Adding Ballast to Your Tractor Tires
In This Article:
Adding Ballast to Agricultural Tires: What Is It and Should You Do It?
Ballasting Isn’t Rocket Science, But You Can Screw It Up
Two Primary Types of Ballast
What Exactly Is Liquid Ballasting?
The Specific Advantages of Ballasting
The Specific Disadvantages of Ballasting
Wide Variety of Liquid Ballast Options
Calcium Chloride Ballasting
Beet Juice Ballasting
Windshield Washer Fluid Ballast
Polyurethane Foam Ballast
You May Want to Add Inner Tubes to Your Tubeless Tires for Ballasting
How Much Ballasting Solution Should You Use for Each Agricultural Tire?
When You Need Agriculture Tires and Agricultural Inner Tubes, Count on Treadworld!
Adding weight to your tractor and other farm implements is called ballasting. Tractors and combines for instance, often need to add weight to accommodate horsepower imbalances. It takes a certain amount of weight for a tractor to transfer one horsepower of energy from the engine to the ground. Adding weight where required—ballasting—can reduce slippage, maximize traction, minimize compaction, increase the life of the tractor drivetrain, and improve overall productivity. In short, adding the right amount of ballast to a tractor is an effective way to get the power you paid for, from the engine to the ground. The same can be true for tires used in off-road construction. Here the tire experts at Treadworld dig into the world of liquid ballasting—filling tractor tires with fluid, or any farm equipment—and provide you with the information you need to make the right choice, regarding whether it’s right for you, and how selecting the right tires and tire inner tubes can benefit your overall effort.
Ballasting is one of the easiest, and one of the least expensive, ways to improve tractor stability and traction—as long as you follow some simple rules. Adding too little weight won’t provide the assistance to your tractor’s efficiency you were looking for; slippage will increase, and you’ll be wasting much of the power you paid for when you bought your equipment. Adding too much weight will result in excessive soil compaction and a decrease in fuel efficiency. And if you don’t add weight in a properly balanced way, you can lose efficiency and experience bouncing. What you need is “goldilocks” ballast weight—just right!
Those two main types are metal mass and liquid mass. You have the choice of either placing metal weights on the tractor itself, front and/or back, or on the axle or hub of the wheels, or partially filling tractor tires with fluid. There are three reasons many prefer liquid ballasting. Weights, usually cast iron, can be expensive, installing them can be difficult, and depending on the design of the weights, can hamper the maneuverability of your tractor.
Adding liquid weight to your tractors and farm equipment tires—is not new. Pretty much since tractor manufacturers began using pneumatic tires, farmers have added tractor tire fluids to their tires. That would be around 1933 when Allis-Chalmers introduced farmers to the Model WC tractor, the first tractor to come standard with pneumatic tires, by racing them around at state fairs and competing in plowing competitions. Liquid ballast can also smooth out the ride by reducing the shock effects of impact over ruts and bumps,
Liquid ballasting is replacing some of the air in your tires with liquid. Because the tires are the lowest point on the tractor, filling them with liquid heavier than air lowers your tractor’s center of gravity and leads to other benefits, as you’ll see if you keep reading. Tubeless tires, and tires with inner tubes, can be ballasted, though many choose to add an inner tube to their tubeless tires for ballasting. More on that in a minute.
There are four main benefits of ballasting the agriculture tires on your tractors, combines and other farm equipment—increased rear tire traction and minimization of overall slippage, a lower the center of gravity of the equipment which provides stability, prevention of the rear tires from leaving the ground when lifting heavy objects or adding loaders and other accessories to the machine’s front-end, and promotion of firmer contact with the soil allowing more engine horsepower to be turned into pulling or pushing power, improving the operating safety in the process. Too much slippage sabotages productivity, plus it leads to excessive, premature tire wear, along with a waste of fuel and time. Not enough slippage also leads to fuel waste along with putting a heavy strain on the drivetrain of your tractor. The rule of thumb is that you want around 10-15% slippage to optimize efficiency. In a nutshell, ballasting increases your tractors grip, and reduces slip.
Tire ballast is less expensive with liquid than with metal weights, but there are some considerations before you jump into liquid ballast for tractor tires with both feet. While it’s true that driving with liquid ballasted tires will provide you with better traction and less slippage in the field, when you’re using ballasted tires, you are marking “speed” off your list of options because ballasted tires are not suitable for high speed in the fields, and certainly not on the road. Higher speeds result in a pendulum effect due to the movement of the liquid in the tires, which can cause some sway, especially when turning. Plus, getting your tires ready is not quick, and can take 2 to 3 hours for filling up. Additionally, monitoring your tire pressure becomes more crucial because, when you ballast your tires with liquid, the volume of air in your tires drops to around 25%, meaning the slightest loss of air can cause pressure issues. Depending on the type of liquid ballast you decide on, cold weather can be an issue (see below.)
