorite implement for a garden tractor is the front end loader. To those not familiar with garden tractors, a front end loader may seem more like a toy rather than a tool. The truth is garden tractors are fantastic platforms for small front end loaders.

This combination makes for a very capable, compact and inexpensive machine to help you manage your property chores. With a properly set up front end loader, your garden tractor can dig, lift, and carry materials up to 800 pounds in weight and up to 6 feet high. This makes it the perfect tool for the rural property owner, orchard business, equine and livestock farms.

Use a fleet of Garden Tractor Loaders to manage horse manure, compost, dirt, snow, mulch, and more. Their small size makes it so I can navigate small gated areas and aisles in between outbuildings and other obstacles. The lightweight of my machines (Under 2,000 pounds) allows me to drive my loader tractor anywhere on the property without fear of damaging lawns or pathways.

Garden tractor front end loader

Garden tractor front end loader kits

Front End Loader: Buy or Build

There were many manufacturers in the United States that made front end loaders for Garden Tractors from the 1950s through the 1990s. Some popular manufacturers were Johnson, Kwik Way, Danco, Ark among others.

You can still occasionally find these loaders on internet classifieds such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.

The two most likely scenarios you will find are Loaders already attached to tractors, or loaders for a different garden tractor than you own. The options in these cases are to fabricate a custom way to attach the loader to your tractor. This process is not difficult but will require creativity and some fabrication skills.

Garden tractor front end loader kits

Garden Tractor

All garden tractors are capable of handling a front end loader. All true garden tractors have engines, front axles, transmissions, and frames that are capable of withstanding the workload from a front end loader. However, there are some characteristics that make some tractors better than others.

Garden tractor attachments

Wheel Spindle

All garden tractors will have at least a ¾” spindle with a wheel supported by 2 ball bearings. This is adequate for a front end loader, but if you want to utilize the full power of your loader you will want to upgrade to a stronger 1” wheel spindle with tapered bearings. You can make your own by using a trailer spindle, hub and bearings.

Garden tractor frame

While all of the frames of garden tractors are strong enough to hold a front end loader, some designs are easier to work with than others.

John Deere and Cub Cadet both provide a lot of flat, square surface area that you can weld and drill into to create many mounting positions and options for you. Tractors such as Wheel Horse use angle iron frames and are close together. This can make it more difficult to mount components to.

The Ford LGT and Bolens tractors have tube frames, which can make it slightly more challenging to find mounting locations for the front end loader subframe.

Garden tractor transmission

First, let’s classify garden tractor transmissions into 3 interface types.

  • Foot Controlled Hydrostatic
  • Hand Controlled Hydrostatic
  • Mechanical Gear

Foot-controlled hydrostatic transmissions can be found on Bolens Large Frame and Ford LGT tractors. These allow you to have both of your hands available to manipulate the loader control valve and the steering wheel while driving. This is particularly useful when doing a lot of back and forth driving like when turning manure piles or moving piles of material from one location to another.

Hydrostatic transmission

Hand controlled hydrostatic transmissions can be found in most garden tractors. This is useful so if you are using the loader and steering, you can slow down and stop your tractor without using your hands.

Other tractors do not have return to neutral pedals. To stop these tractors you have to use one of your hands to return to neutral.

Mechanical gear transmissions are found in Wheel Horse, John Deere, Simplicity, Allis Chalmers, Cub Cadets, Sears, and many others.

In order to change directions with these transmissions, you must depress a clutch with your foot and then manually shift to a gear. When you release the clutch your tractor will move. With these transmissions, you can shift the transmission, and then use both your hands to operate the loader and drive while your foot works the clutch.

Operator Station

I would recommend using a “Full Size” garden tractor from the 1970s or later. With these machines, you can mount the Front End Loader and have plenty of room to climb on and off the machine, and be able to sit comfortably even with large work boots and big coats on. The larger “Super Garden Tractors” provide even more space for the operator.

To get the most out of your garden tractor front end loader you will need to consider the following:

  • Wheel Ballast
  • Rear Counter Ballast
  • Hydraulic Relief
  • Tire Tread
  • Steering Technique
  • Loader Technique
Garden tractor attachments

Tractor ballast

Tractor wheel ballast

Garden tractors are powerful machines. After you have mounted a front end loader you have a powerful and versatile tool at your disposal. In order to utilize the most power, you need to increase your tractor’s traction. The best way to do this is to add weight directly to the rear tires. You can do this by adding external wheel weights, filling the tires with a liquid ballast, or both.

External wheel weights have been available in Cast Iron, as well as Concrete filled plastic wheel weights. They come in 50# and 75# versions. You can also fabricate a special mount to use Olympic gym free weights.

Liquid ballast for tractor tires

Liquid ballast can be added to the inside of your tires using a small electric pump, 5 Gallon Bucket and a special valve stem tool that connects a water hose to your valve stem. Common liquids to act as ballast are: water, calcium chloride, RV antifreeze, and specialty fluids such as rim guard.

Water is the easiest and most readily available liquid. However, it freezes in cold climates.

Calcium chloride tractor tire ballast

Calcium Chloride is the densest liquid ballast and therefore can add the most weight. A drawback to using this is if air contacts the inside of the wheel through a leak in the tire, rust will form and over time will destroy your wheel.

RV Antifreeze is what I prefer to use. It adds the same weight as water, will not freeze, and will not damage your wheels. Specialty Fluids such as Rim Guard are available through tractor dealers. These fluids don’t freeze and are dense enough to add significant weight to your wheel. The drawback to using this is the cost and availability.

Rear ballast weight for tractor

To get the most lift out of your front end loader, you need to balance the weight of the tractor. You should put additional weight behind your rear axle and it should be equal to at least half of your load in the front end loader.

