I don't need to tell you tire ballast is important. Tractors and combines have more power than their weight can use and, by adding weight to the tires and/or frame, one can improve the machine's traction and prevent wheel slippage which can damage tires.
There are a couple different ways farmers can add weight to their tractor or combine.
For many years liquid ballast was the main answer. Calcium chloride is a heavy liquid and does not freeze, so was put in the tire tube to add weight.
In recent years, however, manufacturers have moved toward another type of tire ballast. Iron wheel and suitcase weights were added to tractor tires and frames instead of the liquid ballast in the tires.
Like many things in life, neither way of ballasting a tractor is completely perfect.
While calcium chloride is heavy, will not freeze and is fairly inexpensive, it is extremely corrosive. When the liquid comes in contact with the rim (or just about anything else) it will eat holes through it.
On our farm, I don't know how many old tractor tire rims we have had to replace over the years because the rim corroded around the valve stem hole from the calcium chloride coming into contact with the rim. I guess we could have several nice flower beds with the number of old rims we have laying around.
Another disadvantage is if the chemical would spill onto soil, it could have an adverse effect on whatever crop is growing. There is a high level of salt in the liquid, I believe.
The advantage of iron wheel weights is they would not cause these corrosive issues with the rims of the tractors, while still giving the proper weight the tractor/combine needs for ballast.
Scott Hunter, president of Lone Star Weights based in Wichita Falls, Texas, said farmers who utilize iron wheel weights have more flexibility than those using liquid ballast.
"With iron weights, you can add and remove the weights to match whatever field activity you are doing," Hunter told DTN. "It is a very flexible system."
The major disadvantage of iron wheel weights would be their cost compared to the liquid ballast, as iron weights are fairly expensive per pound. In addition to the weights, farmers would also need to purchase brackets to attach the weights to their tractor.
These brackets and weights often make the tractor a bit longer and/or wider. The weights are also mounted on the frame and axles compared to the actual tire, where the weight needs to be.
There are newer products in liquid ballasting that give farmers the advantages of liquid without some of the major disadvantages.
Rim Guard Tire Ballast of Wyoming, Mich., is one company marketing a new generation of liquid ballast products.
Phil Globing, president and owner of Rim Guard Tire Ballast, said his product is nontoxic and animal food grade safe. The base material is an agricultural by-product of sugar beet processing.
The liquid is freeze protected to -35 degrees F and is not corrosive, so damaged rims and valve stems would be a thing of the past, he said.
"Compared to the price of iron weight, Rim Guard costs less than a third the cost per pound of iron weight and puts the weight where it should be -- where the tire hits the ground," Globing said.
The addition of Rim Guard can also improve the stability of all-terrain sky lifts, fork lifts, pay loaders and zero-turn lawn mowers, he said.
Rim Guard Tire Ballast needs to be filled to the 75% fill level in tires with the valve stem at 12:00. Different sized tires will need different amounts of the liquid ballast.
For example, an 18.4-38 rear tractor tire will need 110 gallons of the liquid and this liquid will add 1,177 pounds to the tire.
The questions one might have about a newer product are does it work like the older liquid ballast and will it last as long as calcium chloride?
I suppose the only way to find is to try it or maybe find someone who has already tried the product. At very least farmers still have a couple different options when it comes to tire ballast.
For more information about Lone Star Weights, visit their website at http://www.lonestarweights.com/… or call (866) 941-9081.
For more information about Rim Guard Tire Ballast, visit their website at http://www.rimguard.biz/… or call (866) 792-3700.
© Copyright 2013 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.