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PHOTO: J. Keeler Johnson
It’s not every day you hear a farmer say, “I wish [fill in the blank] was heavier.” Because, really, who needs feed sacks, hay bales, water jugs, etc. to weigh more than they already do?
But there are situations in which we wish our tractors were just a little bit heavier. When transporting large loads with a front-end loader, or lifting heavy implements with the three-point hitch, lightweight tractors can become unbalanced and threaten to tip forward or backward.
Fortunately, adding a counterweight to the front or rear of your tractor can make all the difference. And there are plenty of options for farmers to choose from.
From suitcase weights to liquid tire ballast, here are five ways a farmer can pack the pounds on to counterbalance a tractor.
Be safe on your tractor, and mind how much you try to lift.
1. Suitcase Weights
Suitcase weights are simple, straightforward and an effective way to counterbalance a tractor.
Designed to hang from brackets installed on the front or rear of a tractor, suitcase weights have handles for easy lifting. This gives them an appearance vaguely like a suitcase.
They come in a variety of sizes, and you can use as many or as few as necessary to reach a specific amount of counterweight. Of course, adding or removing suitcase weights requires strength on your part. Some weigh 100 pounds!
2. Ballast Box
A ballast box is exactly what its name suggests. It’s a metal box, carried by the three-point hitch, designed to hold whatever heavy ballast you happen to have handy.
Sandbags, concrete blocks, rocks and more can be piled in the ballast box to shift weight behind the rear wheels of your tractor.
Once the ballast box is filled, the three-point hitch does all the heavy lifting. You can remove or attach the ballast box without lifting anything yourself.
Read how a three-point hitch truly is this farmer’s friend.
3. Wheel Weights
Some weights are designed to be installed directly on tractor’s wheels. This is especially helpful if you’re more interested in gaining traction than shifting your tractor’s center of gravity.
If you’re pulling a heavy load and your tires are slipping, wheel weights will help your tractor get a firm grip on the ground and maximize its strength.
4. Liquid Tire Ballast
Similar to wheel weights, filling your tires with liquid ballast can increase traction while simultaneously lowering your tractor’s center of gravity. This is beneficial when negotiating challenging terrain.
A wide variety of common and specialty fluids are used for liquid ballast.
Water is a simple option, but it’s not the best choice if there’s any chance it will freeze. Calcium chloride has seen widespread use, but it’s corrosive and can damage tire rims over time. Antifreeze, beet juice and even windshield washer fluid are other possibilities.
Tractor dealers may be able to steer you toward the best choice for your situation and region.
In a pinch, implements installed on the front or back of your tractor can serve as effective—though rather cumbersome—counterweights.
Filling the bucket of a front-end loader with ballast can help balance the weight of a heavy implement on the three-point hitch. Or you can reverse the approach and attach the rear implement specifically to reduce weight on the front axle when transporting heavy materials with the front-end loader.
You just need to be cautious in your approach and stay constantly aware of the extra equipment or ballast you’re carrying around.
With so many ways to counterbalance your tractor, there’s bound to be a solution for every need and situation you’ll encounter.