Ballasting is both the art and science of adding the right amount of weight to each axle of your tractor to achieve optimal performance.
The importance of sufficient ballasting, combined with correct tyre inflation, cannot be underestimated in order to achieve not only machinery performance and efficiency, but also significant cost savings. If you take the time to accurately set up these two vital elements, there is the potential to save thousands of dollars in operating costs due to:
- Reduced fuel consumption
- Less tyre wear
- Reduced potential for tyre damage, and
- More efficiency (less time taken) in completing jobs.
There are two kinds of ballasting – the “right” kind (using cast iron or weights) and the “cheap” kind (using water).
Water may be a cheap and convenient way to ballast a tyre – but you need to consider that by adding water, you are adding a property to the tyre that is compromising its overall performance.
Liquids (in this case, water) prevent the tyre from flexing so it can’t do the job it was designed to do, and also make it difficult to set tyre pressures as the volume of air in the tyre is greatly reduced.
In addition, the water continually tries to return to its level and exerts internal friction to counter the tyres rotation. This in turn:
- Saps engine power
- Increases fuel consumption
- Exerts greater wear and tear on the machine, and
- Increases soil compaction.
The only application where water for ballasting could be considered, is where a tractor is dedicated to front end loader work and the tractor isn’t being used for any form of cultivation work.
Cast iron or weight ballasting is the “right” way to ballast. It may be more complex and more expensive, however numerous tests have shown that only one-third of the weight in wheel weights are required than when water is used. Wheel weights (as opposed to water) also increase your tractor’s overall performance in the following ways. They:
- Provide at least 6% greater tractive performance
- Enable the tyre to perform as it was designed to with no compromise
- Are easier on the machine
- Result in longer tyre life.
Another important aspect of ballasting is to understand the optimal combined tractive weight of the tractor and implement – to do the required job. With the optimal weight determined, it is then important to then calculate the weight of each axle. This will allow you to understand where and how much ballast might need to be applied.