There's nothing more frustrating than getting a piece of equipment buried up to its axles in mud. Here's how to get it out—safely.
"It won’t budge." Three little words that farmers dread hearing.
There’s possibly nothing more frustrating than knowing that a key piece of equipment is buried up to its axles in mud. And with this year’s wet planting season, that frustration is probably still pretty fresh in farmers’ minds.
However, there’s more to equipment extraction than just hooking and pulling. That’s the message Fred Whitford of Purdue University conveyed to farmers at the 2013 Corn College in Heyworth, Ill.
Listen to Safety Tips from Fred Whitford:
Before you start pulling, first consider your environment. Make sure your actions won’t be upsetting nearby waterways, for instance. If there are spray tanks or other components that might leak if you move them, take preventive measures to keep everything contained.
"Getting chemicals in the water is not taken very kindly," Whitford said.
Next, consider these "four zones of extraction."
The Tow Zone
Consider the power of your towing unit versus the weight of the stuck equipment. Is the towing unit capable of pulling the equipment? "It takes bulk to move hulk," Whitford said. "It’s surprising how much force it takes to un-stick stuff."
Also, see if you can get your towing vehicle on higher ground than the item that is stuck, Whitford said.
The Stuck Zone
Give the stuck equipment a good once-over, Whitford advised. How heavy is the equipment? How deep is it buried? Mud can create its own suction, making it difficult to extract equipment. If the item is really entrenched, you might want to take the time to dig out around the tires to break the suction.
The Danger Zone
"The danger zone is the part we know little about," Whitford said, citing the common mistakes people make when extracting equipment, such as standing too close to the vehicles or using towing devices that aren’t strong enough.
Be sure to check the pulling grade of your chain. When you don’t know the ratings of your chains and hooks, you’re dealing with "an unknown in the laws of pressure," Whitford said. Also, inspect the chain to make sure it is in good condition. When chains get stretched, they become weaker.
For safety’s sake, never jerk chains or cables, Whitford said. Clevises, hooks, hitches and chains can become deadly during failed extraction attempts. When these devices snap under pressure, they can whip through a truck windshield or human flesh in the blink of an eye.
"Chunks of metal, folks. When they come flying loose, they’re like missiles," Whitford said.
Don’t use towing ropes or straps for pulling stuck equipment. While these tools might be strong enough to pull a piece of equipment down a road, they can’t handle the torque required to extract heavy equipment from muddy conditions, Whitford said.
"Towing is pulling," Whitford said. "You don’t have to be very strong to do that."
- October 2013