The importance of correct tyre pressures and ensuring the right ballast cannot be underestimated.
By simply taking the time to accurately set the two, operators can save themselves thousands of pounds in fuel, reduce excessive wear and spend less time completing jobs.
Ballast is one of those tricky areas where a lot of operators are torn between using liquid or weights. While water is cheaper and convenient, liquid stops the tyres from flexing as they are designed to do so and pressure maintenance is harder with liquid filled tyres due to there being less air in the tyre. Your pressure gauge can also be ruined by the liquid.
Before adding any ballast to your tyres it is essential to work out how much is needed. To work this out, first calculate the tractive weight needed to operate with a particular piece of equipment.
All machines need a certain amount of weight to transmit power down to the ground, but a number of factors can alter this such as weight of the machine, weight of the implement in use, soil conditions and if it will be working on any slopes.
When weighing the machine it is important to weigh each axle separately, as it shows where to add or remove ballast, i.e. how much is needed on the back and front.
If you weigh the machine as a whole, you do not get any guidance as to where to put the ballast – this is really important to know as most manufacturers design machines to work with about 60 per cent of the power going through the back wheels and 40 per cent going through the front.
Although farmers and contractors are more than capable of gaining a ballpark idea of how much ballast they will need, I would always suggest employing the services of an expert to ensure it is done correctly. Even if it is just a second opinion to confirm you got your sums right.
Once the ballast has been worked out and you know what load each axle will be carrying, setting tyre pressures is pretty straightforward.
Use the tyre manufacturer’s technical data as that will tell you what the pressures should be for the loads which are going to be exerted.
One of the most common mistakes we come across when out in the field is operators assuming the pressures their tyres come set at, when they have purchased a new machine, are correct.
Do not assume this to be true – it is essential to make sure pressures are correctly adjusted to suit your operation and load. Ideally, ballast and pressures should be altered every time a new job is carried out.
We know farmers and contractors do not always carry tyre manufacturers’ technical data with them out in the field, which is why we, and many other tyre manufacturers, created an online tyre pressure calculator.
Simply log on and select your machine and tyres to find out accurate pressures. Online tools are a quick way to find out key information.
When tyre pressures are set correctly and the ballast is properly balanced operators will find not only does their machine perform better, but it will save them money.
We recently ran a demo which saw a tractor fitted with a power harrow drill combination work 100 hectares (247 acres). When the tyres were set to the recommended pressures, more than £400 in fuel was saved each time the field was drilled.