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What is a Tractor Sprinkler?

By Erika Peterson
Updated May 16, 2024
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A tractor sprinkler is a self-propelled traveling sprinkler system which utilizes water pressure to rotate the wheels, causing them to launch the sprinkler forward. Generally, a tractor sprinkler is made up of sprinkler arms, transmission, three wheels, a worm gear, a plunger, a hose connection, and a ramp. The two larger spiked wheels in the rear do the majority of the work, while the smaller wheel in front guides the sprinkler along.

Opening the spigot of a hose will typically yield 40-60 pounds per square inch of water (275790 to 413685 pascals). The water flows through a hose in the tractor sprinkler and through two sprinkler arms. The pressure on the bent sprinkler arms will cause the arms to rotate, which in turn rotate the worm gear. The worm gear then activates a gear in the transmission which will power the drive axle to turn the rear wheels.

A tractor sprinkler can have different speed settings, but a standard design includes three speeds: high, low, and neutral. The neutral setting keeps the sprinkler flowing water, but not moving forward. At the end of the tractor's path is the ramp, which is the automatic shutoff for the sprinkler. The ramp comes up underneath, pressing against the spring-loaded plunger. The plunger prevents water from getting into the sprinkler arms, shutting down the sprinkler.

Despite the high and low speed setting, a tractor sprinkler does not move quickly. Its top speed will likely reach no more than sixty feet in an hour, but will run indefinitely until the ramp triggers its shutoff. The front wheels have a gap which attaches to the hose like a track, and its path is guided by the position of the hose. This makes for easy watering of irregular-shaped yards, as the sprinkler follows the pattern the user chooses. Unlike stationary sprinkler systems, the tractor does not require a timer or occasional moving of the hose or device. Once the area is adequately covered, the sprinkler is automatically shut off, preventing the waste of water.

Most tractor sprinklers are constructed primarily of durable cast iron for the body. They are usually shaped like miniature tractors, and for best results, require at least a 5/8 inch (1.59 centimeters) hose with a length between 150 and 200 feet (50 to 66.7 yards). The spray generated by a tractor sprinkler can generally reach diameters of 15-60 feet(16.7 to 20 yards). The price of a quality tractor sprinkler ranges from $70-$150 US Dollars (USD).

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