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How Ballast Works

Discussion in 'Residential Snow Removal' started by Shortstuff, Oct 4, 2009.

  1. Shortstuff

    Shortstuff Member
    Messages: 94

    A lot has been posted and said and there have been disagreements with respect to exactly how ballast works in a plow truck. This will be my first year plowing, but after reading so many comments, below is what I believe to be correct.

    Someone please comment and tell me if I am right or wrong.

    Please excuse my crude artwork.



  2. cretebaby

    cretebaby PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 4,162

    That is absolutely perfect.:nod::waving: This should be made a sticky.
  3. KJ Cramer

    KJ Cramer Senior Member
    Messages: 481

    Right on! Nice picture too.
  4. smoorman

    smoorman Sponsor
    Messages: 447

    You're exactly right. The way that SnowDogg calculates ballast (and the way our competitors do) uses the following "rules". The math is not overly complicated, but you're dealing with the following.

    1. A plow weighing Wplow, at Lplow in front of the front axle.
    2. 400lbs of weight in the passenger compartment, Lpa behind the front axle
    3. Wf on the front axle (front curb weight)
    4. Wr on the rear axle (rear curb weight) at Lr (wheel base) behind the front axle
    5. Wb of ballast located Lb behind the front axle (usually wheel base + a set amount

    Anyway, it's all just a big seesaw (around the center of gravity of the truck). But it comes down this.

    Add ballast weight until the following is true

    1. The FAWR is not exceeded
    2. The center of gravity of the vehicle is at least 35% behind the front axle (for braking)
    3. The RAWR is not exceeded (and of cource the GVWR)

    This is why a truck with duallys can carry just about any plow. The front ends aren't usually different (between a 3/4T and 1T truck) it's that fact that you can load the rear full of ballast. This is also why SUV's can sometimes carry plows better than mini trucks (the center of gravity is already close to 50% back).

    Technically, you should get your vehicle weighed (front and rear curb weights). Ensuring that you comply with your axle ratings (and braking ability) is fully the responsibility of the end user.

    Maybe more info than anyone wanted - but we don't make these numbers up (although it might seem like it sometimes).

    Scott Moorman
    Director of Engineering
  5. piggle

    piggle Junior Member
    from Ma
    Messages: 6

    Great images.

    I would add that leverage is not in your favor here. You have to add a lot more weight up against your tailgate than you will relieve from your front axle. The lever arms are totally out of proportion.

    The "lead filled bumper" may be the most effective choice since you may get another foot of lever arm out of it. This may be a little more difficult to accomplish than simply adding weight up against your tailgate.
  6. mcwlandscaping

    mcwlandscaping 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,557

    Definitely should be made sticky here and in the commercial section. Ballast is a safety thing, not just for looks of a leveled out truck. It effects and improves braking and steering functions that are already compromised due to weather conditions. People take note and add ballast!!!!
  7. cretebaby

    cretebaby PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 4,162

    Lets just not confuse ballast with counterweight. ;)
  8. JR Snow Removal

    JR Snow Removal Senior Member
    Messages: 390

    what do you guys use for a ballast im guess salt would be a good one? never done this but going to this year
  9. 2COR517

    2COR517 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,115

    Salt, sand, concrete blocks, iron plates. Something dense and easy to put in and take out.

    I thought I remembered someone suggesting Dodge Cummings.
  10. stroker79

    stroker79 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,802


    Those images are awesome! Was that done with keynote? or omnigraffle? They are simple but look awesome.

    As for ballast I just go to home depot with $30 and buy as much tube sand as I can load it in the bed over and aft of the rear axle. Its normally about 1000 pounds which is a lot but it helps the 2wd traction.

    Also, Wouldnt putting all the weight aft of the rear axle also make a pendulum of sorts when going around a turn? Basically making it easier to swing the back end arund or even make it unpredictable?
  11. smoorman

    smoorman Sponsor
    Messages: 447

    The industry term used for the weight in the bed of a truck (as far back as possible) is ballast. There is no meaningful distinction between counterweight and ballast.

    Piggle is dead right. Physics wise, the ballast hanging off your rear bumper is ideal. Strokers point is valid though, a little discretion is wise. In the end, you need both of your axles loaded (at least 35% on the front) to ensure normal handling and braking.
  12. cretebaby

    cretebaby PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 4,162

    Sure there is.

    Is it possible to have less than 35% on the front without overloading the back axle?
  13. smoorman

    smoorman Sponsor
    Messages: 447

    You're right - I mispoke. You want AT LEAST 35% of the total curb weight on the REAR axle. The "allowable center of gravity" is actually a parallelogram - GM provides this on their upfitters information (its not specific to plows). The 35% is a simplification.

    Western/Fisher/Boss/Meyer/Blizzard/SnowDogg/Snoway call it "ballast". Thus, it is ballast.
  14. dlstelma

    dlstelma Member
    from GR, MI
    Messages: 81

    Putting all the weight at the ends of the truck results in alot of pressure in the center of the frame where the bed and cab meet. Coming to an abrupt stop from plowing will add more pressure and cause buckling. I'd spread it out on both sides of the rear axle.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2009
  15. 2COR517

    2COR517 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,115

    Going to agree with Cretebaby from a technical perspective. However I (and probably most) would agree that when we say "ballast" we really mean counterweight. Kinda like Band-Aids, Skilsaws, and Sawzalls.

    -- From M-W.com --
    Main Entry: 1bal·last
    Pronunciation: \ˈba-ləst\
    Function: noun
    1 : a heavy substance placed in such a way as to improve stability and control (as of the draft of a ship or the buoyancy of a balloon or submarine)

    Counterweight takes you to counterbalance
    Pronunciation: \ˈkau̇n-tər-ˌba-lən(t)s, ˌkau̇n-tər-ˈ\
    Function: noun
    1 : a weight that balances another
  16. ultimate plow

    ultimate plow PlowSite.com Addict
    from N. IL
    Messages: 1,770

    So is this going to be in the book "snowplowing for dummies"?:laughing:
  17. 2COR517

    2COR517 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,115

    Nobody would read that book!
  18. ultimate plow

    ultimate plow PlowSite.com Addict
    from N. IL
    Messages: 1,770

    A guy that likes yellow paint might.
  19. badabing1512

    badabing1512 Senior Member
    Messages: 370

    or a guy with a 6.0L powerstroke :laughing:
  20. stroker79

    stroker79 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,802

    itd be written for plow guys with chevys, LOL