It can be hard to know which is the best solution to use for ballasting. Some common materials used frequently include water, calcium chloride, beet juice, antifreeze, windshield washer fluid and polyurethane foam. We’ll take a quick look at the pros and cons of each.
There’s little doubt that using water is the simplest ballasting method, about as affordable as you can find, readily available and safe to use. It’s not the heaviest option, at 8.3 pounds per gallon, and it’s not a good choice when temperatures can get below freezing which can cause the wheel to separate from the rim, which is a deal breaker for a lot of farmers. Over time, it can also cause rims to rust.
What we really mean here is antifreeze mixed with water, because antifreeze by itself will freeze at just below zero. Mixed with 50% water it will remain liquid at much colder temps that water alone, and a 70/30 mixture will perform even better—down to -34 degrees depending on the percentage mix. It weighs around 9.4 lbs. per gallon, so provides a little more weight than water. On the other hand, antifreeze is one of the most expensive liquid ballast selections, plus ethylene glycol antifreeze is highly toxic and bad for animals, and soil and ground water, should something unfortunate happen.
Calcium Chloride mixed with water has long been a top choice for farmers for several reasons. It’s relatively inexpensive, it weighs about 40% more than water at 11.3 lbs. per gallon, and it can withstand temperatures down to -50 or -60 degrees with around a 30% calcium chloride to water mixture. On the negative side, calcium chloride for tractor tires and other farm tires is infamous for being a corrosive ballast solution—it’s a dense salt solution of calcium and chlorine—and will lay waste to rims in a relatively short time, unless used with inner tubes. It’s not known to be toxic to animals (but of course is not recommended), but can contaminate plants and soil. It’s classified as a hazardous waste by many states, requiring special handling and disposal methods.
While this might seem like a surprising choice on the surface, it’s not because beet juice is heavier than water (weighing in at around 11 lbs. per gallon), it resists freezing down to -35 degrees, it’s not toxic or corrosive and if spilled it will not contaminate the soil or kill your pets—however as a natural, and permanent, dye, you can count on it to stain. The downside is that beet juice tire ballast is more expensive than some other liquid ballast options. Here in the U.S., it is perhaps most well-known under the brand name Rim Guard, which has beet juice as the main ingredient.
Using windshield washer fluid for your ballasting solution is relatively inexpensive and it is freeze-resistant to temperatures around -25 degrees. It’s non-corrosive and is considered only somewhat toxic, though isn’t pet safe. The real downside is that it’s even lighter than water at around 7.6 lbs. per gallon.
Foam filling weigh up to 50% more than water per gallon, and offers no-flat characteristics so you won’t have to worry about puncture. However, it’s relatively expensive and you will have to cut the tire off the wheel or change out your wheels when you need to change a tire for treadwear, for instance. You also won’t be able to adjust the tire pressure, but you also won’t have to keep a constant eye on those pressures.
Regardless of which ballasting solution you choose, if you’re currently using tubeless tires, you may choose to add an agricultural inner tube to protect against corrosion, turning it into a tubed tire. A tube will also eliminate possible liquid and air seepage between the bead and rim. You’ll need to cut out the valve stem off the rim and insert the inner tube valve stem.
Common practice is to fill tires 75% with ballast solution to maintain pressure safety. Some recommend 40% and a few recommend as much as 90%, though farm implement tires with more than 75 percent liquid could lead to an unsafe pressure situation under load.
When you’re looking for the best agricultural tires, we’ve got you covered here at Treadworld, in a wide range of RubberMaster styles and sizes—lug and rib treads, in sizes 23×10.50-12, 23×8.50-12, 4.00/4.80-8, 16×6.50-8, 3.50-6, 11L-15, 12.5L-15 and 9.5L-15. We also have a huge selection of agricultural inner tubes—extreme service tubes, implement tubes, and tractor tire tubes for both bias and radial tires. All our RubberMaster Agricultural Tires are manufactured to exacting specs then triple-checked and X-rayed for dependable quality that won’t let you down, and all our RubberMaster Agriculture Tubes undergo several strict quality checks to provide you with the long-lasting, high performance quality you want. Easy ordering and fast shipping, plus your satisfaction is always guaranteed with our no-hassle Ultimate Advantage Warranty. Don’t hesitate to contact our tire experts via live chat, or email with any questions you may have, and to get the farm tires and implement tires and tubes you want—or the perfect trailer tires, ATV tires, UTV tires, golf cart tires, lawn and garden tires and many others, plus tubes—from our extensive selection.