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How to: A Homemade Loader for a Wheel Horse

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Manufactured by Toro, Wheel Horse band tractors are known for reliability, simplicity and efficiency, making them a common choice of home gardeners. A versatile accessory suited to multiple tasks, a loader is a wide-mouth shovel capable of moving large amounts of dirt and materials for landscaping projects. To avoid the expense of purchasing a commercially manufactured attachment, building a homemade loader for a Wheel Horse tractor is a worthwhile investment of time.

Create two loader arms. Place two pieces of 1/2-inch-thick, 6-foot-long by 8-inch-wide steel sections on a workbench. Set one section on top of the other and align the top and bottom sections so that all edges are perfectly square with each other. Clamp the steel sections together with two C-clamps placed at opposite ends of the sections, 1 foot from each end.

Draw a mark 2 inches from each end of the top steel section with a felt-tipped pen; place the mark in the middle of the section, width-wise, 4 inches in from each edge. Drill a hole though both sections, at the mark, with a 1/2-inch drill bit.

Drill a 1/2-inch hole through the middle of the two arms, directly dead center from each end and each edge of the arms.

Install the mounting brackets for the loader arms. Locate the brackets horizontally on the outside of the frame on opposite sides of the tractor directly behind the engine compartment at the base of the tractor frame. Drill holes for the bracket, using the mounting brackets as a template.

Mount a hydraulic piston to the loader arms. Open the bleeder valve on two hydraulic pistons, rated for the weight of your tractor, with a wrench. Gently work the arms out of the pistons, with your arms, far as the pitons will extend.

Place a bolt through the piston mount, through the hole at the bottom of the loader arm and then through the hole in the loader arm bracket. Bolt the assembly in place on the loader arm bracket with a wrench. Repeat the procedure with the piston and loader arm on the opposite side of the tractor.

Align the holes in the front of the piston arms up with the holes in the center of the loader arms. Insert a pivot sleeve through the hole in the loader arm and bolt the piston arm in place over the sleeve with a wrench.

Install an electric hydraulic pump rated for the weight of the pistons. Locate a spot in the engine compartment away from moving parts; mount the pump precisely according to the manufacturer's instruction.

Connect the pistons to the pump with hydraulic hoses rated to the weight of the pump and pistons. Bolt the hose fittings to the sockets on the pump and pistons with a wrench.

Line the holes in the loader bucket up with the holes in the front of the loader arms. Insert a 1/2-inch pivot sleeve though the hole in the loader arm and bolt the loader bucket to the arm with a wrench.

Fill and bleed the hydraulic system. Twist off the pump reservoir cap with your fingers and fill the pump with fresh fluid. Start the tractor and initialize the hydraulic pump. Work the controls on the pump until fluid begins to run freely and continuously from the bleeder valves. Close the bleeder vales tightly with a wrench and refill the pump with fluid.


Round off the corners of the loader arms with a grinder to prevent the arms from tearing up the ground during operation.


Installing hydraulic hoses that do not match the weight ratings for the pump and pistons will result in improper hydraulic pressure and cause the system to fail. If in doubt, consult a parts manual.

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