31 Gallon Northstar Sprayer TLF Style

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OnTheOxbow
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31 Gallon Northstar Sprayer TLF Style

Post by OnTheOxbow » Fri Sep 13, 2019 2:54 pm

As my lawn obsession has continually grown, it became obvious I needed to upgrade my Sprayers Plus backpack sprayer. Don't get me wrong, Sprayers Plus makes a wonderful sprayer, I just needed a unit that had more capacity, a boom for a wider spray swath, and anything that didn't require my back muscles to tote. I knew the Northstar 31 gallon tow behind sprayer was a solid choice at an affordable price point. I bought one, assembled it and immediately devised a plan to improve on its weak points. You know, just some necessary upgrades. I can't help but channel my inner Tim the Tool man Taylor when I say that!

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Step One: Shut Off Valve The plastic dinky shut off valves that come on the sprayer required entirely too much effort to open and close. The lever to operate the valve was way to small and hard to get a grip on. Not to mention, the valves looked like they would fall apart if you sneezed on them. I chose to replace them with a 1/2 inch pex ball valve made by Sharkbite, available at any big box store. These valves seemed substantial equipped with an appropriate sized handle. With enough force and I do mean force, you could get the factory 3/8 inch hose to seat on the 1/2 pex barbed fitting. While I was at it, I decided to add a third shut off valve immediately after the pump. This would allow me to turn the boom completely off, utilizing the by pass regulator for tank agitation.

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Step Two: TeeJet Upgrade I honestly didn't give the factory spray nozzles on the Northstar a chance. To me it wasn't worth trying to familiarize myself with a new spray pattern and output. I use TeeJet nozzles on my Sprayers Plus backpack, I'm familiar with their spray tips and nozzle bodies. They make an exceptional product backed up by an equally incredible performance chart. Following their 20 inch on center spray tip spacing recommendation, I knew I needed to add a third spray tip in the center of the sprayer. The only issue here being there is no place to mount a third spray nozzle body assembly. I needed to modify the sprayer but I didn't want to lose the factory appearance.

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Step Two B: "Boom Extension" I decided to build a boom extension that would span the gap between the two independent spray boom arms. This way the outside boom arms are still fold-able and function as they should. I built the boom extension using a piece of 1 inch wide by 3 foot long metal flat stock. I wanted to offset the middle nozzle so the spray from this tip wouldn't collide with the spray from the adjacent tips. I decided a three inch offset would suffice. A few quick measurements, a couple relief cuts on the back side and a vice for clamping and bending is all it took. Shazam a boom extension! I selected a hose shank nozzle body with triple connection to add the third spray tip. From there, a TeeJet 11/16 inch thread adapter. I needed to turn the orientation 90 degrees downward, I accomplished this using a TeeJet 90 degree elbow adapter. And to finish off the equation, an Air Induction TeeJet Flat Tip enclosed by TeeJet quick Cap and Seat Gasket. I bought a few different tips and cap combos (XR11004VP, XRC1104VP & XRC11006VP). This gives me the flexibility to adjust spray volume up or down, and adjust droplet size in order to control drift. For the two outside spray nozzles everything is the same, it just starts with a TeeJet Shank Hose connection instead of the triple shank used in the middle.

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Step Three: Hose Clamps Over the years I have developed a hatred for hose clamps. They function perfectly well, they just look unsightly to me. I had to get rid of them. I decided to replace every single one of them with 1/2 inch pex crimp ring. Nothing significant here but I sleep better at night knowing I don't have any hose clamps on my sprayer.


