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Auger Systems Explained
A PTO auger system can be a good choice for a farmer, rancher, or large estate owner.
PTO auger systems have a straightforward design. They allow for one-person operation from the tractor seat.
A typical PTO auger system utilizes a gearbox with a ring gear and pinion to transfer the rotation from the PTO driveline through a right angle to drive an output spindle --- where the auger bit attaches.
The ring gear and pinion function as a gear-reduction to multiply torque --- allowing for more effective digging. The gearbox is mounted to a boom and yoke arrangement, which allows for the raising and lowering of the posthole digger.
Most PTO auger systems incorporate shear bolts or pins to reduce the possibility of damaging the gearbox, driveline, and auger bit. Though some make use of slip clutches or other torque-limiting devices.
PTO auger systems should be selected based on the size, horsepower, and the three-point hitch of the host tractor.
Typically, manufacturers rate their PTO auger systems with tractor horsepower ranges — for example 20 to 40 hp for use with a small tractor with a Category I three-point hitch. Auger bits should be selected based on the desired hole diameter and depth.
Fence posts will require 4” diameters up to 18” for large corner posts --- while tree planting may require a 30” diameter auger. PTO systems are less effective at larger diameters. Hydraulic auger systems are preferred for holes above 30” in diameter. It’s also worth putting thought into accessories, such as hydraulic down-force kits. These add pressure to the auger bit to assist digging in difficult ground conditions. This also includes auger extensions, which can be added for deeper hole depth.
A complete PTO auger system with an auger bit can command prices between $500 for a house-brand, low-quality unit --- up to $4,000 for a top-of-the-line model.
Safety is of the utmost importance when operating a PTO auger system.
Everyone involved in the assembly, operation, transport, maintenance, and storage of a PTO auger system must be aware, prudent, and properly trained in its safe and proper use. They should read and understand the instructions in the operator’s manual and on the safety signs.
A rotating driveline or auger bit poses an entanglement risk with a potential for serious injury or death. The entanglement risk becomes greater when the shear bolt or auger retaining bolt is replaced with one that does not meet the original equipment manufacturer’s specifications.
Posthole diggers include safety signs and guards for auger adapters, auger extensions, gearbox inputs, and PTO drivelines.
Before operating, you need to ensure that all the shields, guards, and safety signs are in place. If your three-point auger system does not have these safety items --- be sure to contact your equipment dealer or auger system manufacturer.
Never operate a posthole digger with anyone near or in contact with any part of the attachment, PTO driveline, or auger bit. No one should be within 25’ of a posthole digger when it is started or in use. Absolutely never use someone’s body weight or any body part to “help” position or force the auger into the ground.
PTO auger systems are easy to use.
Using them safely and effectively requires a cautious operator who recognizes the potential hazards, follows reasonable safety practices, and operates the posthole digger according to the instructions stated in the operator’s manual.
Prior to digging any hole --- call 811 to have the underground utility lines, pipes, or cables marked. Clear the area of any objects that could wrap around the auger bit or might be thrown.
Mark out where holes should be dug. Be sure to perform all the pre-usage maintenance and be aware of all the safety hazards. When transporting the PTO auger system to the worksite and between holes, make sure to keep the PTO disengaged and the three-point hitch raised high enough for the auger bit to clear the ground.
When you are ready to dig, lower the three-point hitch until the auger point rests on the ground.
Make sure all the bystanders are at least 25’ away from the auger. When you engage the PTO, start with the tractor engine at idle and increase the PTO speed as required to allow the auger bit to penetrate the ground. Lower the three-point hitch to continue digging the hole --- holding back against the auger screw-suction when necessary.
Every 12” to 18” --- raise the three-point hitch to partially remove the auger bit from the hole, aiding the dirt removal process. Once the hole reaches the desired depth --- allow the auger bit to dwell in the bottom of the hole for a moment to further clean out the hole. Then disengage the PTO and raise the auger bit from the hole.
As with any attachment, regular maintenance per the manufacturer’s specifications is vital to a long, potentially trouble-free service life.
Check the auger system for loose fasteners and worn out auger cutting edges and points before each use. A worn cutting edge or point will have rounded surfaces --- making penetrating the ground more difficult --- especially in hard digging conditions.
When changing augers or adding an auger extension, coat the inside of the auger adapter liberally with grease. Check the universal joint, bushing, and gearbox lubrication levels at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals --- and use the correct lubricant.
A common false symptom of a seal failure is that there is leakage due to the use of incorrect lubricants. If in doubt, ask an equipment dealer or the auger system manufacturer for guidance.
With some research of the options and safety requirements, a PTO auger system can save labor and time on lots of operations.
Hopefully, this brief article has helped you better understand PTO auger systems and how to use them.
If you need any further help or have any questions about auger systems, tractors, implements, or anything else equipment-related, please contact your dealer, local mechanic, or call us at 602-734-9944. Please ask about our current new and used tractor supply.
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