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What is a Tractor Three-point Hitch and How Does It Work?

We want to help you understand what a three-point hitch is and how it functions.

And as a quick aside --- we are here to help you purchase a new tractor and implements when the time is right.

Let’s get to it.

What is a Three-point Hitch?

The three-point hitch (also referred to as three-point linkage) is a type of hitch for attaching plows and other implements to either an industrial or agricultural tractor.

A three-point hitch looks like a triangle. It attaches the implement to the tractor. Once the implement is attached, it is fixed in place with respect to the tractor and the arm position of the hitch.

Your tractor will carry some (or all) of the implement’s weight.

The other mechanism for attaching a load is through a drawbar. This is a single point, pivoting attachment where the implement or trailer is not in a fixed position with respect to the tractor.

The primary benefit of the three-point hitch system is to transfer the weight and resistance of an implement to the tractor’s drive wheels. This gives the tractor more traction than it would otherwise have, given the same weight, power, and fuel consumption.


The three-point hitch is comprised of several systems that work in sync.

These include the tractor's attaching points, lifting arms, stabilizers, and hydraulic system.

Three-point hitches are made up of three movable arms.

The two lower arms (the hitch lifting arms) are controlled by the hydraulic system. They provide lifting, lowering, and even tilting to the arms. The upper center arm (the top link) can be moved, but it is not usually powered by the tractor's hydraulic system.

Each arm has an attachment device to connect implements to the hitch and each hitch has attachment holes for attaching the implements. The implement has posts that fit through the holes.

Implements are secured by placing a pin on the ends of the posts.

The hitch lifting arms are powered by the tractor's own hydraulic system. The hydraulic system is controlled by the operator, through a host of settings.

A draft control mechanism is often present in today’s modern three-point hitch systems. The draft of the implement and the amount of force it is taking to pull the implement are sensed on the top link. The hydraulic system automatically raises the arms slightly when the draft increases and lowers the arms when the draft decreases.


There are five different hitch sizes/categories.

Here they are:

  • Category 0: Up to 20 hp (15kW)

  • Category 1: 20 to 45 hp (15 to 34 kW)

  • Category 2: 40 to 100 hp (30 to 75 kW)

  • Category 3: 80 to 225 hp (60 to 168 kW)

  • Category 4: 180+ hp (130 kW)

(The higher category hitches have larger connector pins and sturdier lift arms.)

Hopefully, this brief article has helped you get a very basic understanding of what a three-point hitch is and how it functions. There is a lot more to learn.

For a slew of reading and video information about tractors, implements, and more rural living topics, check out our extensive information blog here.

If you need any further help or have any questions about the three-point hitch, tractors, implements, or anything else, please contact your dealer, local mechanic, or call us at 602-734-9944. Please ask about our current new and used tractor supply.

Team Tractor Ranch - #1 Tractor Dealer in Arizona. We sell and service most major brands of tractors including Yanmar, Kubota, John Deere, TYM, Mahindra, Kioti, Case, New Holland, Massey Ferguson, Ford, Deutz, Case IH, Farmall, International Harvester, Branson Tractors, LS, Shibura, Claas Tractor, McCormick Tractors, Valtra, Solis, YTO, Montana, and Nortrac.

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