Tractor Wheel Spacers vs Engineered Axles overview
When it comes to modifying your tractor for CTF you have the choice of two common methods:
1. A simple "cotton reel" wheel-spacer or hub adapter that brings your track out to the desired width. They are fairly cheap to buy and easy to fit and remove. They will work with beam and independent suspension axles.
2. An engineered fabrication job on the axle that takes longer, costs more and is permanent on beam axles. Independent type axles and older "3 piece" John Deere axles can use a bolt-in kit that requires only minor modifications and is completely reversible.
It seems fairly straightforward - why would anyone spend extra money on an axle if they can simply use cotton reel spacers? The simple answer is: Wheel spacers weaken your hubs leading to increased maintenance costs and higher risk of failure. Farmers should know they are taking a gamble on the strength, handling and reliability of their machine. It costs more to rebuild a damaged hub than it does to fit an engineered axle from C&C.
Wheel spacers can be an excellent way to trial CTF but are not recommended as a long-term solution. Anyone telling you otherwise is not giving you all the facts. We have manufactured tractor wheel spacers for more than 20 years and found they cause problems:
- Steering and suspension problems: When you space the wheel out from the hub, instead of the wheel pivoting on its vertical axis it now turns around an arc of up to 550mm radius which leads to more 'bump steer'. Apart from making the tractor less comfortable, you can damage steering components if you hit a pothole. This can also mess with GPS steering, causing over-correction and loss of fine control - a problem when you are trying to keep neat tramlines.
- Leaking seals: Wheel spacers increase the stress on the front axle and steering components due to leverage. This has been known to drastically reduce service life and has caused catastrophic failures requiring replacement of the front axle assembly. The cost of a C&C engineered axle extension is roughly equal to the cost of replacing the damaged planetary... on one side. If you are using spacers and you notice leaking seals, stop driving and contact us immediately before you do serious damage.
- Risk: The initial savings from using wheel spacers can be quickly eaten up by repair costs and downtime. It is not unusual for farmers to try spacers for a season or two and then spend the extra money getting an engineered axle (often after getting fed-up with problems). We have seen service life reduced to hundreds of hours or less in some cases. This is not only costly, but dangerous - a collapsed axle is not something to take lightly.
- Maintenance cost: Long term CTF farmers usually realize it is costing them more to run wheel spacers because of the maintenance issues. Our engineered axles might be more expensive initially but pay themselves off by saving your equipment.
Long-term testing of C&C's engineered axles has shown no adverse effect on reliability or usability
How much did your tractor cost new?
It's a substantial investment and worth more when you consider potentially lost production due to downtime. Because of the risks associated with cotton reel spacers, C&C Machining and Engineering have developed better solutions for axle extensions that suit your individual circumstances and protect your investment.
A properly engineered axle extension will not suffer from increased stress on bearings, planetary hubs or steering components and won't affect factory warranty on the rest of the tractor. This allows the safe fitting of front-mount implements such as loaders, air seeders and spray tanks.
C&C warrants all of the work it does and these details can be found here.
Pros and Cons
Tractor Wheel Spacers
|Inexpensive||Reduces service life of steering components|
|Easy to adapt to 3m||Reduces service life of king pin assemblies|
|Quick to return to original||Reduces service life of hub bearings and planetary gears|
|Not suitable for carrying front mounted implements|
|Carrying front-mounted weights shortens life of front axle assembly|
|Wheel now turns through arc which can create bump-steer|
|Upsets suspension geometry on I.L.S. tractors|
|Can upset GPS system tracking|
Engineered Axle Extension
|Maintains original geometry so no extra load on front axle or steering components||More expensive than spacers|
|Front axle carrying capacity only slightly reduced||Tractor is out of action for longer while converting (2 days for kits, 2-4 weeks plus dealer fitment for beam axles)|
|Readily adapted for GPS steering||Difficult to convert tractor to original format on beam axles|