Screw Jack vs. Electric Actuator For Small Tow Vehicles

Matt and Nate get back to the basics on adjustment components for smaller tow vehicles. The guys break down what a screw jack is, what it does,  and why you might be ready to upgrade to an electric actuator.

ABI Products Shown In This Video
Arena Rascal Pro - ATV Arena Drag & Arena Groomer

ABI Arena Rascal Pro

  • For ATVs, UTVs, & Sub-Compact Tractors, #1 Selling Arena Drag
  • 4.5', 5.5', 6.5', 7.5' Widths
  • Starting At: $85/mo.*
ABI Gravel Rascal ATV Grader & UTV Grader

ABI Gravel Rascal Pro

ABI Workman XL

ABI Workman XL


Well, hello there. Welcome back to the ABI Dirt. I’m Matt Metzger, with ABI Attachments. You can see I’ve got a co-host today. Nate Smith, the director of product development and engineering. Many of you may remember Nate from a couple of episodes, when we visited him on his farm, to take a look at his cattle paddock with the TR3. Nate’s joining me today, because we are getting back to basics. We’ve got questions all the time about different components on our attachments, and typically the components that move other components. Things like square jacks, and electric actuators and hydraulic cylinders. So, we wanted to take a couple of minutes today, and talk through what each one of these components do, how they’re the same, how they’re different, and break ’em down a little bit for you. So, here we go.

So, Nate, we’ve got a gambit of different components here in front of us. Where are we starting? What do you got first?

What is a Screw Jack?

– So, a square jack, or a screw jack, is the kind of device that’s like, on the front of a trailer tongue. It’s relatively simple, it’s just a screw, and as I crank it, it gets longer or shorter, to raise or lower something. So, the simplest example is on a trailer tongue, but it also can be used anytime you have two points that you want to raise or lower, it just gets longer or shorter. This is manually operated. So, it’s very quick, very simple. There’s some mechanical advantage many times in these. So, that’s a fancy term of saying it’s easier to turn. So, you don’t feel all 400 pounds, or 600 pounds, of whatever you’re hooked to, but it enables you to do work very quickly and simply, dial into a very precise height of very precise adjustments, very quickly. The challenge is that you are gonna have to get off your tow vehicle to use it. Like you can’t really remotely like reach back behind you and try to…

– No passengers allowed?

– Yeah, no passengers.

– I can’t have anybody riding on the rack, I can’t have someone cranking for me.

– I can’t have my four year old ride around on the rack, cranking it

– ABI Attachments is not recommended that.

– No, no, we do not support that in any way, shape, or form.

What you’re going to miss out on is actually traction. Eventually, if you get deep enough, you get into something hard enough. and your back tires are gonna spin, or what’s more dangerous, for you, is that those front tires, because there’s not a whole lot of weight on the front of that zero turn lawnmower. You could get those front tires popping off the ground, And that’s not really a safe situation. So in summary there, when we were talking Gravel Rascal Pro we’re looking for a tow vehicle that has weight, you’re looking for a tow vehicle has the right horsepower, and also the traction. And that typically means a four wheel drive scenario. Am I saying that a really beefy commercial grade zero turn lawnmower can’t handle it? No, it’s not gonna be your best tow vehicle option there. Side note, take a look at the Gravel Grader. Cause the Gravel Grader was designed for lawnmowers in mind.

Better Tow Performance With an Electric Actuator

– So, for those of you who have, let’s say a Gravel Rascal or an Arena Rascal Pro, you may have been in an experience where you get to the end of your pass, and you gotta get off your four wheeler to go crank it up or crank it down. That’s you gain in the strength, and you gain in the simplicity, but hopping on and off of tow vehicle is not always the funnest thing to do. Now, Nate, I know that’s kind of a one on one question here, but when it comes to an electric actuator, it’s got to have electricity to it somehow. So, if I were to say, I wanna swap out a square jack, I’m with you, I’m like, “all right, Nate, I don’t wanna get off my tow vehicle and crank the square jack, I wanna use an actuator instead.” Where does my power come from? Where’s my electricity come from?

– It comes from your tow vehicle. So, therefore there’s some wiring involved. The ATV or the UTV has to provide the power to it, to power it.

– Got it.

