How does a pull-behind spreader work

A pull-behind spreader is the best spreader for homeowners with a large lawn of 1 acre or larger.

It allows homeowners to quickly distribute fertilizer, seed, lime, dry sand, salt, pre-emergent herbicides, manure, ice melt, and more.

Even better, when you pull it behind an ATV, mower, or garden tractor, you can lazily cultivate your lawn and simultaneously make your neighbors envious.

But, exactly, how does a pull-behind spreader work?

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How does a pull-behind spreader work

The principle of how a pull-behind spreader works are the same as a push spreader. The spreader is drug behind a lawn tractor, and the two pneumatic tires drive a spreader plate or disc.

This disc sits just below the hopper, and as grass seed drops into it, the disc flings that seed (or other material) in a broad pattern.

Most tow-behind spreaders have hopper grate adjustments that allow the user to fine-tune the rate of distribution and the distribution pattern.

As a bonus, I sometimes use mine as a light-duty lawn cart for moving grass clippings or leaves to my compost pile.

What is a pull behind spreader?

Simply put, a tow-behind spreader is a mechanism that effectively scatters a variety of materials uniformly and at the proper rate across large agricultural fields, residential lawns, and commercial properties.

Most of these spreaders come with a universal hitch, which means they’ll fit behind almost any tractor, lawnmower, or ATV/UTV without any modifications.

The large capacity hopper is another vital feature. Most carry between 50 and 400 lbs. of content, allowing you to complete the job quickly without slowing down to refill.

Furthermore, most pull-behind spreaders are designed to spread materials in 12-foot swaths as they are pulled behind the towing vehicle, enabling them to cover a larger area in less time than other spreaders.

Pull-behind spreaders come in a range of shapes and sizes.

The majority of spreaders these days are either broadcast or drop style.

Here’s what you need to know about each type:

Drop Spreaders

A drop spreader is a system that drops materials behind the towing vehicle, between the wheels, by dropping them straight down through openings as you pull it behind.

Most importantly, it disperses equivalent quantities of product around the entire spread width, ensuring a uniform and more precise material dispersion in a narrow pattern.

As a result, if you need absolute and total precision in your applications, a tow behind drop spreader is the way to go.

However, since their narrow swath style makes them more time-consuming in larger areas, pull-behind drop-style spreaders are not as popular in the market as their broadcast counterparts.

Drop spreaders are ideal for icemelt when you need to keep the chemicals off of the lawn.

Additionally, you can combine the two types by using a drop spreader near the edges of the lawn by flower beds or walkways. Then, run the broadcast spreader in the middle to get good coverage without overspreading outside of the desired zone.

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Broadcast Spreaders

Most pull-behind spreaders sold online or in your local farm supply store are broadcasters.

A disk spins to broadcast the weed killer or fertilizer from the larger hopper out (and away) from the spreader in an arc, effectively broadcasting the product you’ve applied over a wide area.

To be more precise, the wheels on your tow-behind unit usually spin a shaft, which then turns glass-filled nylon gears, which causes the disk to spin.

To provide greater control, some broadcast spreaders have directional fins that regulate the way the material is thrown (front and sides) as it is hurled out of the spreader.

The main advantage of pull behind broadcast spreaders over drop-style tow-behinds is that they are quicker for yards of 1 acre (or larger) due to the wide-ranging coverage when ‘broadcasting.’

You can also change the rate of spread as needed, as some models have an easy-to-reach on-off flow gate control that you can use to control the output from the tractor’s seat.

To reduce product waste (which is common in all spreaders that adopt a random distribution pattern), the best modern-day models, like the Chapin Tow behind the machine, are built to avoid spreading automatically when you stop moving.

Furthermore, some broadcast spreaders have an agitator that breaks up large clumps of material for more even distribution.

On the downside, these spreaders are not as targeted as drop spreaders, as the material is thrown out in a wide arc.

It’s worth noting that some manufacturers have recently improved the design of their broadcast models to expand the discharge arc even further, resulting in a more consistent spread pattern.

Pro-Tip: Choose a model with 14-inch or larger pneumatic tires to help minimize the distribution problems caused by uneven ground. Larger diameter tires create more even delivery across rough terrain.

How to adjust a pull behind seeder

Adjusting the unit properly is the best way to ensure you spread goods correctly and with minimum waste.

Change your broadcast spreader settings to ensure trouble-free application of fertilizers, insecticides, grass seed, and other materials:

For a normal activity, centering the spread pattern is important.

The change is typically made by simply shifting the unit’s direction control handle to the left or right as desired.

If the content tends to come out to the left or right, move the handle closer to the center, which typically centers the distribution pattern behind your lawn tractor.

When dispersing near planting beds, sidewalks, lawn edges, and other tight locations, use the built-in directional control plate to change the product spread pattern to avoid those areas.

To control the flow of material out of the spreader, all you have to do is slide the path controlling plate to the desired location.

If you can’t find the mechanism that slides the plate to the left or right, consult your owner’s manual for step-by-step directions.

How to adjust pull behind bush hog

Last but not least,

Pull behind spreaders have been the subject of this article since, as they’re the best option for larger lawns.

Tow behinds, especially broadcast spreaders, are far more common than push spreaders among both residential and commercial landscaping business owners. They work through the same, simple, wheel-driven mechanism that push spreaders work.

Zachary Drumm

Hey! My name is Zachary Drumm! This site allows me to test new tools, piddle around in the garage, and share the insights I get from flipping cars and houses. When it comes to tools, home improvement, and being a “shade tree mechanic,” you’ve come to the right spot. If I’m not in the garage creating content, you’ll find me outside, running, canoeing, and traveling. My goal is to empower more people to be self-sufficient.