The Importance of Having Wheelie Bars on a Pulling Tractor

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If a pulling tractor is going to run a 13" hitch height with 26x12.00-12 tires, it must have wheelie bars properly installed, even if a club or pull site doesn't require them. Because a pulling tractor can flip back so quickly, without warning. For safety sake, it's best to have wheelie bars installed for pulling regardless of the hitch height or tire size. Wheelie bars are sometimes referred to as a "no-tip device."

The pads or wheels for the ground contact needs to be of adequate size too, to prevent from sinking into soft earth. The pads need to be a minimum of 3" square x 1/8" thickness and wheels need to be a minimum of 4" diameter x 1" wide. Most pullers prefer to use wheels on the wheelie bars. They allow the tractor to gain an inch or two because they "roll." The pads on the other hand scrape on the ground and doesn't allow the tractor to get much further. And it's a good idea for stock tractors to run a 10" hitch height anyway to prevent breaking a stock rear end.

For best stability of the tractor when the front end raises upward, most club's rules state that the bottom of the wheelie bar wheels or skid plates are supposed to a maximum of 5" from the ground. And the rear of the wheelie bar wheels or skid plates are supposed to be a minimum of 5" from the tread of the rear tires. Scroll down to see drawing for a better explanation.

For safety reasons, make your wheelie bar bracket material rigid and not spring-loaded. They must be made of heavy wall (minimum 1/8" thickness) tubing and reinforced for strength. Also, bolt on the wheelie bar brackets and don't weld them to the frame. So they can be adjusted if necessary. See the pictures below for what typical wheelie bar brackets look like:


NOTE: The wheelie bar brackets shown above were fabricated by the individual who owns each tractor.

IMPORTANT! And be aware when using flat aluminum wheelie bar braces. If the tractor were to stop suddenly on the track, and the sled bumps the rear of the tractor, the braces may bend to the side from the impact. And straightening them so they'll look original again is almost impossible. Therefore, we think it's better to use 1-1/2" x 1-1/2" x 1/8" wall square tubing as wheelie bars. When the sled bumps wheelie bars made of heavy wall square tubing, the whole rear of the tractor will move sideways slightly, and the wheelie bars won't suffer any damage.


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How to set the wheelie bars for proper height so the front end won't be too high or too low when the front tires comes off the ground:

  1. Install the front and rear tires that you're going to use at the pulls on the tractor.
  2. Raise the front of the tractor (using a hoist or ramps) until the bottom of the front tires are about 16" off the ground.
  3. Set the wheelie bars w/wheels or skid pads on the ground.
  4. Mark and drill holes in the frame or transaxle to fasten the wheelie bar brackets.
  5. Use 3/8" diameter grade 8 bolts to fasten the wheelie bars!


Rear Safety BumperIMPORTANT! About Rear Safety Bumpers -

When a high speed garden tractor gets going down the track really good, and all of a sudden it's engine stalls and the tractor comes to a complete stop, what's going to happen? Chances are the sled will bump the rear of the tractor. Most sled operators can't put the brakes on in time or react fast enough because this can happen so quickly. Therefore, it's a good idea to install a couple of heavy-duty rear "bumpers" mounted on or incorporated into the wheelie bar brackets located a minimum of 6" above the wheels or pads. (Most club's rules and regulations will or should specify the location.) These bumpers will keep the sled from possibly getting up on top of the rear tires, causing damage to the tractor and/or injury to the driver. And the bumpers will prevent the pull chain from getting "wrapped" around one of the rear tires should the tractor go sideways to the extreme.


IMPORTANT! Safety of Pulling -

All tractor pullers, despite their age, needs to be educated on safety requirements and proper operation of a pulling tractor. Because many of them, when the tractor they're sitting on is hooked to the sled, will rev it up and give it all it's got, and they'll do whatever it takes to win. Some even get injured by doing so. They think it's a "no-holds-barred" contest.

We've seen a few garden tractor pullers would start to pull the sled (not our sled), when all of a sudden it would flip backwards and sometimes the puller would hit the back of their head on the front of the skid pan dirt shield because no wheelie bars were installed. They weren't seriously injured though. But it's scary to actually witness something like that! It's not a funny thing and certainly not part of the show!

We were at a pull several years ago when an inexperienced person (adult) on a stock garden tractor caught on fire while pulling the sled [not our sled] down the track when all of a sudden the front of his tractor reared up and stood on end. What caused this is the tractor had 26-12.00x12 lug tires, about a 16" hitch height and no wheelie bars. It also had a loose-fitting gas cap, a full tank of gas, which was positioned above the engine, and the battery, which was positioned between the gas tank and steering column, wasn't fastened down. When the tractor stood on end, the gas cap fell off, spilling gas onto the battery and onto the driver. Then the battery tipped back, shorting out the posts against the metal steering column support, igniting the fuel. It was a horrible sight! The flames were extinguished and the puller had to be air-lifted to the nearest hospital with a burn unit. He recovered from his injuries, but to this day he has scars on his chest and groin area to remind him of that horrible day at a tractor pull when he was just trying to have some fun with his friends. Not to mention the mental scars it left, too.

An official of that particular pull should have inspected that tractor and all the other tractors for safety, and not allow the puller to participate if the tractor wasn't legal or if an adjustment wasn't made.

Tell your friends and family about this story. And tell them to install sturdy wheelie bars, whether if they feel they need them or not, or if the rules require them or not. Remember - friends don't let friends pull without wheelie bars (and other safety equipment). And parents - NEVER allow your kid(s) to participate in a pulling event without wheelie bars (and of course, other safety equipment) properly installed and maintained.

IMPORTANT! We've been to a lot of garden tractor pulls over the years and noticed that some tractors leak fuel in places where a fuel leak shouldn't be. Therefore, we think that safety inspections needs to include checking the fuel lines for dry-rotting, cracks, fuel leaks, loose fittings, etc. (The tractors should have sturdy wheelie bars, too.) The inspectors needs to grab hold of the fuel line(s) with their hand and wiggle it around and slightly jerk on it to check for durability. This is important. Especially in a kid's class. Don't wait until an issue becomes a problem, and then turn into a catastrophe. If pullers would build their tractors right to begin with and maintain them properly, there wouldn't be any injuries, fires, or fear of a fire.


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