– So, typically what are these on, like in our products there’ll be a Rascal, or virtually any of our trailers will have one of these on the tongue. Our Workman Excel dump trailer, will have that to dump behind. Just various attachments. These are even used for other manual adjustments too, on like the Speed Master to raise screaming rods up and down. On our ABI water trailers, many of them have a manual pull rope to turn on and off, but we actually have an electric valve that you can have a push button in the cab of your tractor to turn the water on and off, which is a really nice feature as well.

– And so when a lot of people think electric actuator, thinking something with a, like something larger, longer, that has a long threaded screw on the inside to actually raise or lower the tool, but actuators come in all shapes and sizes, some small enough to just open and close a valve.

– Yep. And some are just wireless things in your hand. And some are toggle switches, and it’s all in what we’re trying to accomplish.

– Got it. So, now I’m not an electrician, I don’t like messing around with electricity. So, what are some, just words of wisdom, you can give to somebody who says, “all right, I’m done with the heavy duty square jack, I’m ready to upgrade, but you got me a little bit nervous about wiring something to my tow vehicle.” Any general tips you can give someone about how to go about this.

– You’re gonna tie directly back to the battery, ’cause there isn’t really a standard wiring plug on ATVs, UTVs, et cetera, the small tractors, but it’s really straightforward. Just red is red. Black is black. Pay attention to your colors. Don’t wrap around anything that can get caught or get hot or moves. Just think about those things. And we include plenty of zip ties. So use ’em.

So you’ve got a row of scarifiers there that remember you can drop to about four inches deep, which is crucial, because if you’re going to put that soil back to turf, back to lawn you wanna get a nice deep three to four inch rip with those scarifiers so that you’ve got that ideal root bed. So again, steps. Push that finish rake forward, level things out on a kind a rough grade scenario, following the contour of your ground that you want, decompact those scarifiers. That level blade is in play as you’re ripping up with those scarifiers. So you can level things out. Getting that level surface that you want. And then that finish rake is right there as well, to smooth out all the clads and to smooth out, give you a nice finish. That way, once you throw the seed down and your grass starts to grow, it’s like the tree was never there. So Mini SR, fantastic application, in small context. If your yard size is such that you can’t really get a big skid steer, get a big tractor back there. The Mini SR is perfect for it.

How to Use a Screw Jack

– Well, and one thing Nate mentioned, when it comes to dialing in the right height, so, typically the square jack or screw jack, as some of you call it, the electric actuator, they’re used in conjunction with either an axle system, or remember, gauge wheels, right. Or remember how we say around here all the time that tires aren’t just tires, they’re stabilizing wheels, they’re gauge wheels. So, when it comes to taking an ATV drag, a UTV drag, getting it in a transport position, getting the ground engaging components off the ground, so you can move around your property. Then once you get to your driveway, your arena, wherever you’re going, dropping it back into place, you wanna find that proper hitch height for towing, that consistent height. So, one thing we always recommend, you’re getting like all the customer service secrets right now, you notice how on both of these components, you’ve got a kind of a silver colored, stainless interior, and then that black exterior, grab yourself a paint marker, grab yourself a Sharpie. It’s a great… Hey, I didn’t plan that, I promise. That’s a great way that once you find the depth you want to get to, mark your inner cylinder. That way, when you go into transport mode, get back again to your application point, you can find your depth, right where you wanna be.

– I always carry Sharpie.

– That’s impressive. Engineers. Good for so many things.

That’s all we’ve got on square jacks and electric actuators. If you’re not quite sure on what you’ve got on your attachment, or what you need, or what works best in your scenario, remember we’ve got a customer service team, a product specialist team. We got lots of people, around here who really are happy to help. So, don’t be afraid to give us a call, and please be sure to join us on The Dirt, next week, Nate Smith from engineering, is gonna jump back in with us. We’re going to talk about, top links, and hydraulic cylinders functioning as top links, and where those two things function on bigger attachments, for your bigger tow vehicles, your compact tractors, your subcompact tractors, that’s all next week. So, if you have not yet, please be sure to subscribe to the channel, so you don’t miss an episode. See you next time.

That’s all I’ve got today everyone. I love fielding these kind of questions. Leave your own questions about your own application. Maybe you’ve got something going on in your property. You’ve got a summer project that you’re trying to tackle and you’re curious to see if any attachment made by API Attachments could be helpful. Drop your questions in the comments below, leave ’em online. We would love to hear from you. Until next time, take care.

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