Woodhaven Place

Your Neighborhood Farm

Tag: Tractor

Quick lawn tractor trailer hitch ball

How many times has the utility trailer been in the wrong place and I don’t want to take the truck out back? Maybe I want to haul a little something from one side of the yard to the other, but it is a bit much for my little dump trailer?  I want to move the boat on flat ground maneuvering it sharper Problemthan the truck can turn.  I’m getting tired of carrying the 100# or so tongue weight (not to mention I’m not getting any younger).  How many scenarios are there where I need a trailer hitch ball on my lawn tractor to make life easier, but I don’t have one?  All mine are 2 inch with ¾ inch bolt.

I have two old Cub Cadets which have plenty of power and will hold my weight plus a couple hundred pounds without a problem, but, they both have a 5/8 inch hole for a hitch.  I called my local supply/hardware store and all their balls have at least a  ¾ inch bolt.  Looking online, I see Tractor Supply has SKU #18990199 which is a 1-7/8 inch ball with a 5/8 inch shaft for $9.99 and Lowes has a similar Item #: 80454 for $7.98.  Since Lowes is 2 gallons of gas (round trip) farther than Tractor Supply, I head out for the $9.99 model.

Not that I lack the ability to properly plan, but, I think spontaneity is just more fun, don’t you? (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it)  Did I bother to call ahead to see if it was in stock? Of course not.  Did I prepare to get this trailer interface device before I actually wanted to use it, so they could order one? Same answer.  Now, here I stand in the middle of this magical store full of all kind of wonderful things, but not the one item I wanted.  What happens? Rule number one kicks in: “never buy what I can build.”  I start thinking I can cut the bolt off, drill and tap a 5/8 inch a hole???  Cut off the bolt and weld a 5/8 inch bolt on???  I could buy a ¾ inch drill (with a tapered shaft, which costs more than the ball and gas to Lowes), stress both me and my cordless in an effort to open the hole, which removes the hole’s flare, permanently weakening the hitch.  I could machine the shaft small enough to fit the hole and re-thread the new shaft.  Brain running out of control, stop, think.  What I need  to start, is a bolt that will fit the hole in the Cub, so I go to my favorite isle, bulk hardware.

If you look at your used trailer hitch ball, it is usually rusty except in a couple spots.  I deduce that no matter how round the ball, it only contacts the hitch in a couple places, and that’s after miles and miles of hard use.  I don’t need 2000 pounds of strength, just to maneuver a trailer a few feet, or to cross the yard a couple times, so maybe I can weld that good.  (I’m not going to take this on the road, in traffic or even attach it to a vehicle, if you are, please stop reading, this is not safe enough to take off the grass, or driveway).

I need a 5/8 bolt and nut.  Next I want a washer for the nut side.  Lookie here.  Lots of washers, and lots of sizes.  There are 2-inch washers with a 1-inch hole and my trailers all have 2-inch hitches.  If I put a couple of them in the middle, then a couple smaller ones . . . To get even smaller ones, I switch to a ½ inch bolt, then a couple smaller ones. I hand tighten a nut and even the big washers with the big hole don’t slide.  I take off my glasses; it looks almost like a trailer hitch ball.  Hey, this could work!

Side by sideassembledI take less than $2 in hardware home figuring I can always order a real ball online, or go to Lowes later if this doesn’t work.  I slip this almost-a-ball into the trailer and to my amazement, it latches.  It feels pretty good and the nut is only finger tight.  Now, I’m getting excited, thinking this really could work!  Are all trailers this rusty? Maybe a little PM is in order, but Locked in placethat will have to wait.  I analyze where the hitch captures the washer-ball and determine I don’t think the hitch can get off then pseudo-ball accidentally.  (at .3 MPH, I don’t expect much bouncing anyway)

Now for the tractor connection.  Looks unusual, but once I put a wrench on the thing; I don’t think any washers should shift, at least not enough to matter, considering how it is gripped by the trailer.In placeNow for the test.  Hook up the utility trailer and finally get it as close to that tree as I want it.  OUTSTANDING! Maneuverability behind such a short wheel-based tractor is amazing.  Now I see how truckers turn and twist semi-trailers into those places some people couldn’t drive a car.  Not that I’m that good, but I see a new level of maneuverability never realized backing up boats, campers, and utility trailers.

OK, it is time to spread some truth here; I parked and leveled the camper in a place which does not permit me to pull the boat out of the garage because the truck is too big.  Remember that old “two objects in one space at one time” thing?  It seems real enough at this point. The mother of this project (Necessity is the mother of invention) was to pull the boat out of the garage, missing the camper.  The testing is over.  The terrain is pretty flat.  Here we go.