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Step Four: Foam Marker Could I use the tires of the lawn mower and the stripes in the grass to monitor where I have sprayed? Probably so, but I like to be a little more precise than that. Lets outfit this sprayer with a foam marker. After a few measurements and calculations, I located a 2.5 gallon tank on usplastic.com. Two things to note here, one being the tank doesn't come with a cap so you'll have to order that separately, come on guys really, but alright. Two, they offer a metal mounting strap as an accessory, makes securing the tank super easy so i'll give them a pat on the back for that. The tank fits rather well on the tongue of the sprayer located directly in front of the 31 gallon tank. I simply drilled and tapped a couple of holes and mounted it. I had a mini air compressor that came in a roadside emergency kit, this should work perfectly as an air source. I mounted that on a bracket between the foam marker tank and the sprayer tank. To connect the air compressor to the tank I used a basic valve stem. I drilled an appropriately sized hole and pulled the valve stem through from the inside of the tank. Before seating the valve stem in the tank, you must attach a piece of hose to get the air from the valve stem down into the water at the bottom of the tank. I just used a piece of windshield washer hose that I had laying around, any small pipe or tubing will work though. Lastly, to get the soapy foam out, I used the same TeeJet Shank hose connection that I used for the sprayer boom arms. This is probably the trickiest part because you have to thread the nut on the hose shank after its inserted into the tank. The tank opening is pretty small so its challenging but with some effort you can make it happen. I routed the foam hose all the way to the back of the sprayer and attached it to the spray boom arms. I didn't like it there. It just looked too cluttered for me. Not acceptable! Lets make a boom entirely for the foam marker.

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Step Five: Custom Boom The only place appropriate for the foam marker boom was on the front of the sprayer. I took some scrap metal, made a few cuts, then over to the vice for few bends and cranked out a pair of boom arms. I very much based them on the rear booms - just scaled them to size. I wanted the foam arms to be fold-able in the same manner as the existing ones. This would require a little engineering and trial and error but i'm up for the task. I located two tension springs and pins laying around the shop. I welded a couple pivot arms on the booms, welded a nut on the backside to hold the tension spring in place and drilled a hole down through the middle. Just like that, fold-able boom arms. Don't be fooled, it took a little more effort than that but you get the idea. I attached a 3/8 inch piece of hose to the shank hose connector straight up to a 3/8 inch barbed tee fitting. From there a piece of hose to a 90 degrees barbed fitting on the end of the boom. All I need is some power and this baby is done!
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Step Six: Toggle Switches On the trailer sprayer I wired two automotive quick disconnect plugs. One for the sprayer pump, and one for the foam pump. On the lawn mower side I also wired two quick disconnect plugs. This would allow me to easily connect and disconnect the sprayer. No wires to unroll and hook up. No alligator clamps to connect to the battery. I wanted reliable power to the sprayer and this accomplished that. I mounted two toggle switches on the right side of the lawn mower and wired them directly to the battery. Now with the flip of a switch I can conveniently turn on and off both sprayer pumps.

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My goal with these upgrades was to improve an entry level sprayer to make it function better and spray more precisely. I wanted to do it in a manner in which the overall look of the sprayer remained factory just with a lawn forum touch. I spent a decent amount of time trimming, and adjusting to make everything fit properly. Neat, clean, and simple! Looking at the receipts, I spent approximately $150.00 in total upgrades. All and all I would say these are very affordable modifications and you're getting plenty of bang for your buck. I had a lot of fun building it and i'm more than willing to answer any questions anyone out there has. Looking at the sprayer now, I can't help but smile and grunt exactly like Tim the tool man Taylor would do. :thumbup:

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bp2878
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Re: 31 Gallon Northstar Sprayer TLF Style

Post by bp2878 » Fri Sep 13, 2019 3:08 pm

very cool! Ive always wondered what that foam on the golf course was for, now I know.

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Re: 31 Gallon Northstar Sprayer TLF Style

Post by Ware » Fri Sep 13, 2019 3:09 pm

Nice work!

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Re: 31 Gallon Northstar Sprayer TLF Style

Post by g-man » Fri Sep 13, 2019 8:37 pm

I think the only thing missing is a speedometer.

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Re: 31 Gallon Northstar Sprayer TLF Style

Post by ksturfguy » Fri Sep 13, 2019 9:40 pm

Awesome

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Re: 31 Gallon Northstar Sprayer TLF Style

Post by GreenHorn » Sat Sep 14, 2019 7:37 am

Excellent upgrades!

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Re: 31 Gallon Northstar Sprayer TLF Style

Post by OnTheOxbow » Sat Sep 14, 2019 9:36 am

@bp2878 Yes sir. The stronger the mix you have in the tank the more important it becomes to accurately track your spray path. This becomes especially significant on golf greens or any low cut turf.

@g-man I thought about adding a speed-o and ultimately decided to try "speed" an iphone app first. It tracks your real time speed as well as average speed, max speed, and distance traveled. It works surprisingly well!

