If a tractor is the most useful tool around the small acreage farm, then the 4-in-1 bucket would arguably be the most versatile attachment. Standard front end loaders have been available on small acreage tractors for many years. In recent years, 4 -in-1 buckets have become more accessible on small tractors as the affordability and quality has improved.
This article provides a brief description of the functions of the 4-in-1 bucket, some dos and don’ts in operation and what to look out for when purchasing one.
As the name suggests, a 4-in-1 bucket enables you to perform 4 functions.
The most basic function in scooping. With the bucket closed, it scoops as per a standard bucket. This is great for shifting all kinds of materials from soil to gravel to garden mulch.
With all bucket work it is important to only lift loads within the safe working loads of the machine, use a low gear and travel with the bucket as low as possible.
Opening the bucket up exposes the blades for a variety of applications. The rear jaw has a blade with a cutting edge facing the rear of the bucket. This is designed for levelling such as spreading out gravel on a driveway. The tractor is driven in reverse to perform this function. Another way to spread out gravel is to scoop a bucket of material, then slightly open the bucket and drive the tractor along. This “sprinkles” the gravel in a thinner layer than simply dumping the pile. The depth can be varied by travellimg speed or how wide the bucket is opened
With the bucket open, the front jaw has a cutting edge facing to the front of the bucket. This is used for light grading and pushing of loose material. The tractor is driven forward to use this cutting edge. Remember this is not a bulldozer. It is designed for pushing or spreading material that has already been excavated. If you need to break soil up, use a ripper or backhoe on the rear of the tractor.
Being able to clamp the bucket over an object makes it very useful for picking up objects. It is ideal for picking up fallen branches after storms.
It also enables attachments to be fitted in seconds. The levelling bar is simply grabbed by the bucket and ready to go.
When grabbing an object vertically, position it in the middle of the bucket. This will enable even clamping force so that you are less likely to drop the object or twist the bucket. Don’t try to lift tree stumps out of the ground roots and all. This is beyond the design intent of a small acreage tractor – you will end up damaging the bucket.
Another aspect of the versatility of a 4-in-1 bucket is that you can take it off! This has several advantages. When slashing the tractor is more manoeuverable in tight spaces without a bucket on the front. It also enables various other attachments to be fitted.
Pallet tines can be fitted to turn your tractor into a fork lift. This is obviously great for handling produce, but it also makes it much easier to store and handle implements.
Hay spikes can also be fitted to make easy work of shifting hay bails.
Shopping for a 4-in-1 Bucket
If you would like to acquire a 4-in-1 bucket consider the following:
Do your homework on whether you should upgrade your tractor to a machine that comes with a 4-in-1 bucket factory fitted or have an after market unit fitted to your existing machine. As there are engineering costs associated with retro fitting it may be more cost effective to upgrade to a new tractor. New 4WD tractors with factory fitted 4-in-1 buckets are available from around $20,000.
Think about how much you want to lift with the bucket. There are varying sized buckets with different lifting capacities to match smaller and larger horsepower tractors. A 4-in-1 bucket matched to a decent sized 25HP garden tractor will lift around 400kg. (Of course there are smaller 25HP garden tractors available with lesser lifting capacities). A 55HP tractor and matching 4 -in-1 bucket will lift around 800kg.
Also look for a bucket with adequate cubic capacity for your needs. Manufacturers do vary in the size of bucket supplied. Obviously the larger the lifting caopacity of the bucket, the less lifts you will need to make.
If you need to load into a certain truck ensure the lift height of the machine is adequate. The beaty of a 4-in-1 bucket is you can dump from the bottom of the bucket by opening it up. This enables access to slightly higher locations.
Look out for a bucket that is easily removed such as a quick release Euro hitch. This style will enable you to get the bucket
off very quickly without tools.
The 4-in-1 bucket has 3 cutting edges – check with the dealer that they are hardened – they will last much longer. Also if
the bucket comes with teeth on the side it will be much more useful for grabbing branches.
Look for the location of the rams that open and close the bucket. The further they are to outside of the bucket the greater
the clamping force they will provide.
To get the most out of your 4-in-1 bucket ensure that the jaws have a wide opening angle. This enables larger objects to be
grabbed but more importantly, it enables the cutting edges on either jaw to be used more effectively when grading and levelling.
A self-levelling bucket is another good feature to look out for. It makes the tractor safer to use as it is designed to
prevent the contents of a bucket falling out as the loader boom is raised.
Safety is always the highest priority. Always use a tractor that complies with Australian Standards, including Roll Over Protective Structure, seat belt and protective covers. Only take on tasks within the capability of the machine and operator. Follow all relevant safety warnings, instructions and regulations. Wear appropriate safety equipment and use common sense.
* This article is a general guide only. Conditions vary from site to site. Judgement relating to your individual conditions must be exercised.