However, the more weight the better while remaining below your rear axle capacity. You can also extend the weight further from the axle to apply a mechanical advantage to the weight. This weight will help reduce the load on the front end of your tractor and make steering and maneuvering more manageable with a loaded bucket. I personally have 330 pounds on the rear of my primary tractor loader.

Hydraulic Relief Valve

The control valve on your front end loader has an adjustable pressure relief. This relief will dictate the maximum amount of weight you can lift with your front end loader. You should adjust your relief so you are never able to lift more than your tractor can handle. With that said, a properly equipped garden tractor can handle a substantial amount of weight in the front bucket. The maximum weight depends on many factors including any upgrades you make to your tractor. My machines are set up so I can comfortably load 500 pounds of material and still drive around.

Tractor tire tread patterns

Your garden tractor loader can drive into piles of material, dig into the ground, push out small stumps and much more. Tire tread and wheel slippage come into play when performing these tasks. Agricultural lug tires are a common choice for front end loaders but may not always be the best choice. Ag tires can provide great traction in many conditions but in some conditions, they can dig your tractor into a hole very quickly and get you stuck. Less aggressive tires with a wide tread like turf tires or multi-terrain tires can provide lots of traction however when the wheels spin they won’t dig you deep into a hole.

Steering Techniques

Regardless of your tractor has power or mechanical steering, you should always try to turn while you’re in motion and let the front tire tread aid in steering. For tractors with power steering, it will help prevent damage to your tie rods, and for mechanical steering, it may be the only way you can steer the tractor. Some tire treads such as tri-rib tires in the front can also help with steering.

Loader operating techniques

Remember to use your garden tractor loader with caution. Most garden tractors do not come equipped with rollover protection structures so good sense and an acute awareness of your surroundings are important. When transporting material in your bucket, carry the loader bucket low to the ground and avoid uneven terrain and drive slowly.

When getting material from a pile, it is best to approach the pile and lift your loader up and scrape down loose material, then bring your bucket back down to take a scoop.

When back-dragging an area, only curl your bucket forward enough to let your cutting edge contact the ground so most of the hydraulic ram is still inside the cylinder. This prevents bending and damaging the hydraulic rams.

Compact tractor attachments

Compact Tractors make easy work of big tasks, but did you know there are more than 600 implements and attachments available to make your tractor even more helpful around the house? The available and versatility of attachments make your Compact Tractor the ideal workhorse, but it can be tough to know how to prioritize amidst the choices available.

Here are the top 10 implements we recommend every property owner consider for their Compact Tractor:

  • Loader.
  • Rotary Cutter.
  • Grooming/Belly Mower.
  • Rear Blade.
  • Box Blade.
  • Post Hole Digger.
  • Land Plane.
  • Snowblower.
  • Broadcast Spreader.
Compact tractor attachments

How much does it cost to build garden backhoe?

how much does it cost to build one of these backhoes?

figure around $1800 complete for steel and all hydraulics, a little less if you can use your tractor’s onboard hydraulic system to power the unit. buying local steel should cost you close to $350 and the remaining cost would be in hydraulics and for having parts shipped in.

how much hydraulic flow (GPM) and PSI is required to run this backhoe?

The Micro backhoe can be run with as little as 3 Gallons Per Minute hydraulic flow and with as low as 750 – 1000 PSI in easy soils. for simultaneous cylinder movements like on the larger hoes using joystick valves, I suggest 4 to 6 Gallons Per Minute . for more difficult digging environments you can increase system pressure from 1000 to 1500 PSI at the relief valve(s).

do I need any special tools to build the Micro backhoe?

not really, I was able to build my prototype backhoe (above) with what I consider basic tools. for cutting steel, a Makita 10″ chop saw with a composite metal cutting blade and a Sawzall. drilling was done with a small benchtop drill press and bi-metal hole saws, a welder is a Lincoln SP-100T, 100 amp wire feed mig using .035″ flux core wire, running on a dedicated 20 amp household circuit. I would suggest having a bench grinder, disk grinder, assorted clamps, bench vise, etc. just the basic stuff for garage steel fabrication projects.

how many breaks out force does this backhoe have?

this depends on the bore diameter of your hydraulic cylinders and what you are running for system pressure, with the 2″ bore cylinders we spec running at 1000 PSI, you should be able to get 3000 lbs or better break out force, however to put this into “real world” digging terms you must take into consideration the weight of your tractor as a whole.

how long does it take to build one of these backhoes?

this would depend on your steel fabrication skills, however, an average mechanically inclined person with basic tools should be able to construct one of these backhoes in 4 to 6 weeks of spare time evenings and weekends. I’ve noticed that when you have one of these projects on the bench, you seem to suddenly find the more spare time than you thought you had! I have had some customers take less than a month to build the hoe, and some quite a bit more. my original Micro backhoe took me 5 months of spare time, but that was designing, searching for suppliers, working out conflicts, building, testing, etc, etc.

will this backhoe fit my tractor? how does it attach to my tractor?

the Micro backhoe can be mounted on any tractor (or other vehicles) capable of carrying an extra 350 lbs. our plans provide an example of a solid mount subframe cage that attaches to the rear of your tractor at 6 points, two upper mounts, two lower mounts and two arms that go under the rear axle and attach to forward points on the tractor frame. the backhoe then attaches to this subframe at 4 points with quick pins, two uppers and two lower.

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GARDEN TRACTOR BACKHOE
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GARDEN TRACTOR BACKHOE
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GARDEN TRACTOR BACKHOE: compact tractor attachments and ballast, Garden tractor front end loader kits, Garden tractor attachments, Tractor ballast