Tips for getting your machinery out of a sticky situation


The last place you want to be is wheel-deep in your farm’s soil after a heavy rain. This year’s wet conditions in many parts of the country make getting stuck in the mud a significant hazard for farmers. The best course of action is avoiding the trouble areas all together. If you have that corner of your field that doesn’t drain well after a rain, don’t go there. It’s as simple as that. However, if you do find yourself getting stuck without a viable exit plan, here are some ways to remedy the sticky situation.

Most of all, take a step back to think about what you’re doing — knee-jerk reactions are what get people hurt.

TractorStuck1-Jess Johnson

Take it slow. This might seem obvious, but it’s surprisingly easy to spin your wheels in frustration. Z Egloff said on his blog, “It wasn’t just my mind that needed to slow down, it was the tractor. In my head, I saw a picture of the tractor wheel, moving v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. Without thinking, I put the tractor in first gear. I put my foot on the clutch and pulled back v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, allowing the tractor wheels to do the same.” All of a sudden, the big fat tires dug in, and Egloff was able to lurch the machine from its muddy prison.

Find the right towing device. The University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Extension recommends that if you have to tow your way out, picking the right device is crucial. (And please don’t choose the first rope or chain within arm’s reach.) Understand that what you’re moving is essentially dead weight and will be much more difficult to tow out of deep mud than it would be along the road. Extension safety specialist Cheryl Skjolaas notes, “If this device or a part of the device, such as a hook, breaks, the towing device suddenly becomes a dangerous projectile. While a one-inch nylon rope has a stronger breaking strength than a cable or chain, when a nylon rope breaks it snaps back to its point of attachment. Steel cables upon reaching a breaking point will rebound in an unpredictable manner and wrap around any object in its path.” So what do you need? A long towing chain designed to support the towed load, Skjolaas said, and it’s always best to tow in a straight line.

Understand your zones. Fred Whitford with Purdue University analyzes a vehicle recovery by zones: The stuck zone, which is the area directly around the vehicle where you need to assess weight and resistance of the recovery; the tow zone, which focuses on the weight, positioning, and capabilities of your rescue vehicle; the danger zone, which considers the threat to bystanders and of breakage of towing materials and other equipment; and the clear zone, which is the roughly 100-foot radius where nonessential personnel to the extraction process should be positioned.

Those things you don’t think about. In light of the big picture of a vehicle recovery, it’s easy to lose sight of the small things, such as keeping the tailpipe uncovered, digging around the tires if possible, keeping a fire extinguisher handy, and disconnecting trailers and other attachments.
There’s never a guarantee that attachment points and towing devices will hold under pressure, but monitoring them and applying power slowly will help reduce the risk of a situation. As always, inspect your equipment post-recovery and never get lulled into a false sense of confidence just because your vehicle has large knobby tires.

There are lots of videos on the internet looking at stuck farming equipment and their recovery. This one caught our eye:


Inset image courtesy of Jess Johnson, Flickr


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