Spinning your wheels wastes both time and money. Making these simple adjustments and/or upgrades to your 4WD tractor will get it pulling at peak performance.
1. Fine-Tune Your Ballast
Strive for Wheel Slip Between 5% – 12%
If your wheel slip is above 12%, you probably need more ballast. It’s best to use iron weights when possible. Liquid tire ballasts can reduce the tire’s sidewall flex which prevents the tire from developing a full footprint. If liquid tire ballast is your only choice, we recommend Bio-Ballast—a safe, non-corrosive alternative to calcium chloride.
If your wheel slip remains below 5%, you may want to remove some ballast from your tractor. Excessive weight increases the tractor’s rolling resistance and increases the severity of soil compaction.
Know Your Target Total Weight
95 – 120 pounds of ballast per engine horsepower is a good rule of thumb to follow in ag applications. For example, if you have a 500 hp 4WD tractor, you’ll want its weight to be between 47,500 and 60,000 pounds.
Find the Optimum Weight Ratio
The front to rear weight ratio should be between 55:45 and 60:40 respectively. This ratio will vary based on the downforce the implement exerts on the tractor’s rear axle. To continue our example of the 500 hp 4WD tractor at 60,000 pounds, this tractor should weigh around 33,000 pounds on the front axle and 27,000 pounds on the rear axle.
2. Inflate Your Tires to the Correct Tire Air Pressure
Overinflation Crushes Traction Performance
Overinflation shrinks your tire’s footprint size, meaning you’ll have fewer lugs in contact with the soil. Overinflation also increases the likelihood of power hop. The service team at NTS Tire Supply can fix, or at least reduce, nearly any power hop issue by adjusting the inflation pressures of the tractor’s tires.
Determining the Proper Inflation Pressure
To determine the proper inflation pressure for your tires, you need to know the axle load, speed of operation, and number of tires (singles, duals, triples). Here are a few key points to keep in mind as you’re determining the right tire air pressure:
- A tire’s load carrying capacity decreases as speed increases. For example, a tire traveling at 25 mph may need to be inflated to 15 PSI while that same tire traveling at 6 mph may only need to be inflated to 7 PSI.
- Adding duals does not double your load carrying capacity. Duals increase the load carrying capacity of a tire setup by 1.76 times. Triples increase the load carrying capacity of a tire setup by 2.4 times.
- Inflate your tires 1–3 PSI above the minimum recommended tire pressure. (Never exceed the maximum recommended tire pressure.) This way if the tire pressure drops due to a change in temperature or if your tire has an unknown slow leak, you’ll be less likely to ruin the tire because of under-inflation.
- Always use the recommended inflation pressure given by the tire manufacturer. For example: Do NOT use Goodyear’s tire inflation calculator to determine the tire pressure for a Firestone tire.
Determining the right tire pressure has become easier with advancements in technology. Some tire manufacturers provide tire inflation calculators to assist in determining the optimal tire pressure. Another option is to use the tire load and inflation table given by the manufacturer.
If you have questions about determining the correct tire inflation pressures for your equipment, contact NTS Tire Supply.
3. Start Looking for New Tread at 60–75%
When the job at hand requires hard, continuous pulling, extra slippage from worn out tires drives operating costs up with extra fuel burned, increased wear on the equipment, and loss of productivity. As a general rule, replacement cost and field efficiency meet at around 60% tread. However, replacing your tires at 75% will put you in front of the rapid depreciation curve and bring you the best value for your used tires.
4. Choose the Best Tires for the Job
Having the optimal tread design, tire size, and tire technology can significantly impact the overall performance of your 4WD tractor.
IF/VF Tires Deliver a Larger Footprint
Imagine having the traction of 10 tires on your 8-wheel 4WD tractor. Advancements in radial farm tire technology makes this possible. Below is one example of how very high flex (VF) tires can dramatically increase the total footprint area of a 4WD tractor:
Standard Radial Setup (Firestone Maxi Traction)
- Tire Size: 710/70R42
- Flat Plate: 530 square inches per tire (4,240 square inches total for eight tires)
VF Radial Setup (Firestone Maxi Traction)
- Tire Size: 710/70R42
- Flat Plate: 699 square inches per tire (5,592 square inches total for eight tires)
The increase in total footprint size of the VF tire setup over the standard radial setup is equivalent to adding another 2.5 tires to the tractor.
How is this possible? It comes down to carrying the same weight at a lower inflation pressure. VF tires can carry the same load as a standard radial tire at 40 percent less pressure. Increased flex (IF) tires can carry the same load as a standard radial at 20 percent less inflation pressure.
The advanced tire structure of IF and VF radial tires promote a uniform, rectangular, and larger footprint. This equals better fuel economy and longer wear, thanks to decreased slippage and increased traction.
You may also like: IF/VF Tractor Tires: What Sets Them Apart From Standard Radial Tires?
Choose the Right Tread Design for the Field
23 degree or 45 degree; which is best? Simply put, the 45° tread bar angle has better cleanout properties and better sidehill traction making it the preferred choice for farming on hillsides and in higher moisture soils. The 23° tread bar angle has better traction on firm, dry (or moderately dry) ground.
For more information on the differences between the 45 and 23 degree tread designs, view 23° vs. 45° Lug Angle: A Guide For Choosing The Right Tread Design
5. Central Tire Inflation Systems Provide the Optimum Tire Air Pressure—Always.
Two factors determine optimum tire pressure: speed and weight. Let’s say that 7 psi is the ideal tire pressure for your 4WD as you work over a field. In the field, that may give you the most traction, least compaction, and the best shot at topping the fuel economy of a tugboat. But what happens when you have to transport home for the night? Running down the road with that same 7 psi will likely ruin twenty thousand dollars worth of rubber!
You have to set your tire pressure for specific conditions and implements. The solution for you may be an inflation system. An inflation system can increase tire pressure for road travel and decrease the pressure for fieldwork. According to Precision Inflation, a supplier of central tire inflation systems (CTIS), such a system may:
- Increase yields by up to 6% by decreasing compaction
- Boost fuel efficiency by up to 10%
- Churn out 20% more traction
- Extend tire life by up to 20%
“It's like having more tires underneath me.”
One Precision Inflation customer said that his CTIS system is “like having more tires underneath me.” It doesn’t matter what tire brand your tractor wears, an inflation system can inflate your yields by limiting compaction and bring more efficiency to your field operations.
What Are My Best Options to Get More Traction?
If you’re serious about getting more traction out of your 4WD, doing one (or more) of the above recommendations can make a substantial impact on your traction performance, fuel economy, and overall productivity. All of these options likely cost less than buying a larger tractor. And if you already have the largest tractor on the market, making these simple adjustments (or upgrades) will help you get the most benefit out of your equipment investment.
If you’re interested in learning more, call NTS Tire Supply or drop us a line on our contact page. Every farm is unique, which is why NTS Tire Supply offers a comprehensive range of ag traction solutions for farmers and equipment dealers. And because we know that farming budgets are tight, we house the largest selection of used and takeoff ag tires and wheels in the Upper Midwest.