Background on Tire Ballasting
Ballasting, or liquid-filling, tractor tires is nothing new. It has been around the farm for many decades. Ballasting has its roots as an economical way to increase the traction and ultimately the drawbar pull of a given tractor. Less slippage at the rear wheels saves on fuel and the same tractor could pull larger, heavier, implements. More crops could be planted in a day lowering per-acre input costs. With ballasting, more traction and less slip saved on expensive drive tires. Overall tractor maintenance expenses were reduced. Ballasting tractor tires is an important consideration if you are in the business of farming or hobby farming.
Today, with less of our population engaged in the primary business of farming, who would have thought that Kubota compact tractors under 30HP would be leading the market segment in sales? We now have a totally different consumer for completely different reasons other than farming sitting in that tractor seat. There are acreage owners, hobby farmers, organic growers, berry and specialty growers, landscapers, and wood lot operators, pushing, digging, moving, grading, pulling, lifting and towing with their Kubotas! It is for these reasons that we want to take a look at some of the benefits of ballasting the tires in your Kubota.
6 Reasons to Ballast
Liquid tire ballasting does what a no-clamp-on, hung or attached metal weight would do – it places the liquid ballast at the lowest center of gravity on the tractor. As the tractor is driven, the weight from the ballast liquid is maintained at the bottom of the tire under all circumstances. The operator will notice a marked improvement in the solid feeling handling characteristics of the tractor. There is more weight to the tractor and so it has more inertia when moving and is more likely to absorb some of the bumps.
Greatly Increased Traction
With the liquid ballast pushing down directly on the inside lower surface of the tire the contact patch or the total amount of available tread on the ground is optimized – the contact area does not get larger in size, but it has more weight bearing down on it. Anyone that has operated a compact Kubota tractor for any longer than a few seconds knows that torque was not cut from the design equation by some bean counter in the back room! That being said, as soon as the tires on your Kubota tractor begin slip the amount of available torque necessary to move the tractor or do the work (push snow for instance) drops to almost zero. Simply put, the more weight a tire has, the more traction is has.
The interesting thing about torque is that in low-traction situations, the maximum amount of torque that can be created is determined by the amount of traction, not by the engine. So even if your Kubota B6100 had a turbo charged Cummins diesel engine in it, if the tires do not stick to the ground, there is simply no way to harness that power.
Reduced Tire Wear
Tire-slip occurs when the force or torque applied to it exceeds the traction available to that tire. Ever do a burn out in your father’s car or pick up? It does not take 300 horses under the hood of your Kubota to wear out a set of drive tires. Frequent, chronic lack or loss of traction, will significantly lower the tread life of your Kubota tractors tires especially if it’s equipped with turf or R3 tires.
R3 equipped Kubotas have the least aggressive tire treads and as such have the least amount of available traction. R1/Ag Grip tires with their traditional 23 degree V-Bar tread design offer the best un-ballasted traction available. R1’s are standard on equipment on most Kubota tractors today but seldom seen on the lot. Most Kubota Dealers are ordering and specifying their new tractors be shipped with the optional R4 Industrial tires. While the R4’s have a flatter tread face and bolder contact patch than their R1 counterparts, they are still susceptible to tire slip and increased tire wear.
Increased Operator Safety
Better traction and a significant improvement in stability leads to increased operator safety. A tire slip at the wrong time can be costly and deadly. Attempting to raise a heavy bucket of material can lift the back end of the tractor in a heartbeat. Liquid ballasting makes good safety sense.
Liquid ballasting your tires is not necessarily expensive. There are all types of liquid ballast agents, such as water, beet juice, antifreeze or calcium chloride – each with their own advantages and disadvantages. If it does not get below zero where you live, then you can probably get away with a simple water ballast.
Fast and Easy to Do
The process of ballasting is simple and straightforward – using a garden hose and some tools/adapters available at any automotive supply one can fill their Kubota’s tires within 20-25 minutes depending on the tire size.
Think of other reasons to liquid ballast your tires? Add a comment below.
Service Department Vic