I decided a while ago I needed one of these, primarily to pick up leaves in the Fall. I just couldn't bring myself to pull the trigger on a new unit, way too much money! I even borrowed a friends Trac Vac 580 a few times and it works really well, however, new it's like 2500 bucks. This Spring I found a blower at the local auction and bought it for $8. That was the foundation for the whole project. I haven't decided yet what color the blower should be.
I bought the dump trailer used (3X5 bed) and built a box frame with 1/8" X 1 1/4" angle. The frame is covered with shower surround material from Lowe's, it's nearly an exact match to IH white. I bought the tubing online, pretty heavy duty stuff, it's intended for a dust collection system and is way cheaper than the "lawn vac hose" I found online. I welded some flat stock to the deck to accommodate the chute. Two 1/4" bolts hold the chute (that a friend donated to me) to the threaded flat stock I tapped.
This is the blower unit, it also came with a wood chipper attachment. I bought a new 6.5 hp Predator engine from Harbor Freight (on sale). It fit perfectly except I had to bush the 3/4" shaft to 1", every thing else was a direct bolt on. I did have to extend the exhaust pipe so the muffler would clear the blower housing. I oriented the blower to better accommodate the flow of debris. The 149 with a 48" deck picks up a bunch of clippings even though it's not a high vac deck and the blower has no trouble sucking it all up. In one of my test runs (before the trailer was connected) it was shooting grass 20 to 25 feet straight up into the air.
It was raining grass!
I built a platform to mount the blower, directly connected to the tractor. I don't like the way some are mounted to the trailer tongue. The nice thing about the platform is the trailer tracks almost exactly in the tractors path when turning, even sharp turns. The whole thing breaks down so I can store the engine and electrics inside when not in use. A down side to this is the bottom of the platform will drag if going through a rut or a hole, but is has to be pretty steep for it to drag.
I moved the trailer axle back about a foot so the trailer would dump better. I came acrossed a hospital bed motor (actuator) so I thought I'd fab it into my project for a motorized dump feature. The actuator is a 120 volt unit (1.6 amps) with about a 6" throw and is rated at 950 ft. pds. of "thrust", so I needed a power inverter. I bought a 400 watt unit at my second favorite place to shop - Harbor Freight - with a peak of 750 watts for $25, also on sale, (I can even charge my mobile phone with the USB port!). The actuator motor has internal switches than limit the throw, I have it adjusted so the motor shuts off at both full extension and when lowered. That way I don't need to stand by the switch to shut it down. I cut a hole in the trailer draw bar to accommodate the actuator and give it enough pitch to easily lift the bed, welded up a couple brackets and cut and drilled some arms, and voila.
The inverter comes with clips to connect to the battery. The leads are long enough (because my battery is in the back of the tractor) to put the inverter on the platform. I wired up an on-off-on toggle switch, a 3 wire plug to connect to the inverter, and 4 wire trailer connector into a small box, as well as an power on-off switch for the inverter. The actuator had a long enough lead to reach to switch box.
I cut a piece of the shower surround material to make a tailgate. It slides into the existing slots for the original tailgate and made a small frame of 1/8" X 3/4" angle to stiffen it up. The three little T handles are brazed onto #12 screws which hold it all on the back. Not pictured is a quick disconnect for the hose at the trailer so when it's time to dump no tools required. The net result was a square bale of grass clippings on the ground. This Fall I'll have probably 30 or so loads of chopped leaves at about 40 bushels per load, all no-touch! I've been waiting a long time for that!
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