Changing big sprayer tires can be a dangerous chore

FARGO, N.D. — Swapping high clearance sprayer tires is an event that occurs a couple times a year on most farms, and it’s potentially fatal each time.

Most farming operations have long since switched to a dedicated sprayer jack instead of assembling an unstable pile of timbers when lifting a tractor or sprayer.

As well, tractors go several years before a rim has to come off, but sprayer tires are changed with the season.

The haunting number of crippling and fatal tire accidents prompted three Dakota manufacturers to develop tire grabbers that reduce the risk of changing heavy agricultural tires. The grabbers can be fitted to machines ranging from small skid steer loaders to larger MFWD tractors, pay loaders and telehandlers.

There are a number of other tire grabbers on the market, but these three were displayed at the recent Big Iron Farm Show in Fargo.

The Tire Jogger was developed by Greg Grengs, who farms 4,000 acres in northern North Dakota. He said designing and fabricating the Tire Jogger just seemed like a natural thing to do.

“We change our sprayer tires back and forth between wide and narrow two or three times every year,” he said.

They use wide tires in the spring, then narrow tires for in-crop pesticide spraying and then wide tires again.

“The tires are just getting so big and heavy and clumsy that they’re getting dangerous,” he said.

“In previous years, the hired hands and I would change tires manually with the fork on the skid steer, trying to balance the tire, then rotate it so the holes line up. We had a couple close calls with tires and I decided that was enough.

“We wanted something that grabs the tire hydraulically, using the skid steer so it was manoeuvrable and controllable and so we could line up the lug nuts. But we didn’t want it to grab underneath the tire because that would interfere with the jack. And we didn’t want to grab over the tire because then the boom and fenders would be in the way.”

Grengs said the jaws with smooth teeth turned out to be the best design. He can grab a tire that’s laying flat on the ground, squeeze it, pick it up, invert it, centre it and line up the lug nuts.

The Tire Jogger can lift up to 2,000 pounds.A pressure gauge is visible so that the operator can tell how hard he’s squeezing the tire.

Grengs said he has done numerous tests, bouncing and banging the tire around, and has not hurt a tire or had one pop out of the jaws. He can exert enough pressure to give the tire a bubble, he added.

This is the second year Grengs has been building the machine, and he has already sold more than 100 of them.

He said he is building only for the skid steer market, mainly because they are more manoeuvrable, give the operator better visibility and are hydrostatic drive. They have plates for the New Holland bi-directionals, which is also hydrostatic.

“I would not recommend putting it on a front-wheel loader or any unit with a clutch and with poor visibility,” he said. “Your foot on the clutch can get to be pretty jumpy.”

The basic unit, which has a hand crank to rotate the wheel into position, sells for US$4,400. Tire Jogger with an electric actuator sells for $5,000.

The Tire Wrangler is the product of retired farmer Bruce Pigeon in Garrison, N.D., who started building the Agra Jack for high clearance sprayers five years ago.

In dealing with customers, he saw there was a growing demand for a safer way to handle heavy tires, especially sprayer tires that are swapped so often.

“All tire handlers work basically the same way. We grab a tire from both sides and squeeze,” said Pigeon, who has a mechanical background including engineering work on sprint cars.

“The Tire Wrangler is my concept of how it should be done. I think we should have two arms on each side, spaced about a foot apart, to better stabilize the tire, instead of just one arm on each side. This gives you four gripping points with the outer circumference, or the bulge, held tightly between the two arms on each side. It also means you don’t need as much pressure to hold the tire.

“And I personally don’t like the idea of using teeth to grab a rubber lugged tire because of the risk you might damage the lugs.”

Pigeon said the Wrangler comes standard with a 12-volt motor with a chain reduction drive for rotating the tire 45 degrees each way to line up lug holes.

Easy rotation also let the operator gain a better gripping position on the tire if fenders are in the way, he added.

Although he doesn’t have the official weight rating yet, he figures it will easily lift about 2,500 pounds.

Pigeon has been building his patented Tire Wrangler for two years, selling about 50 units in that time, for a list price of $3,995.

He said that number of Wranglers is just about right for him. He continues to build the Agra Jack and a number of other tools.

“I’m just a one-man shop now, with a couple part time helpers,” he said.

“I had 25 employees at one time. I don’t ever want that headache again.”

The Sur-Squeeze is a new product from MDS Manufacturing in Parkston, South Dakota. With a lifting capacity of 4,400 lb., the Sur-Squeeze has a considerably higher weight rating than the Tire Jogger or Tire Wrangler.

With a working weight of 954 lb., it is also 200 lb. heavier than other tire machines.

MDS said it has Sur-Squeeze mounting kits for more than 90 different loaders built since 1960.

The Sur-Squeeze lists for $4,850 without a mounting kit. Most mounting kits cost about $1,000.

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