Difference Between Hydraulic & Mechanical Grapples

For this project, we’ll compare the difference between hydraulic and mechanical grapples for your tractor.

For this demonstration, we’ll be using a FrontierTM AV20E Hydraulic Root Grapple (US CA), a Frontier MG20F Mechanical Grapple (US CA), and a John Deere 3038E Compact Utility Tractor  outfitted with a John Deere 300E Loader (US CA), and a 3rd function hydraulic valve kit. We’ve also added an iMatchTM Quick Hitch (US CA) to the rear of our tractor, and a Ballast Box for — you guessed it — ballast.

Understandably, the big difference between these hydraulic and mechanical grapples is the way they operate.

The AV20E Hydraulic Root Grapple uses the added 3rd function valve kit that allows the operator to open and close the upper jaw of the grapple.

The MG20F Mechanical Grapple uses gravity to open the lower jaw and the standard loader bucket cylinders to open and close the upper jaw.

So first, let’s hook up the Mechanical Grapple.

Because it has an essentially flat bottom, this Mechanical Grapple sits upright without the need for a parking stand. So first, C.J. just slides the loader carrier into the top hangers on the grapple. Then he lifts and rolls back the carrier, and the mechanical grapple falls into place. Then he lowers the grapple to the ground, turns off the engine, sets the parking brake, inserts the locking pins, and he’s ready to go.

By raising the loader, the lower jaw of the mechanical grapple will drop open by gravitational force until it comes in contact with stops on the loader frame. C.J. can then lower the loader until the lower jaw almost touches the ground. Then he drives forward, pushing the lower jaw against the debris he wants to grab. He then lowers the upper jaw using the same hydraulic function he’d use to tilt a materials bucket forward, and tightly grabs a grapple-full of debris.

To make sure he doesn’t lose his load, C.J. keeps the bucket cylinders in the tilted, or dump, position and raises the load using the loader boom for transport.

He moves the material to the receiving area and positions the load over the drop zone. He raises the upper jaw by curling the bucket cylinders, and drops the debris into place.

The AV20E Hydraulic Grapple attaches in virtually the same way.

This grapple also has a flat bottom, meaning it also sits upright without the need for a parking stand. So, C.J. slides the loader carrier into the top hangers on the root grapple, lifts and rolls back the carrier, and the root grapple falls into place. Then he lowers the implement, turns off the engine, sets the parking brake, and inserts the locking pins. Finally, he attaches the 3rd function hydraulic hoses that allow him to open and close the jaws of the grapple. And he’s ready to work.

With the AV20E, the lower jaw is stationery and part of the grapple’s frame. The upper jaw moves up and down by using the 3rd function hydraulic cylinder.

To grab a load, C.J. opens the upper jaw completely, tilts the grapple slightly forward, lowers the loader and slides the lower jaw under and into the pile of debris. When the grapple is full, he lowers the upper jaw and grabs the material firmly. He lifts the load, moves it to the dump zone, tilts the grapple forward, opens the upper jaw and lets the material fall before backing away.

As you can see, the hydraulic and mechanical grapples are loaded and unloaded in essentially the same way. The upper jaw is opened wide. The lower jaw is moved into the pile of debris. The upper jaw is closed. The debris load is moved to the dump zone where the grapple is raised, tilted forward and the upper jaw is opened to drop the debris.

If you’re new to operating a hydraulic loader attachment and how it’s controlled with the joy stick, don’t worry. After just a little practice you’ll get a feel for it and be very comfortable with the AV20E hydraulic grapple.

And since you’ve probably mastered lifting, carrying and dumping from your loader bucket, you already have the basic skills needed to use the mechanical grapple.

Frontier’s nearly 400 implements and attachments are designed, engineered, tested, and manufactured to fit and work with John Deere tractors. That’s a breadth and depth of equipment compatibility you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

Always read the Operator’s Manual before operating or storing any piece of equipment, and follow all operating and safety instructions.

And remember, if you’re looking for equipment you can count on to get your job done with confidence, choose the Green-On-Green solution – John Deere and Frontier. Available only at your John Deere dealer.

Helpful Links:

Frontier Root Grapples (US CA)

Frontier Mechanical Grapples (US CA)

John Deere Compact Utility Tractors (US CA)

John Deere Loaders (US CA)

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How To Clear Debris Using A Root Grapple

How To Use A Mechanical Grapple

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