For those of you who have worked with a BCS walk-behind tractor, you have learned that the heavier your implement is, the harder it is to turn the machine around at the end of a bed. The Power Harrow, for example, is an extremely heavy implement. In order to turn the tractor at the end of the bed, the operator will typically disengage the PTO for safety, lower the handles for leverage, and then lift and rock the tractor forward so the implement isn’t dragging on the ground while turning it.
The Bumper Weight Kit
In order to reduce the wear and tear on the farmer’s back and shoulders, BCS came out with a Bumper Weight Kit that can be installed on the front of the tractor to counterbalance it. This can help a LOT to minimize the effort needed to rock the tractor forward when turning it. However, the BCS Bumper Weight Kit only comes with a mounting bracket that accommodates two weight plates, for a total of 28 pounds when installed. The kit currently costs $185. While it does help to counterbalance the tractor, it would be nice to have the option of adding even more weight if needed.
Why More Weight Is Needed
Why would you want to add more weight to the front end of your BCS? In my context at Winding Road Farms, the soil was an extremely fluffy, sandy loam. After creating my raised beds with the Rotary Plow, I then attempted to shape and prepare them with a shallow 2” till, using the Precision Depth Roller (“PDR”) mounted to the back of my Tiller.
I also invested in the Adjustable Axle Extensions from Earth Tools Inc. This allowed me to extend the wheels of my BCS tractor out to straddle the 30” bed, rather than rolling over the top of it, which is the most common practice. I knew with such light and fluffy soil that the weight of the machine would be an issue when it came to compaction. With the wheels extended out, it created a span of 34” in between the wheels allowing them to roll in the pathways along either side of the 30” bed.
When first experimenting with my new machinery, I quickly learned that even with the weight of the tractor rolling through my pathways instead of on my beds, the weight of the Tiller (with the PDR) was pushing the soil forward like a bulldozer! I had to stop and think of a solution. This system was clearly not working in my context.
First Attempted Solution
After emailing the vendor I purchased my tractor and implements from (Earth Tools) we established that adding a counterweight to the front would be the best place to start for troubleshooting my issue. Not wanting to spend another $185 plus shipping, and wait for shipping time, I looked up a DIY option for adding a counterweight to the front of my BCS. A simple J-bolt mounted to the frame with two 25-pound Olympic weight plates from our local sporting goods store would do the trick. I ended up adding a small piece of wood with an additional U bolt for added support.
After installing the two weight plates, I headed back out to the field with high hopes. Much to my dismay, the issue still was not resolved! The soil was still being pushed forward and squeezed out the sides. I did notice that when I lifted up on the handles that the “bulldozing” effect was lessened. I realized I needed to add even more weight to the front.
Second Attempted Solution
The only issue with adding more weight plates was that the J-bolt was not long enough to accommodate any more weight plates, and likely not strong enough to hold more weight plates–even if it was longer.
After examining the frame for a while, I had an idea. There were two holes in the frame that could be used with bolts for mounting a rod of some kind. I remembered I had a remnant piece of wooden closet rod, which was the perfect width for the center hole in the weight plates.
Here is what I came up with. It actually worked way better than the little J-bolt!
With my DIY closet rod mounting post and FOUR 25-pound weight plates, it finally worked PERFECTLY! The soil was no longer being pushed forward by the weight of the tiller and the PDR! It felt a little ridiculous with so much weight on the front, but for my specific context, it did what I needed it to. It was creating beautifully shaped 30” beds with a shallow 2” till. Turning the tractor at the end of the beds was also a breeze.
As the beds got established, I was able to get away with just three of the 25-pound weight plates when flipping beds. The convenient mounting post made it easy to add or take away plates based on the current condition of the soil structure.
Lightweight Car Jack
When using the Adjustable Axle Extensions (which I’d highly recommend), having a lightweight car jack is extremely helpful. Place it under the center of the tractor and jack it up to where the wheels are just about an inch off the ground. Rock it to one side so one wheel is touching while the other spins free. You can then open the D-clamp and slide the wheel in or out to the desired position.
When I would use my Rotary Plow or Utility Trailer, I would bring the wheels into their closest position. Then when flipping beds and using my Tiller with the PDR, I would extend them out to straddle the beds.
A full-size car jack is definitely overkill for a BCS walk-behind tractor. It is also quite heavy, which means it will need to stay in your shop or barn. A benefit to the lightweight car jack is that you can take it out into the field with you if you need to adjust your axles on the fly. If you plan on doing that, mounting the jack to a small piece of plywood is a good idea so it doesn’t sink into the soil under the weight of the BCS.
If you own a BCS or are considering purchasing one for your farm, hopefully, this article has provided some good takeaways! I realize my off-the-chart fluffy soil conditions were pretty specific to my context and required some extreme measures to get my machinery to do what I needed it to.
Though you may not have the same situation on your farm, my hope is that some of the principles and troubleshooting processes can spark ideas for how to address issues on your own farm!
Rarely do things ever go exactly to plan on a farm, but I believe finding creative solutions to the inevitable problems that arise is one of the things that keeps it so interesting.
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