Installing a canopy: here are the additional instructions I wish they'd included

   / Installing a canopy: here are the additional instructions I wish they'd included #1  

SmallChange

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Apr 19, 2019
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Tractor
New Holland WM25 with 200LC front end loader, filled R4 tires 43X16.00-20 and 25X8.50-14 (had a Kubota B6200D with dozer and R1 tires)
Just installed a fiberglass canopy on my NH tractor. It went well and I'm happy -- but still there are some directions I wish were included, which I'm posting here in case they're useful to somebody else.

The dealer who sold me my tractor 4 months ago just sold me this canopy for it. It's made by Firebird Fiberglass Products, of Arizona. It seems well made and sturdy and the blue color looks exactly the same as my tractor. It's not a FOPS, but if somebody were going to drop a bowling ball on me, I'd be much happier with this thing breaking the fall. It included a single piece fiberglass shell, two brackets each comprising a length of square steel tubing and a trapezoidal steel plate bolted to it, and a box of U bolts and other hardware.

Right off the bat, I should have spotted that the two trapezoidal plates weren't mirror images of each other, as should the dealer. One was for a 2x2 tubing ROPS instead of my 2x3 tubing. Got that swapped. Advice: verify the two side brackets match.

The trapezoidal plates were about 3/16", and were drilled and slotted for the U bolts to allow adjusting the fore and aft tilt of the canopy. The lower U bolt fits a hole on one end and a short slot on the other, which could be OK. But the upper U bolt fits two longer slots, which really remove a fair bit of material from the plate. The two U bolts on each side are about 3" apart vertically. I think it would be almost impossible keeping the canopy from creeping down in front, as almost all of it is forward of the ROPS, and the U bolts don't cover much of a lever arm vertically, and especially, tightening the upper U bolt is going to flex the plate with those long slots. Meanwhile, I'm making a point of noticing canopies on other tractors, and I see many have scuff marks and other wear around the mounting bolts suggesting that they often come loose and droop and it's a struggle to keep them tight enough.

This will never do, I thought. So I made two improvements. First, I added a cross piece to the two steel tubes, fitting against the back of the top bar of the ROPS, with a small plate on it that fits against the top of the ROPS. Thus, the top of this assembly can't move forward or down. Second, I made extra plates of 3/8" steel, 6" long and 1 1/2" wide, that the upper U bolt passes through before I put the nuts on. After I assembled everything, I can sight along the more solid lower U bolt holes on the plate, with one hole and one short slot, and see that tightening caused the plate to curve ever so slightly. But the more flimsy upper U bolt area of the plate, carved up with the long slots, didn't curve at all that I can see because of my extra plates. Advice: if there is a way to positively block the canopy from drooping, it won't droop, though many of them out there apparently do.

This cross piece is an aluminum extrusion made by the 8020 company. I use this stuff a lot at work and have done a few things at home with it, including the large L shaped custom desk I'm sitting at now to post this. Great stuff. It sort of makes up for the fact that I don't weld. So, I made two more of these identical cross pieces, mounting them toward the front of the canopy at different locations, to use for mounting as many nice mirrors as I can, because my neck is a mess. Advice: check out 8020.net, and if you like mirrors, add mounting points to your canopy installation.

Once the steel was installed I had to get the fiberglass shell on top of it. So I held the fiberglass shell on one hand, like waiters carry big trays, as I climbed up a stool and onto the tractor deck facing rearwards. Physically, this isn't hard to do, as it probably only weighed about 20 lbs. But I'll tell you what turned very very ugly: the bottom side of this thing has wicked exposed fiberglass splinters, and as I shifted my grip or balance a little, I picked up some splinters of the nightmare inducing variety. It took some digging under a magnifying glass, and I'm not sure I got it all. Advice: tape some kind of pad onto the bottom before this operation.

To install this canopy, you rest the fiberglass on the frame and drill upwards through the mounting holes in the steel tubes, then put bolts and rubber cushions through it all. I realized it could make a mess when the drill finally breaks through and chips the top of the canopy, so I went slowly and thoughtfully, but still had a bit of chipping (hidden by their rubber lined flat washer once everything's together). On the second hole I was smarter, and got up higher on a ladder so I could see the top of the canopy, and back way off on the drilling force when I saw the bit starting to break through. By the fourth hole I probably kept the worst chip down to 1/16". Advice: watch the drilling operation from the top surface to minimize splintering.

