Help! My Tractor Won’t Start!

Help! My Tractor Won’t Start!

You’ve been out using your tractor and all of a sudden it won’t start. Or you parked your tractor, went away for a while and came back to a tractor that wouldn’t start. What’s going on?

Well, there could be a problem with a safety switch.

First Safety Switch is Under Your Seat

safety switch in tractor seat

Here’s the tractor seat safety switch.

There are four safety switches on most tractor, but it’s really pretty easy to quickly figure out if one of them could be causing the problem.

Let’s get to the first one: it’s right underneath your bottom, in the seat. A lot of newer tractors have the switch build right into the seat itself. But with most older tractors you’ll have to flip the seat forward to locate the safety switch and here’s what it looks like. It’s just a little button on/off switch underneath the seat, and it tells the tractor if you’ve fallen off, leaving the seat empty. In that case, it would kill the tractor so it wouldn’t run over you.

Now, if you’ve got something stowed in back of the seat and you’re bouncing up and down across the field, the stowed item may have fallen down. If it’s in a position that keeps the seat from going all the way down on the switch even when you’re settled in to drive, the tractor isn’t going to start.

The Other Three Switches are Under the Tractor

The other three safety switches are underneath the tractor. To access these, start by putting the tractor on dead level ground, with chock blocks under the wheels. Take the keys out of the ignition, and then get a buddy to assist you.

You want your buddy to sit in the seat of the tractor, because he’s going to be moving some levers to help you figure out where those safety switches are.

We’re looking for things like a stick wedged up in there or some debris that jamming the switching mechanism. This is especially likely if you’ve been out brush hogging. Of course, things might just be out of adjustment, and you may be able to see that once you start testing the switches.

First, The PTO (power take-off) Switch

PTO Safety Switch

Here’s the PTO safety switch under the tractor.

Have your buddy move PTO engagement lever back and forward so you can find the place where the switch is mounted on a bracket under the tractor. Watch out for getting your fingers pinched as we works the lever!

If the power take-off is toggled on, it won’t let the tractor start. That’s what keeps the power take-off from running while you’re off the tractor. Once you find the switch, you’ll be able see if there’s something wedged in there that’s keep the tractor from starting.

Next, The Transmission Engagement Switch

Safety Switch Inside Transmission

Here’s the transmission safety switch.

There’s several possibilities here. If you have a gear drive transmission, the switch could be on the shuttle lever, on the range lever, or under the gear lever. Have your buddy move all those levers and levers watch where they go. Somewhere in there is a safety switch.

On a hydrostatic trans, there’s only one lever, and the tractor all will only start in neutral. Many tractors have the switch mounted inside the transmission. Here’s what it looks like. If there’s something like debris or a stick that’s jiggled one or both of these wires off the switch, the tractor won’t start.

And the Brake Safety Switch

Emergency Brake Safety Switch

Here’s the emergency brake safety switch.

Your tractor has to have the emergency brakes set in order for you to get off without the chance of your machine rolling over you.

Have your buddy push down on the brake and engage the emergency brake. You’ll find out where that safety switch is, and it’s possible that’s your problem.

I’m going to post future videos going in-depth about each of these safety switches, so maybe we can help you get your tractor going again without having to take it to a dealer.

Tractor Mike


  1. Frank Parsons on August 20, 2021 at 1:54 pm

    Good timing on this topic Mike. I am three days into owning a year 2000 L3010 Kubota. HST. I committed the cardinal sin of stopping the tractor engine with transmission in “L” gear(just like every standard shift car . Now the gear selector won’t go to neutral. So the neutral switch isn’t depressed. And the engine won’t start. Now what?

    Do I force it?

    The web can be a great tool of course and…. There is a recommendation out there that I trace the linkage into the gearbox, and “help” the gearbox movement at the point it enters the gearbox. It was claimed by a few owners that the linkage isn’t powerful enough to pull out of “L” when engine is stopped. This is more of a gearbox subject I suppose.

    I called my Kabota dealer. They are seeking advice from an expert there.

    • Frank Parsons on August 20, 2021 at 2:14 pm

      Yep. Linkage was the problem for me. Just played with the linkage until it slipped into neutral, no force needed.


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