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The Good and the Bad of Power Take Off

Power take off (PTO) units are useful for operating various implements from the back of a tractor. Generally easy to connect and operate, PTOs also should be respected and used with caution.

PTOA PTO is an extra driveshaft that comes out of the gearing of a tractor’s transmission. The rotating motion of the shaft powers accessories, such as winches, water pumps, augers and tillage equipment, and is interconnected with a universal joint.

While useful, the PTO is also very dangerous. PTOs on tractors come with shields where the PTO exits from the back of the unit and around to universal joints to protect the operator, and to prevent parts of clothing from getting caught and wrapped up in the PTO shaft.

The PTO shaft spins at 540 to 1,000 RPMs. If someone wearing loose clothing or a hooded sweatshirt with strings gets too close to the rotating shaft, the clothing or strings could get caught on and wrapped around the shaft. Operating at full speed, the rotating PTO and driveline will wrap seven feet of clothing or string around the shaft in one second. A person would be immediately slammed against the shaft and seriously injured or killed.

Take precautionary steps when working around a PTO:

  • Disengage the PTO lever before shutting off the tractor. This will keep the PTO from turning at start up.
  • Always turn off the tractor and disconnect the battery before working around PTO shafts.
  • Once finished with the PTO, start the tractor. Remember to make sure the PTO is disengaged before starting.
  • Never work around a PTO with loose clothing, long hair or jewelry. These items can wrap around the shaft and kill or dismember you.

Remember, when working around PTOs:

  • Make sure the universal joints are covered.
  • If the shaft becomes entangled in weeds or other debris, turn off the engine and disengage the battery before untangling the debris.
  • If the guard is broken or removed, immediately call for service and do not continue to operate the machine.

Neff Rental rents tractors with PTO units that can be used on a variety of construction, golf course, athletic field and agricultural jobs. Call a Neff Rental branch at 888-709-NEFF or visit to find a branch near your next job site.

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