Finally, don't be fooled by the instructions. The middle step is: "Make sure the Tubes are equally level. Next, lower the front end of the Tubes equally about 2" to 4", (so when the Canopy is mounted it appears 'level'). Now, fully tighten all nuts and bolts." It took me a while to figure out what they were driving at (and I'm still not 100% certain). The fiberglass shell has four flat regions for the mount points, and they all lie in a plane parallel to and maybe 3" above the plane of the bottom edge, so clearly we want both these planes to be level, we don't want either of them drooping down by inches. Eventually I decided they were saying we should first make the tubes perpendicular to the ROPS, and then shift them both down in front to accomodate the backward tilt of the ROPS. Which my ROPS does not have (though my previous tractor's ROPS did). Advice: if the instructions seem a bit nutty, trust yourself.
 
   / Installing a canopy: here are the additional instructions I wish they'd included #2  
Take it this is the one, looks good. I went with Tuff Top sunshade.
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   / Installing a canopy: here are the additional instructions I wish they'd included
  • Thread Starter
#3  
   / Installing a canopy: here are the additional instructions I wish they'd included #4  
Tuff top is the 1st one I found, when I looked up Firebird that’s what it showed, I like the looks of the one you got, has more style.
Does it need to be taken off when the tractor is moved on a trailer?



Jim.
 
   / Installing a canopy: here are the additional instructions I wish they'd included
  • Thread Starter
#5  
T[...]
Does it need to be taken off when the tractor is moved on a trailer?
Jim.

Not that I know of. The instructions didn't say anything about that. It feels pretty sturdy - nothing shifts if I reach up and grab the front of the frame to pull myself out of the seat. Does the manufacturer say the Tuff Top requires that?
 
   / Installing a canopy: here are the additional instructions I wish they'd included #6  
Not that I know of. The instructions didn't say anything about that. It feels pretty sturdy - nothing shifts if I reach up and grab the front of the frame to pull myself out of the seat. Does the manufacturer say the Tuff Top requires that?

Tuff Top says to fold it down but I think it would become more of a wind blocker, I’m thinking of drilling a hole in each front metal bracket and then using two short tie downs to keep the front from grabbing air, think it would be better then folding it down, here is a pic with two green lines drawn on how I would support the top on a trailer if needed, the top is pretty rigid so it should work.
I have not tried it yet so it’s on my to do list.
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   / Installing a canopy: here are the additional instructions I wish they'd included
  • Thread Starter
#7  
Yes, if you tied it down on your green lines, I don't see how the wind could grab it. The thing is parallel to the wind, so it's not going to be terrible for gas mileage, as long as you can keep the wind from catching it and pivoting it. That is, as long as its attachment points are sturdy enough. What holds the top fiberglass to its frame? Are there small bolt heads that could get pulled through the material? Do you need to add fender washers or something?
 
   / Installing a canopy: here are the additional instructions I wish they'd included #8  
It’s a plastic/poly type top.
 

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   / Installing a canopy: here are the additional instructions I wish they'd included #9  
It’s a plastic/poly type top and I did use washers on the top and it’s bolted into a metal frame, guess all I can do is try it and if anything starts to go wrong I’ll just slowdown-stop and remove the whole top, it has a quick release type system on it, unscrew 4 knobs and it will come off, you can see them in the bottom of the pick.
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   / Installing a canopy: here are the additional instructions I wish they'd included #10  
I believe Firebird is the type of canopy that I bought when I bought mine from my dealer back in 2004 or 5. It has been a good canopy with no issues. I had no issues when I installed it all those years ago. Mine is starting to look pretty beat up from tree limbs and such catching it breaking the fiberglass edges. I actually saw dad catch an electric pole guy wire one time. It held tight enough that it raised the whole front of the tractor up off the ground before he realized what was going on. That also broke the edge a bit, but it really took a beating on that one. I was afraid the tractor was going over backwards. Sure has helped keep me cooler when mowing on those hot July/August days.
 
 
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