What Is A Drawbar?

If you’re new to the world of farming equipment or operational machinery, you’ll need to learn the basic terminology. Without it, you’ll struggle to find or communicate what you need to obtain or use.

Farmers who have owned and worked the same land in their family for a hundred years or more, may be unsympathetic and impatient with others who haven’t benefited from the experience of intergenerational wisdom. A few hours on the internet can help you “fake it ‘til you make it” and hold your own in conversation.

To avoid embarrassment, familiarise yourself with some of the jargon of machinery so you can articulate what you’re going to need for your project and get reliable advice on how to use it.

Let’s start with a vital piece of technical terminology: the drawbar. What is it? What does it do and why should you care? Let’s take a look. 

What Is A Drawbar?

The drawbar is a coupling instrument that acts as a means of joining an attachment to a piece of machinery. Drawbars are found on all manner of vehicles and operational machines which are suitable for towing more weight than is found on the vehicle itself. 

A classic example of drawbars can be seen on farm machinery such as tractors. Tractors have drawbars to attach various tools especially tailored for the task at hand, be it planting, cultivating, or harvesting.

Without the use of a drawbar, farmers would have to purchase a stand-alone machine for every job which would rack up hundreds of thousands in new and unnecessary costs. Instead, one tractor can perform many diverse jobs by swapping out the tools which attach to it via the drawbar and the hitch.

The purpose of the drawbar is not to take the weight of the load on itself but gives a means of joining the load to the powerful engine drawing it. The load is usually balanced on wheels and a supporting chassis that can hold the load such as a trailer. 

What Can You Use A Drawbar For? 

Drawbars can be used to haul specialist equipment such as plows, cultivators, harrows, reapers, and mowers, among others. Other vehicles such as trucks or even cars may have drawbars designed to haul trailers that can be loaded with pretty much anything.

Trains also use drawbars to couple the engine car with the cargo loads. Some vehicles which are commonly used to haul loads are manufactured with a drawbar already fitted, while it’s also practical to add them onto other vehicles with enough towing power.

Simply put, you can use a drawbar to haul all sorts of things behind an engine with enough power to pull it while propelling itself. 

Before towing a load behind your own vehicle on the road, you’ll need to check your local laws and guidelines for hauling to make sure your load is well balanced and correctly coupled. Not all vehicles are suitable for hauling heavy loads, so you may wish to use a drawbar calculator to find out how heavy a load your particular vehicle is equipped to handle. 

What Are The Different Types Of Drawbar? 

On light vehicles, the drawbar usually has a “tow ball” attached to it, which then fits in the hitch for the trailer of whatever is being hauled. 

Heavier vehicles typically employ a “towing eye” that uses a pin or bolt coupling. These types of drawbars do not take on the downward force of the load onto the drawbar which makes it easier to tow heavier loads. 

“Fifth wheel” coupling is not exactly the same as a drawbar. Drawbars aim to take on only light weight from the hauled load, whereas fifth wheel coupling is specifically designed to share a portion of the load’s weight with the vehicle that is hauling. 

In trains, the drawbars are also called “couplers” and each passenger or freight car is connected via chain to the engine car at the front of the train. 

What Is The Difference Between A Hitch And A Drawbar?

Where a drawbar is the metal bar or frame on which a hitch is mounted, the hitch is the actual mechanism that affixes to whatever equipment is being hauled. Tractors in different parts of the world typically have different standard hitches attached depending on the agricultural practises most common in that particular country.

If you get a foreign tractor imported, you’ll need to check that it has the correct hitch installed to haul the equipment you already have.

The John Deere website has a handy guide about what different hitches are for and which drawbars they might be compatible with. Generally what you need to know (other than that there are different types) is that there are “automatic”, and “manual” hitches. 

Manual ones involve reversing your tractor or hauling vehicle up to the equipment or trailer for towing. You then exit your vehicle and manually attach them by means of a cylindrical pin or a similar item.  Automatic ones will attach with the push of a button once the tractor is in the correct position. 

For lighter loads and smaller tractors, a three-point hitch is often used. Compact tractors and operational machinery usually use a “category 1” 3-point hitch to attach to hauled equipment. The categories ascend in number based on the amount of strain they are equipped to handle.

So again, you must make sure any hauling device such as a tractor will be compatible with the items you’re hauling and that you have a hauling vehicle with sufficient horsepower.

A “category 4” 3-point hitch will need a hauling machine with more than 180 HP for example, whereas a category one is recommended with a tractor of 20-45 horsepower. For more information on three-point hitch categories, see here.

Final Thoughts

Drawbars typically have hitches made from reinforced steel – or another strong material – mounted onto them. As long as the hitch is compatible with the socket on the receiving end of whatever you wish to haul and your vehicle has the appropriate horsepower to tow it, you shouldn’t run into much trouble.

If you have a hauling vehicle with enough power to handle the load and the right coupling equipment installed correctly, you should be hauling like a pro in no time.

Ryan Genkin
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