Adjusting Your Attachment: Manual Top Link Vs. Hydraulic Cylinders – ABI Dirt

Matt and Nate are back to talk adjustment components on attachments for bigger tow vehicles. They discuss the differences and uses for manual top links and hydraulic cylinders on tractor attachments.

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SR3 Grading Rake

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TR3 E-Series

TR3 “E” Equine Edition

TR3 Rake - Driveway

TR3 Rake


– Hi, everyone, Matt, here with ABI Attachments. Welcome back to another episode of the ABI Dirt. On last week’s episode, we had Nate Smith, Director of Product Development and Engineering, joining us to talk us through the differences, and similarities in adjustable components. Last week, we focused on square jacks, and electric actuators typically found on attachments behind tow-behind attachments, tow-behind vehicles. But this week, we saved the big stuff for this week. So this week we’re talking about top links, and hydraulic cylinders that you would typically find on attachments that go with your bigger tow vehicles, your compact and subcompact tractors. This again, is for you. Sometimes there can be confusion on what these components are and how they work, and where you find them on attachments. So we want to clarify some questions today. So let’s head back over to Nate.

What is a Top Link For Tractor

What’s on this side of the table? Talk to us about why you’re referring to these as parts that you would more commonly find on attachments that go behind tractors.

– Correct. So a tractor, any tractor owner should be familiar with a top link. This is basically how you connect any three-point tool. This generally makes the top link connection between

– Got a little baby top link something there.

– Yeah, yeah, I got a little one. That way it’s easier to point at everything.

– The top link from your tractor’s probably a little bigger than that.

– Yeah, yeah. You won’t find this little guy unless, yeah… But the point is, is that the same process, and the same adjustment usually exists many different places. So both ends are fixed and just the handle is turned and it gets longer or shorter. Again, we’re raising tires, we’re adjusting depth, we’re actuating other shafts that take things in or outta play, maybe, I’m taking options in and out.

– When even, I know that it’s tempting to think that, well, maybe the top link is for simpler products or smaller products, but even big boy tools like the ABI DragMaster actually uses a top link like this in one of the front corners for the leveling blade, so that you can level out that leveling blade, if you have to. It’s quite easy.

– Yeah, left to right adjustments. All kinds of places. So these are great, they’re simple. You can go to your favorite farm store, and get a replacement, no problem. The downside is, is if you leave the thing set for two years and you never move it, you’re not gonna. You’re gonna have to lubricate ’em, you’re gonna have to move ’em occasionally. Or once you actually go to move it, it ain’t gonna move.

– And one of our favorites there, there’s some great products out there, any kind of anti-seize function, the go-to WD40, something sprayed in there, rotate it all the way out, all the way back in, saves yourself a lot of headaches through that.

– The other little pro tip I’ll give you on top links is, this one has a locking nut, sometimes it’ll have a little tab sticking out here, lock it, ’cause especially if you’re grading your gravel driveway or doing something like that, and this thing is sitting there chattering and rattling, it’s gonna walk. You don’t think it is, but it does actually, slowly walk. And suddenly your adjustments aren’t where you thought they were.

– Smart. Another pro tip when it comes to top links or turn knuckles. If you’re new to tractors, new to attachments, new to property ownership, it’s gonna be really tempting. Again, you’re gonna see one of these top links, turn knuckles on the attachment, it’s gonna be pinned in on both, and it’s gonna be tempting to take a pin out, and just adjust one end, put it back in, and put the pin back in. That’s gonna give you some headaches later on both of these kind of threaded eyebolts. Have the same amount of distance, and if you’re adjusting just one rather than leaving them pinned, and turning the center cylinder here to adjust both, it could be such that you’re running one thread all the way out and it’s gonna fall on you. So don’t do that.

What is a Hydraulic Cylinder

– So Nate, we talked about this, the top links being used both on tractor attachments in different places to make different adjustments mechanically. We also have a hydraulic cylinder sitting here. So how does this compare to the top link? When would I choose one over the other or why?

– So again, it goes back to a little bit like the electric actuator. This is kind of analogous here. This is the upgrade of when I have the hydraulic cylinder, now, I can remotely adjust that from the seat of my tractor. Hydraulic cylinders are very powerful, they’re very easy. The nice thing, unlike an electric, where I can’t half push the button, I can half push the hydraulic lever on my tractor, so I can nurse it right to that magic adjustment spot very easily. That’s what’s really nice about hydraulics. The challenge is really gonna be your tractor, and how many different levers do you have, or how many are you willing to pay for, is really what it comes down to. ‘Cause you’re probably limited like on the smaller tractors to one, maybe two. You know, our Drag Master really requires three, from all the hydraulics going on.

– And that’s sets right? When you’re saying one, two and three, you’re talking about sets of… It’s two hoses per set.

– Yes. So there’s six hoses to hook up. So you have the hoses and the running, and there’s leakage potential there and just… There are some challenges. For sure. It’s very nice, very convenient. But hooking and unhooking the drag like… We’ve talked about the quick hitch like on the TR3. It’s really easy if you don’t have a hydraulic option on the TR3, I can literally, from the seat of the tractor unhook, and drop it off the back of the tractor. A drag master with six hoses to unhook, and a PTO pump to unhook, it’s just a lot more work.

Hydraulic Cylinders Give You More Control On The Fly

– So it sounds like with this hydraulic cylinder then, you are gaining… Any kind of mess that you may have to endure, or complexity of getting off the tow vehicle, and attaching all of those hoses. You’re definitely making up for it in all the power that you’re getting, being able to move, again, the Drag Master, something massive, being able to get the strength that you need but also the on the fly adjustments.

– Yeah, don’t forget being able to tweak your footing as you’re going along, you hit that one particular spot, you wanna address, you can just do it right there.

– Yeah, yeah. Well, and then as you and I mentioned many times, even at your property, having an hydraulic top link between the tractor and attachment means that all of those pitch adjustments on the fly.

– It runs very differently, it’s amazing what it opens up. The hydraulic top link is incredible, how it runs things differently.

– Right on.

– That’s all we’ve got today, everybody. Nate, thank you so much for joining us.

– Thanks.

– Always a good time.

– Fun as always.

– Appreciate the education. Like I’ve said before, we’ll have Nate back on the dirt more often, I don’t know. Scares me.

– I don’t know why they keep letting us hang out together, but it’s great, it’s fun. So if you have any questions about these components, or about what tow vehicle they go on, or how to accomplish the work you’ve got with the tow vehicle you’ve got, and what’s the best attachment for it, we have got an entire team of senior product specialists available for you. Give ’em a call, ask ’em what you might need, and what we might have to help you solve the problem. And if you already have an ABI attachment’s attachment… I love that, every time. If you already have something that belongs to you because we built it for you, we’ve got a customer service team available for you as well. If you have one of these and you’ve always been curious about one of these, that team can help you as well.

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