1999 - Volume #23, Issue #2, Page #05[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Exploding Toolbars: Truth or Hoax?A recent notice posted on the Internet warned about the danger of "exploding toolbars". At first glance we thought it was a hoax. After looking into it, we're not so sure.
Here's what the original message said:
"Two New York farmers were severely burned on portions of their upper body and face in separate incidents when gases under pressure blew out through holes they were drilling in sealed frame members of tillage equipment. The explosions threw both farmers 25 to 30 ft. away from the equipment.
"Each farmer was drilling holes to install accessory equipment. In both cases, the toolbars had been filled by the manufacturer with ballast material consisting of small metal punchings to add weight to the tillage tool. Many manufacturers do this.
"Both toolbars were subjected to physical and chemical analysis after the explosions. Other sealed frame members on the same tillage equipment yielded gas samples shown to be under pressure within the frame. The predominant gas was hydrogen. The percent of hydrogen in the gas mixture ranged from 60 to 90 percent. The volume of gas varied in each frame member sampled. Hydrogen is very flammable and could have been easily ignited by electric arcing from portable hand drills.
"Analysis of the metal wafers and disks inside the toolbars showed a composite of iron, titanium and zinc. This combination in the presence of water will produce hydrogen.
"Not all toolbars are filled with ballast and not all ballast will produce hydrogen. For example, concrete is used as ballast by at least one manufacturer. It is often difficult to determine if a sealed member contains ballast and it's virtually impossible to determine, in advance, if hydrogen gas has been generated within a sealed frame member.
"As a precaution, treat all sealed frame members of tillage equipment as having the potential to be storing gas under pressure.
"While one of the exploding toolbars was only about one year old at the time of the incident, the other piece of equipment was considerably older. Therefore, there may be a considerable number of tillage tools currently in agricultural use that have this potential hazard."
The writer of the message was identified only as "Engineer@factory.com". When we tried to E-mail him at that address, we did not get a response. So we decided to call the president of one of the top manufacturers of tillage equipment in the country. The well-known manufacturer, who is one of the most innovative ag equipment designers in the world, asked not to be identified.
"I saw the same item on the Internet and was puzzled by it," he told FARM SHOW. "I'm not saying it's impossible for a toolbar to explode, but I've never personally heard of it happening. Our company, along with many others, fills our toolbars with metal filings and punch-outs because they weigh 2 to 3 times as much as concrete.
"The big question is: How could water get inside the toolbar? It would have to be through a gap in a weld. Just to be safe, you should probably check over your toolbars for cracks. If they look solid, you probably don't have anything to worry about."
If you've heard anything about exploding toolbars, or have ideas about how to safely open a toolbar without creating a potentially dangerous spark, call us at 1-800-834-9665 or write to: FARM SHOW, P.O. Box 1029, Lakeville, MN 55044. (Jim Houtsma, Associate Editor)
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