@Ware, @ksturfguy & @GreenHorn Thanks guys!

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Re: 31 Gallon Northstar Sprayer TLF Style

Post by FlowRider » Sat Sep 14, 2019 1:38 pm

@OnTheOxbow

Wow! Your modifications look very well executed, and I really like how you kept a clean factory-like appearance.

I have the same unit, but aside from agitation and an upgraded hand spray wand, mine is still box stock.

I am still using the factory nylon flood jets, since they have been working fine for me. I use a flat fan spray wand tip.

I have a couple of questions about your setup.

(1) I see you made the front arms foldable, which matches the folding capabilities of the rear boom arms. Does the length of the boom arms in front limit your turning radius when you make tight turns or have to back the unit up?

(2) What happened to your hand spray wand? I could not see it in the final build pictures. Does it still work?

Really professional looking upgrades to your unit. I like the way the unit still looks factory quality, but it's custom.

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Re: 31 Gallon Northstar Sprayer TLF Style

Post by CenlaLowell » Sat Sep 14, 2019 2:31 pm

Question how did you get power to the toggle switch? Can you explain this area of the setup?

Damn good job
Last edited by CenlaLowell on Sat Sep 14, 2019 2:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 31 Gallon Northstar Sprayer TLF Style

Post by OnTheOxbow » Sat Sep 14, 2019 8:17 pm

@FlowRider Thanks for the compliments! The front boom arms do not limit the turning radius what so ever. The foam marker tank actually comes closer to the lawn mower than the boom arms but doesn't effect the turning radius either. I have a 54 inch cut mower which has a rather large turning radius, I think that helps tremendously. If you have a smaller cut mower, I have to believe the tank or boom would limit your turning radius. In reverse, you are limited on the amount you can turn. You can still easily maneuver the trailer around but you can absolutely jack knife the foam marker tank into the tires. As long as you're paying attention, it's not an issue. The sprayer wand is still attached and works. I cut and used almost the entire length of the hose from the sprayer wand in my modifications. I left enough attached to reach the driver's seat, so it's still usable.

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Re: 31 Gallon Northstar Sprayer TLF Style

Post by OnTheOxbow » Sat Sep 14, 2019 9:09 pm

@CenlaLowell I mostly used Battery Tenders parts and pieces. Tenders come with two different connectors. One being the alligator style clip connector and the other being the more permanent hoop connector with a fuse that you actually bolt to the battery terminal. I used the hoop style connector and bolted it to the battery. That lead already had a quick disconnect on the opposite end, so I cut the corresponding quick disconnect off the wall plug side of the battery tender. I wired that disconnect to about two feet of wire and ran it to the toggle switch. I just zip tied it along the frame until I got to the switch. The toggle switch just has to break the circuit on one strand, so the positive side wires into one side of the toggle switch and out the other side. The ground side is continually wired all the way to the rear of the mower. There, I have the quick disconnect to easily unhook the trailer. I just repeated this process a second time for the foam marker pump. A few additional things to note: the sprayer pump draws more amps, therefore that circuit needs heavier gauge wire. The quick disconnect plug is also a heavier duty plug so it can handle the amperage. The foam marker pump is wired up on much lighter gauge wire. I used two different plugs for the quick disconnect at the trailer so they would never get swapped. Also wiring the pumps directly to the battery means they always have available power to them. If you flip the toggle switch on they are pumping even with the key in the off position. If you were to accidentally flip the toggle switch on and not realize it(unlikely but not impossible), either the battery will run dead or the pump will overheat and burn up. I always unplug the trailer when I finish spraying to avoid this. I hope this helps. If you need some pictures or a wiring diagram, just let me know i'll be glad to post them. Or if you have any other questions, just ask. And thanks for the compliment!

