Ballast for Agricultural and Tractor Tires: To Ballast or Not?

Posted ByBrian Jones

One of the main questions sellers of agricultural tires receive is about ballasting. Customers often wonder what is ballasting, what the pros and cons are, and what materials they should use to do it. Below you can find the answers to these questions to determine if ballasting is right for you!

What is Ballasting?

Ballasting, or adding weight to tractor tires will improve traction and reduce slippage. When managed ballast and tire inflation are managed properly, you can maximize traction, minimize compaction, increase the life of the tractor drivetrain, and increase productivity.

For years farmers have added fluids to their farm tires to add traction weight and counterbalance. It also allows them to lower their center of gravity, which in return increases the stability of the equipment and reduces the risk of tipping. Another benefit of ballasting is transferring power to the ground.

What material should you use?

When deciding which materials to use for ballast, a farmer has many options. Some ballasting material options are low-cost while others are more expensive. Common ballasting materials include water, calcium chloride, beet juice, antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, and polyurethane foam. Each of these materials have their own list of pros and cons, but they are all effective ways of ballasting ag tires.

Water – Water is one of the cheapest ways to ballast your tires, however there are some downsides to using water. The major downside is that water freezes, and when it does it can push the tire off its rim. This is mainly a problem in cold-weather climates, so if you live in the south, you may not have any problems. Adding calcium chloride to water is a great option- especially for those in colder climates. We cover liquid ballast with calcium chloride in greater detail in our blog post Liquid Weighing of Tractor Tires for Extra Traction.

Antifreeze – Antifreeze is not the cheapest option, but it is easy to access. To use antifreeze you will combine it with water and you won’t have to deal with the risk of the water freezing.

Beet Juice – Beet juice is a relatively new way to ballast your tires and is sold under the name Rim Guard. The main benefits of using beet juice is that it is noncorrosive, 30% heavier than water, and it resists freezing. Also, it is non-toxic. The main downfall to this product is that it can be more expensive, however it is still considered one of the best options.

Our Tractor Tires Recommendations

At Ken Jones Tires, we only use calcium chloride and fill the tires to around 70% capacity, which seems to be the industry standard. We are located in the Northeast, so freezing is a consideration for our local customers.

Use of a Tractor Tire Tube

Ken Jones recommends that you use tire tubes when filling a tubeless tire with calcium chloride. This helps prevent wheel corrosion/rust at the valve stem area.

Foam Fill is a Great Option

You may also consider foam fill flat-proofing tires as an option. Since the entire cavity of the tire is filled with foam rubber (same weight as water), this will add more ballast weight. As as a great bonus, you get the additional benefit of the tire being 100% flat proof forever! No flats = zero down time expense.

Why you should consider ballasting?

One of the main reasons a farmer may choose to ballast their ag equipment tires is because even though they have good tires, they still struggle to gain traction on wet or loose surfaces. By ballasting their tires, they are able to gain more traction. Another reason is due to certain tractors having a high center of gravity, and ballasting their tires can help reduce the center of gravity. A third benefit of ballasting your ag tires is to prevent your rear tires from lifting, increasing the operating safety of the equipment.

Why you may not want to ballast?

There are many benefits to adding tractor tire fluids to your ag equipment tires, however, there is one possible downfall. Adding fluids may negatively impact the equipment’s ride quality, especially when filling the rear tires. This can become a problem when driving in a high gear along roadways or when traveling near top speeds. Using tire ballasting in these situations can make the ride harsher.

Any Questions? Ask an Expert

Specialty Tire Experts at Ken Jones Tires

Posted By: Brian Jones