The Truth Behind '303' Tractor Fluids

The Truth Behind '303' Tractor Fluids

By on May 15 2024

Blue Tractor working in a field

Did you know that John Deere's "303" Tractor Fluid specification became obsolete over 45 years ago? It's true! The original 303 specification was dropped in the early 1970s, mainly because it was loosely based on chemistry that included sperm whale oil (SWO), which became illegal under the Endangered Species Act.

Despite John Deere discontinuing the 303 specification, "303" Tractor Hydraulic Fluid (THF) is still being sold, often displayed with eye catching labels highlighting “green tractors” typically in a bright yellow, 5- gallon pail. And while it’s true 303 type fluids often cost much less than high-performance tractor fluids, opting for these cheaper fluids might not be as beneficial as it seems. While they may cost less upfront, they can lead to lower productivity, reduced performance in cold weather, increased brake issues, and potentially expensive repair bills.

The "303" controversy gained attention when a lawsuit was filed by an individual claiming that the bargain-priced "303" fluid purchased from a local farm store was defective. The fluid was alleged to be formulated with questionable base oils, inadequately additized, and labeled with ambiguous performance claims, leading to significant damage to equipment. It should be noted that the manufacturer of the equipment in this case clearly specified the use of a Premium John Deere J20C fluid or equivalent.

Three green tractors lined up in a row

Considerations Before Falling for the '303' Trap:

  • Tractor Hydraulic Fluids (THF) are essential fluids that must lubricate the hydraulic system, transmission, differential, final drives, power steering systems, wet brakes, PTOs and hydrostatic drive on tractors, logging, mining and construction equipment. This broad range of responsibilities highlights the necessity of using high-quality fluids rather than opting for cheaper alternatives that may not provide adequate performance.
  • Look for fluids that clearly state that they meet current fluid specifications and are recommended for use in equipment that specify: John Deere J20C, Case New Holland MAT 3525, Kubota UDT, Massey Ferguson M-1145, Dension HF-0 or other OEM specifications outlined in owner’s manual.
  • Ask to see a Product Data Sheet on the fluid. A top quality THF that claims John Deere J20C performance will meet the following typical specifications:
    • Viscosity 9.1cSt min. @ 100°C
    • Brookfield Viscosity @-35°C < 70,000cP (a lower number is better)
    • Pour Point -33°F max (a lower number is better)
    • the Viscosity Index (VI) should be 130 minimum (a higher number is better)

If you have equipment manufactured after 1970 be sure to look for a premium THF that is formulated to meet current OEM specifications to ensure peak operating performance. GULF ECOHARMONY TRACTOR FLUID and GULF TRANSCREST TRACTOR HYDRAULIC FLUID have proven performance and will deliver outstanding reliability.

old tractor on left and newer tractor on right

At Petroleum Service Company, we pride ourselves on being your one-stop destination for all your Gulf Lubricants needs.

With a wide range of products available in various sizes, and a seamless online shopping experience makes purchasing your Gulf products effortless and convenient. Have questions? Our friendly customer service team is always here to assist you, providing expert guidance and support whenever you need it.


Gulf Lubricants available at Petroleum Service Company

Information above provided by Nu-Tier Brands, Inc.

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