We want to help you understand how to improve your tractor’s performance by liquid ballasting.
And as a quick aside --- we are here to help you purchase a new tractor when the time is right.
Let’s get started.
What is Liquid Ballasting?
Adding a liquid or fluid to your tractor’s tires has been used as a tractor ballast since tractors began using pneumatic tires.
It is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to improve your tractor’s stability and traction.
Because the tires are the lowest point on your tractor --- filling them with heavier liquid lowers your tractor’s center of gravity.
Another benefit of liquid ballasting is the extra weight and better traction that it gives your tractor.
More weight pressing the tires into firmer contact with the soil means more engine horsepower can be turned into pulling power (or front-end loader pushing power) before the power overcomes the grip and the tires lose traction and spin.
Types of Liquid Ballast
There are multiple types of liquid ballast.
Let’s go through them.
Water is one of the cheapest types.
It is not recommended for use in climates where temperatures get below freezing. Therefore, water is not a very common choice in the US. Water weighs only 8.3 pounds per gallon --- so it will limit the amount of weight you can add to the tractor --- as compared to some of the other liquid ballast choices you are going to learn about in this article.
Calcium chloride is a salt solution. It is dense, widely available, competitively priced, and very corrosive.
You must add inner tubes to the tractor’s wheels & tires, otherwise the steel wheels will corrode away quickly.
A 31% mixture of calcium chloride is freeze-resistant down to minus 58 F. Calcium chloride weighs 11.3 pounds per gallon --- making it a good option to get the most weight on your tractor.
In case of a tire rupture resulting in a liquid ballast leak --- the salt is not toxic to animals but can damage any plants growing on the affected soil.
In North America, beet juice is perhaps most well-known under the brand name Rim Guard.
Beet juice is a recent addition to liquid ballast choices.
The advantages of beet juice are it is nontoxic and non-corrosive to wheels. It is freeze-resistant down to minus 35 F. Beet juice weighs about 11.0 pounds per gallon.
Like calcium chloride --- it is better at adding weight to your tractor than many other liquid ballast choices.
The downside is that beet juice is more expensive than some other liquid ballast options.
Windshield Washer Fluid
One of the less-expensive liquid ballast choices is windshield washer fluid.
It is non-corrosive and freeze-resistant down to at least minus 25 F.
The biggest downside to windshield washer fluid is that it weighs only 7.6 pounds per gallon (less than plain water) --- which really limits the amount of weight you can add to your tractor.
Antifreeze (ethylene glycol) in a 50/50 mix with water is freeze-resistant to minus 34 F and weighs 9.4 pounds per gallon.
The biggest disadvantage of antifreeze is that if a tire ever ruptures --- the spilled fluid is toxic and very attractive to animals.
Antifreeze is also one of the costliest liquid ballast selections.
Where Do You Get Liquid Ballast?
Once you have determined that you have a need for liquid ballast to improve your tractor/loader or tractor/tillage performance, you need to know where to go to get your tires filled.
We recommend that you go to your tractor dealer first.
Tractor dealers are often the best when it comes to advising you on the exact amount of ballast your tractor needs. They will know the right formula for your local climate, as well as how to best protect the service life of your tractor wheels and tires.
Many local tractor dealers are equipped to supply and install one or more of the types of liquid ballast. If your tractor dealer is not able to provide liquid ballast installation --- tire dealers are another source. Seek out tire dealers in rural areas that do significant amounts of tractor tire business.
There are many things to learn about ballasting. Ballasting with liquid in your tires, or with other ways of adding weight to your tractor (ballast box or heavy implements), does pay dividends in a lower center of gravity for confident operation and more traction to help you turn more tractor power into useful work.