A driveway grader implement is one of those often forgotten but surprisingly useful compact tractor implements. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have homesteads with any appreciable amount of acreage can agree; long dirt driveways can be challenging. Erosion, traffic, rutting, and the effects of snow plowing can wreak havoc on your dirt or gravel driveway.
The only way to keep these surfaces in traversable condition is to maintain them, which requires the right tools. Like any job, some tools work better than others and your needs will largely dictate which tool you choose. Let’s talk about some tractor implements available and which job they fit best.
If you don’t have a tractor with a three-point hitch, this is likely your best method of grooming your driveway. A chain drag (or drag harrow) is a driveway grader that you quite literally drag behind your tractor, or truck if need be. Many farmers make a simple one from a section of chain link fence. It’s a simple tool, but it’s limited in what it can do.
Much like taking an army of rake-wielding landscapers to your driveway, a chain drag effectively rakes the ground lightly. A chain drag is not a particularly aggressive implement, which is why it will take several passes to accomplish the desired result. Chain drags don’t handle heavy ruts or severe crowns well, so groom your driveway regularly to keep ahead of it.
Three-point rakes are a versatile implement that I find myself using often. From tidying up the driveway to raking freshly cleared land, the landscape rake is my go-to tool.
Your standard landscape rake is a simple affair, consisting of flexible tines attached to a bar. That bar can angle from side to side to allow the operator to cast material to one side of their path. All other adjustments of a landscape rake come from your tractor, such as pitch angle and downforce.
York rakes make for a great multi-purpose implement and do a great job of resurfacing loose material. Most dirt and gravel driveways are easily resurfaced with this type of driveway grader, but particularly hard surfaces are not easily dealt with.
Much like the professional road graders used by your town or state Department of Transportation, three-point grader blade implements feature an adjustable blade that can aggressively cut dirt or gravel surfaces. When you have a severely damaged or neglected driveway, this is a great tool to have.
Just like a York rake, you have the option to angle these blades side to side. Your pitch, downforce and all other adjustments are still handled by your three-point hitch. Unlike the York, this style of driveway grader features what looks like a short snow plow instead of rake tines. When you trade flexible rake tines for a stiff blade with a proper cutting edge, you gain a more aggressive cut, which may or may not be a great choice for you.
If your driveway simply needs a little grooming then this driveway grader is likely too aggressive for you. If you have big stones lurking under the immediate surface of your driveway, you may catch one big enough to stop your machine dead in its tracks. If your driveway has a tendency to develop big potholes, pronounced crowns between tire ruts, or you see sections getting washed out a lot, then this is a great tool for you. Also, if you need to pitch your driveway surface or add drainage ditches, then a grader blade will do wonders.
If you think grader blades make for an aggressive driveway grader, then you’ve never met one of these monsters. Scraper boxes are an aggressive earth-moving device that does the job very well, likely too well for most people.
Scraper boxes look much like they sound; it’s a big box of unforgiving steel. Grader boxes have no angle adjustments with exception to the pitch your three-point hitch gives it. Imagine a grader blade that’s been boxed in, then a set of really aggressive tines are set in front of that blade and now you have a pretty good idea of a grader box.
If your driveway is soft dirt or relatively loose gravel, then this is the wrong tool for you. Scraper boxes are king when it comes to hardpan and clay. The aggressive nature of the tines makes it easier to break the surface, unlike a rake or drag harrow which would simply skate across a hard surface.
Driveway Grader Options
Before blindly buying an implement, ask around. Someone in your area is bound to have one of these implements, so ask how well they perform. Is your driveway soft and sandy? If so, a driveway drag harrow will probably do just fine.
Do you have stiff dirt or stone? Do you need the tines to give way to big rocks lurking in the surface? If that’s the case, then a landscape rake will be a great start for you.
Does your driveway have some severe crowns? Do you need the ability to pitch the surface one way or another? Do you have drainage ditches you need to re-carve? Then a grader blade sounds like the right tool for the job.
Lastly, if you have a really hard surface like clay or some sort of hardpan material, then you probably need to reach for the big guns. A scraper box will prove to be an aggressive implement, but with practice and finesse, you can achieve some great results. If you do need such a tool, consider using a York rake in conjunction with it to smooth things out after roughing it all up.
Do you have a favorite driveway grader? Found the system that works best for you? Let us know in the comments below and share your experiences with us!