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Lugged Wheels: On the Road to Trouble

Lugged wheels were great in the field but spurred conflict when tractors traveled on paved roads.

| October 2019

When separate lugs were utilized, the actual pressure on the tip of each was phenomenal. That was an asset when doing fieldwork. But when the tractor was driven on paved roads, the same lugs caused significant damage.

Not until 1930 did the rural-urban population fall out of balance. That year, for the first time, more Americans lived in metropolitan areas than on farms. Every year thereafter, urban populations continued to grow. But in the early 1900s, the U.S. was a predominantly agricultural nation and its culture was dominated by farm concerns.

Major changes in farm practices became pronounced with increased use of tractors. Those who had always farmed with animals had a hard time adjusting to the fact that mechanized agriculture was becoming more popular and, in some instances, more profitable. But as the use of tractors expanded, new problems arose, including one we rarely hear about today. It had to do with lug wheels.

Improving traction with lugged wheels

Every wheel tractor had attachments to the drive wheel to provide traction for heavy farm work. The simplest were bars – straight or angled – across the wheel. The goal was adhesion of the wheel to the ground. The tractor’s ability to travel on hard surfaces was secondary. However, optimum placement of those traction bars allowed the tractor to travel on hard surfaces with a minimum of jarring.

People who studied traction thought cross bars could be improved on and focused instead on individual lugs. That is why many built after the late teens used separate lugs. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that a steel lug that stuck fairly deep down into the soil would provide amazing traction. Add several to a large wheel, so they all were down in the soil at the same time, and a tractor’s pulling power would be limited only by its engine’s power output.

As time went by, there were about as many different arrangements of lugs on drive wheels as there were theories as to which worked best. The advantage of lugs over cross bars was the owner’s ability to add or remove them as conditions warranted, and to replace them individually when worn. The one disadvantage was the occasional loss of one or more. Rarely did a farmer have replacements available.


Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

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