Working

Hot dog, it fits.  Good thing too, because I tried backing up just to see if I could, slightly up hill, and no dice.  As expected a 2000 pound boat balanced on a tandem trailer may have proper tongue weight on the taller truck, but at this height, only about 100# of tongue weight didn’t afford me enough traction to go up hill in gravel.  Luckily I had enough grip to tow and brake, but that is all I needed in the first place.  If I couldn’t make the corner like this I would have and to park it, move the camper, and use the truck to get it out.

Since the commercial solution of driving to Lowes to get a real Garden Tractor Trailer Hitch ball is so reasonable, maybe this project is a little tongue in cheek, but it did uphold rule number one: never buy what I can build.  However, I cannot over emphasize this solution should never be used where safety could be in question.  I had assistants standing by with wheel chocks in case I got it started downhill and couldn’t stop it.  My lawn tractors are of senior vintage which is important for a couple of reasons.  They were built strong back then and, although I’d hate to lose one because I overstressed it, that would not be like losing my only, or more costly lawn mower (not to mention boat or camper).  I would not haul anything which I could not lift the tongue.  The 650-pound camper tongue weight will not be attempted on these little guys.  As usual, understand your tools, machines, and their abilities.  Always staying within their, and your, safe limitations.

SHH

Got a tractor? Stick a fork in it.

Turn My Tractor Bucket Into A Forklift

After obtaining a tractor with a front end loader to move mulch, gravel, and such, we realized it didn’t move things that don’t scoop well.  Wouldn’t it be cool to use the tractor‘s loader bucket to move non-loose-stuff, like things on pallets, logs, etc.?  Could we repurpose it into a fork-lift?  A little Web work found Sears has Item #SPM8069033429 Model # 145200 for a couple hundred dollars.  Looks like a good solution, but two things concerned me.  First, I don’t buy what I can build, and second, although I’m no engineer, I didn’t like the localized stress on the bucket, at least my bucket.Forks 1

The Sears solution says it is good for 4000 pounds, but my compact tractor can’t approach that, nor does my need.  I move a few hundred pounds of logs or a pallet occasionally.  I want it to snap on and off easily.  I also don’t want it to stress my aged compact tractor.  As mentioned, I wondered, can I make this myself?  A trip to Lowes found rigid conduit lots more expensive than galvanized “water” pipe, so I chose a ten ft. length of 1.25 inch galvanized water pipe for $24.  I had about seven ft of 1 inch galvanized pipe lying around, for miscellaneous braces, and went to measuring.

As a young welder, I remember saying I can weld across anything I can step across and weld anything but the crack of dawn, but, it really is easier to weld pieces that fit as well as practical, especially pipe where it is very easy to burn the edge away, leaving you a hole to plug.  These pictures from our “Chain Link Gate” project show that just a little hammer work makes the job easier.  1) The butt joint between a straight cut and a round pipe creates the “crack of dawn” scenario. You could use your angle grinder to cut a concaved end to the pipe, but I find this trickier than it sounds.  2) What works well for me is to slightly flatten the end of the pipe which is to welded to the round edge 3) almost closing the “crack of dawn” before striking an arc.

Pipe

So, what is our goal?  Looking at the diagram, where blue represents the shape of the bucket, we want the red fork assembly to snap into place.  The key is to have pipe ONE forward of pipe TWO, so downward pressure from the top lip of the bucket places down-force on the forks ahead of the back “pivot point.”  That way, if you bump the tips of the fork downward or drag the forks (within reason), the fork assembly doesn’t just pull out of the bucket.  Pipe TWO and pipe THREE hold a rectangle rigid so the forks are always straight and at the wanted distance apart, 27 inches is perfect for me.Forks copyPipe ONE and pipe THREE distribute their loads so as not to stress pressure points on the bucket.  Pipe ONE spans nearly the full width of the bucket, not only to hold the forks in the middle of the bucket but because the “sheet metal” bucket is not as stiff as the digging edge.  Pipe THREE rides directly on the digging edge since it is reinforced and is the stiffest part of the bucket.

With an angle grinder, welder and about $35 in pipe, I ended up with this.  The first reported use was described as “Works like a charm.”Forks 2

In useCAUTION, PLEASE READ AND HEED:  Be careful not to overload either the pipe or the bucket.  I saw over 200 pounds standing on the end of these forks that extend 3 ft. out of the bucket.  I figure by that, it will handle 300 pounds or more properly distributed over the forks.  If this pipe isn’t strong enough, a 1 inch galvanized pipe slides inside the 1.25-inch pipe to add strength.  Also, I recommend adding a couple vertical pipes for “roll-back protection” and to control tipping the load back onto you and the tractor if you lift such things.  You may also find the hydraulics on a front end loader type bucket far touchier than a real forklift, so please learn the machine and its limitations before placing it under a load.

-SHH-

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