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Re: 31 Gallon Northstar Sprayer TLF Style

Post by CenlaLowell » Sat Sep 14, 2019 9:12 pm

OnTheOxbow wrote:
Sat Sep 14, 2019 9:09 pm
@CenlaLowell I mostly used Battery Tenders parts and pieces. Tenders come with two different connectors. One being the alligator style clip connector and the other being the more permanent hoop connector with a fuse that you actually bolt to the battery terminal. I used the hoop style connector and bolted it to the battery. That lead already had a quick disconnect on the opposite end, so I cut the corresponding quick disconnect off the wall plug side of the battery tender. I wired that disconnect to about two feet of wire and ran it to the toggle switch. I just zip tied it along the frame until I got to the switch. The toggle switch just has to break the circuit on one strand, so the positive side wires into one side of the toggle switch and out the other side. The ground side is continually wired all the way to the rear of the mower. There, I have the quick disconnect to easily unhook the trailer. I just repeated this process a second time for the foam marker pump. A few additional things to note: the sprayer pump draws more amps, therefore that circuit needs heavier gauge wire. The quick disconnect plug is also a heavier duty plug so it can handle the amperage. The foam marker pump is wired up on much lighter gauge wire. I used two different plugs for the quick disconnect at the trailer so they would never get swapped. Also wiring the pumps directly to the battery means they always have available power to them. If you flip the toggle switch on they are pumping even with the key in the off position. If you were to accidentally flip the toggle switch on and not realize it(unlikely but not impossible), either the battery will run dead or the pump will overheat and burn up. I always unplug the trailer when I finish spraying to avoid this. I hope this helps. If you need some pictures or a wiring diagram, just let me know i'll be glad to post them. Or if you have any other questions, just ask. And thanks for the compliment!
It would be great if you could post pictures of the wiring diagram.
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Re: 31 Gallon Northstar Sprayer TLF Style

Post by OnTheOxbow » Sat Sep 14, 2019 10:10 pm

@CenlaLowell I mapped it out in my head before I built it. I didn't have a factory wiring diagram or sorts to follow. This is how I wired it, very basic drawing but I think it will clarify it for you.

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Re: 31 Gallon Northstar Sprayer TLF Style

Post by FlowRider » Sun Sep 15, 2019 10:37 am

@OnTheOxbow

Thanks for your reply! I noticed on one of your last pictures that the nozzle from the wand was sticking out from the rear of the sprayer tank, but I had already sent you my question....

A few more questions, if you don't mind:

On the wiring of your toggle switches, did you include any kind of fuse, or did you straight wire it to the battery?

Are you using the bypass valve on the regulator for your agitation? Any thoughts or plans on a different system?

Can you set the ball valve in such a way so as to have partial agitation and still have enough pressure to spray?

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Re: 31 Gallon Northstar Sprayer TLF Style

Post by OnTheOxbow » Sun Sep 15, 2019 8:28 pm

@FlowRider Yeah both toggle switch circuits are fused. The Battery Tender leads bolted to the battery have an inline fuse. I think originally they had a 7.5 amp fuse, I replaced the sprayer pump side with a 20 amp fuse. I think I left the foam pump as a 7.5 amp but I can't remember honestly.

Yeah the bypass valve on the regulator can be used for agitation. If the boom is turned completely off, the pump has enough force to provide decent agitation. At 2.2 gpm, once I turn on the spray booms there is hardly any left over pressure or gpm for agitation. You are limited by that small of a pump. Even if you turn the regulator down, which effects your spray, or manually adjust the ball valve, which also effects your spray, there just isn't enough left over juice to provide significant agitation. I don't particularly like using it anyway because it doesn't do a great job of agitating. It basically just splashed water around. It really needs as larger pump as well as a pipe or tube to get that force down below the water line to the bottom of the tank. That would provide significant circulation and agitation. If you increased the size of the pump to a 5.5 gpm, then you can spray and agitate at the same time. Aside from that, I don't know how you could accomplish it. You may have different results, I'm not familiar with the output of your spray tips but I have to think they are similar to mine.

I mix all my chemicals in a 5 gallon bucket containing 3 or 4 gallons of water. Then I pour them into the sprayer that's already partially filled with water. I do this because I like to use a paint mixer on the end of a cordless drill to make sure everything is completely dissolved. Transferring the solution from a bucket to the tank you can watch the mixture as you pour to see if there are any clumps or any thing undissolved left in the bottom of the bucket. At that point, i'll use the paint mixer inside the tank. Then i'll just switch on the pump with the booms off for the final mix until I get lined up ready to spray. Once I start spraying, the water sloshing around inside the thank does more than enough agitating.

You're welcome, i'm glad to help. Let me know if any of that is unclear.

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