What is "Rear Ballast"? And why do you need it?

Kennyd4110

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Let me start by saying that this subject is often hotly debated. It is my intention to provide what I believe to be facts, and I will back them up by providing links and references when possible. It is not my intention to cause any controversy or flame wars.

A few definitions from the Dictionary and Thesaurus - Merriam-Webster Online dictionary:

Ballast - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary

1
: a heavy substance placed in such a way as to improve stability and control (as of the draft of a ship or the buoyancy of a balloon or submarine)

2
: something that gives stability (as in character or conduct)
Fulcrum - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary

a : prop; specifically : the support about which a lever turns

So, this relates to us and our tractors how? Well, the ballast is what we use in the rear of our tractors to offset the weight that we often place on the front-usually with a FEL. The fulcrum or pivot point is the place on the tractor which balances the weight of the load on the front and the weight on the rear. I will illustrate this using example of forklifts since they are easier to find pictures of.

fork_19.gif counterweight.jpg 56.jpg see-saw.jpg

Here is rather good description of what we are talking about taken from this link: Why forklifts Tip Over (sorry link is no longer active). Just substitute the word tractor for forklift:

The forklift is basically like a child's see saw, the load that is picked up is counterbalanced by a counter weight at the other side. If the load is too heavy for the counter weight then it will pivot at the fulcrum (the forklift will tip over forwards). Careful consideration must be taken to get the load as near to the fulcrum as possible as any gap here will be exaggerated and the forklift will not be able to pick up as much.
What we do not want on our tractors-is for all the weight of the load and tractor on the front axle, and that will happen if the rear wheels come off the ground and the front wheels become the fulcrum or pivot point as the pictures clearly show. Four main reasons we want to avoid this are:
1) The front axle is not rated to carry that amount of weight and can fail either quickly, or slowly over time with leaking seals or worn bearings, knuckles and ties rod ends.
2) The front axle pivots at the center, so the tractor could "fall" over to the left or right casing a tip-over condition.
3) We only have brakes on the rear axle, so when it gets light then we loose braking ability. we also loose traction as the rear wheels get lighter.
4) It's much harder on the steering system.

In the forklift examples above, they show the fulcrum or pivot as the front wheels-but they are designed for that and generally the front wheels do not steer on a forklift-whereas we want to move this fulcrum or pivot further rearward so the the rear axle will carry the majority of the weight. How can that be accomplished? The ONLY way is to add weight BEHIND the rear axle. Loading the tires will help with traction, but will not necessarily properly ballast the machine because that weight is already on the ground-it will not become "ballast" until the rear tires are lifted off the ground-and by then it's to late!
 

Kennyd4110

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All this is just theory, show me some evidence!

OK, here is some...

This was posted elsewhere, but I do have written permission from the owner to use these pictures.

Some details/facts:

Tractor: John Deere 4105
Loader: John Deere 300cx
Bucket: http://fieldquip.com.au/products-pag...4-in-1-bucket/ It is 6' wide and weights in at about 660 pounds!
R4 tires, NOT loaded
Rear implement: A "ripper" of unknown weight.

So, lets analyze this a little:
The bucket is way to heavy, it alone is about 400 pounds heavier than the stock bucket, and weighs almost half of the lift capacity alone. The ripper is probably about 150 pounds at best. You can see that when the operator started down the hill, the rear end got so light that it just went over into a endo, and the entire weight is now resting on the front axle and the FEL/bucket. Obviously during this transition ALL the weight was on the front axle for a short time, you can also see that the front wheels "folded" over. The owner/operator is very lucky the tractor did not tip over!
Had this operator been more experienced, he could have just lowered the FEL slowly, but he panicked-and got off the machine to get help and take pictures-lucky for us . With more experience, he also probably would have had the bucket lower while traveling, or even backed down that steep hill.


The owner is new to tractors-this is his first one. The dealer sold this setup to him, so who is really at fault? My answer is BOTH, here is why:

Dealer: He should known better, and understand the product he sells and what's all needed to make it work properly and safely. He should have known the bucket was to heavy, and that the owner did not have proper ballast (the ripper). He should have informed the owner about the problems using that bucket and advised him not to buy it even it meant loosing a sale. A injured, paralyzed or dead customer will not be good for repeat business.

Owner: He should have read the manuals that where included with his equipment, and stopped when things did not feel right.
 

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Kennyd4110

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Edit: This was all written for a John Deere forum, but the info still applies to Kubota tractors. I could not readily find this info specifically relating to Kubota machines and what Kubota USA recommends.

Recently, a member ( Thanks Claudster! ) posted a .pdf document given to him by his dealer/salesman. It should be REQUIRED reading for every sales person and buyer IMHO.

There is also a Ballast Calculator that JD made years ago, it runs in MS Excel.

Both of these are attached below (sorry both are to big or not the correct format for OTT).




Now, lets read our owners manual-yes READ! Let's look at the ever-so-popular 1026R with the H120 FEL for example (note that ballast information is in the loader manual, not the one for the tractor itself):

Link to the online manual: OMW54640

In section 15, "Prepare the Tractor" we find this chart:
1023-1026 Minimum Ballast.JPG

You will see that the minimum weight required is 506 pounds, and that also you should have 3 iron weights on each rear wheel! Sounds like overkill eh? Well maybe it is, but it does get the point across that you must have weight on the rear of these tractors to operate them safely and effectively. How many salesman know this information, relay it to the customers? My guess is very few.
 

RCW

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Kenny -

Maybe coachgeo could make it a sticky, because it does come up often.

Nice job!
 

ipz2222

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Kennyd,,, "sounds like overkill". Not when it comes to your life. I'm one of those people who have rolled a tractor over because I had too much weight in the fel and NO ballast. I was extremely fortunate that the tractor simply rolled on it's side and not on down the hill. My sop now is this ,, if the fel is on, the ballast is on.
 

Kennyd4110

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Kennyd,,, "sounds like overkill". Not when it comes to your life. I'm one of those people who have rolled a tractor over because I had too much weight in the fel and NO ballast. I was extremely fortunate that the tractor simply rolled on it's side and not on down the hill. My sop now is this ,, if the fel is on, the ballast is on.
Mine too. :thumbsup: Thanks for telling your story here.

It still amazes me that so many sales people at the dealers (of all colors) tell customers that it's not needed. :eek: