on Tuesday, October 6, 2020
What does it mean to properly “ballast” your tractor?
Did you know that by adding and removing extra weight in your equipment, you can directly change the traction, power, and performance of your unit? With compact utility tractors becoming increasingly popular among home and land owners, when operating your equipment, it’s best practice to make sure that your tractor is correctly balanced for the tasks at hand, safely.
What does “ballast” mean?
IBallast is counterweight that is used to improve stability and performance. In terms of compact tractors, ballast is weight that is added to the front or more commonly to rear of the tractor to optimize the load distribution.
Why do I need it?
Short answer, you need it to keep all four of your tractor’s wheels on the ground while using certain implements or completing certain tasks. By using a counterweight, you keep the most powerful part of the tractor’s drive system, the rear wheels, on the the ground. It will also lower your tractor’s center of gravity, and as a result increase your tractor’s “side-to-side” stability when you are operating on slopes or other uneven terrain. Doing this also maximizes the lifespan of your drivetrain components, letting you go longer without replacing certain parts.
Depending on the task and implements you are using, it may be appropriate to place ballast on either the front, or back of your tractor. In addition, regardless of where the weight is, if towing is an important part of your to-do list, generally a heavier tractor can tow heavier loads. You cannot keep packing on the weight, though. In general, if you have a John Deere compact utility tractor, the max towing capacity is equal to the total weight of your ballasted tractor and, you, the operator.
Methods of Ballasting
Generally, when you want to add ballast to your equipment, there are a few different options for farmers, landscapers, and property owners.
Liquid ballast (like Rim Guard)
Rear Wheel Weights
3pt Hitch Ballast Box
Other Attached Implements
Liquid Ballast: Rim Guard
Rim Guard is a beet juice formula (that is available at select Tri County Equipment locations) that “safely and cost-effectively maximizes pulling power, improves lifting performance, and reduces the risk of tipping – all while protecting the wheel from corrosion unlike any other ballast.” (https://www.rimguardsolutions.com/beet-juice-is-better/why-its-better/)
Usable for front end loaders, farm and compact tractors, commercial backhoes, compact construction equipment (like skid steers) and other types of utility equipment, this liquid ballast solution has several benefits over other liquid ballasts in the market.
Heaviest non-corrosive liquid ballast compared to competition
Costs 75% less than typical weights
Non-toxic, biodegradable and water soluble
Freeze-resistant to -35°F
Effective with or without tubes
Additionally, if you manage livestock and crops, Rim Guard is food-grade safe and won’t freeze to -35°F.
Front Weights & Rear Wheel Weights
John Deere makes plenty of options for cast iron ballast weights. The first option is a front weight, which attaches to the front of the tractor to act as counterweight for rear implements. These are easily attached and removed when needed or not. *Note: Front weights cannot be on a tractor at the same time as a loader. Generally though, the factory loader will be plenty of ballast for other factory recommended rear implements.
The second option is usually more permanent, attaching weights directly to your rear wheels. They can be installed on the inside or outside of a wheel on most tractor models at a maximum of 2 weights per side.
3pt Hitch Ballast Box & Other Rear Implements
Another counterweight option is a ballast box (typically loaded with weight from sand, concrete, cement, etc.). This can easily be mounted to your 3-point hitch, and filled according to the weight you need.
If you don’t have a ballast box, you can easily use another rear mounted implement – it just has to meet the counterweight requirement. Since the implement weights vary, it would be good to review what each weighs before making a decision.
How do I know how much ballast to add?
Every model and corresponding attachments have different weights and limits. Always consult your tractor’s owner’s manual first for the proper weight needed to ballast. You should use no more or less than the weight recommended by the manufacturer.
As a general rule of thumb, compact utility tractors best split their weight like this:
40/60 front/rear weight ratio for ground-engaging work
50/50 front/rear weight ratio for loader work
Ballast is KEY when operating a front end loader. Not only do you need proper rear counterweight to lift heavier loads, but you also need it to maintain even weight distribution on hillsides.
Remember, what is right for one task, may be completely wrong for another. Never assume the same ballast will work in all situations. Some factors to consider when choosing are:
Soil surface—if it is loose or firm
Type of implement—integral/semi-integral or towed
Travel speed—slow or fast
Tractor power output—partial or full load
Type of front axle—2WD or MFWD
2-Wheel Drive Ballast
Whenever you are pulling anything heavy – trailers, hefty rear implements, etc. – add weight to the front for extra stability. Hauling heavy weight on the back of your tractor, can lift the front wheels. With ballast, this will help maintain steering control, and prevent tip over. For 2WD tractors, an ideal weight split can be 30% front, 70% rear of the total equipment weight.
Proper ballast on your tractor is important for accomplishing the work on your property and maximizing the longevity of your equipment. While it may take some up-front effort, by making good ballast decisions, you can increase your efficiency and productivity, while decreasing your need for parts and repairs in the future.
Interested in adding some ballast to your equipment lineup? Give one of our dealerships a call for friendly, expert advice and recommendations!