Electric Sand or Salt Spreader for Your Truck or Tractor From Junk




This Instructable will guide you through the creation of an electric spreader that can help you coat icy surfaces with sand or salt with the flip of a switch. No more soup can, bucket, and falling on your butt! A hopper is constructed from a 5 gallon bucket with a hole in the bottom. Sand exits the big hole through a funnel made from a 2 liter bottle. The sand then piles into a PVC pipe tee. A cordless drill is used to spin the PVC pipe tee. When the pipe tee spins around, centrifugal force pulls the sand out of the tee and slings it everywhere. The 45 degree elbows on the ends of the pipes keep the sand from falling out when the sand spreader isn't running. No valves are needed to keep the sand in. Then lengths of the pipe can be changed to change the area the spreader can cover. I opted to use a switch to turn on the spreader and power it from the battery on my lawn tractor—you could just use the trigger lock on your drill if it has a battery. My drill didn't have a good battery so I got it for free. Total cost of this project depends entirely on what you have on hand. Estimated cost is $53 if you had to buy everything. I had all of it on hand. I will probably have about $10 in replacing the fasteners I used.


The first steps is to gather your materials. You will need:


(1) Five gallon bucket – Can be had free from your local drywall contractor where houses are being built. $3
(1) 2 liter bottle $1
(3ft) Threaded rod (¼-20 is what I used). $4
(20) sheet metal screws >= #8 x ¾ $3
(1) 1” PVC Pipe Tee $1
(1ft) 1” PVC Pipe $1
(2) 1” 45 degree elbows $1
(1ft) 2x4 lumber $0.50
(3ft) 1x4 lumber $0.50
(6) ¼-20 x 1-1/2” bolts $1
(12) ¼ flat washers $1
(6) ¼-20 nylon lock nuts $1.50
(3ft x 6”) 3/4” plywood or equivalent $2
(1) old cordless drill with a dead battery – Let your friends at work know you want one. $14 on sale
(2) ¼-20 hex nuts. $0.20
(6) Drywall screws 1-5/8” long
(4) Drywall screws 1” long

If you want a switch on your tractor or in your truck you will need:

(At least 8ft) #14AWG two conductor wire $3

(1) 15A rocker switch $5
(1) 15A fuse with holder – Please don't skip this. You might burn up your tractor or truck. $5
(2) 5/16" Ring terminals for the #14AWG or larger wire.
(2) 1/4" female Crimp terminals may be needed for the rocker switch

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Step 1: Drill a ¼” Hole in the Very Center of Your Pipe Tee.

Step 2: Bolt Your Threaded Rod to Pipe Tee.

You may wish to use some Loctite thread locker to keep this from ever coming apart. Tighten the nuts down until the cut into the plastic.

Step 3: Assemble the Slinger

## Some things I've learned in the last two years -- I added some length at the very ends after the 45 degree elbow to keep sand from bouncing out of the ends of the arms while plowing. I also jammed my slinger once and the drill started to screw the threaded rod deeper and deeper into the slinger. Adding some extra jam nuts, bending over and wire tying the threaded rod, or some other means of reinforcing this joint may be a good idea -- be sure to submit photos with your comments to share your ideas! ##

Cut two sections of pipe about 3” long. Press fit them into each end of the tee. DO NOT GLUE THEM. The length of the pipes will need adjusted to change the size of the spreading pattern later on. Put the 45 degree elbows on each end of the pipe. In the photo I used very short pieces of pipe at first. I found my spreading pattern was too small, so I pulled them off and replaced them with 3-1/2 sections. That pattern was a little big, so I cut them down to 3”.

Step 4: Make the Funnel

Cut the bottom off your 2 liter bottle to make the funnel for the hopper. I “flowered” the top out to allow MANY sheet metal screws to hold it to the bottom of the bucket. PET is tough stuff.

Step 5: Prepare the Hopper (5 Gallon Bucket)

Cut a hole in your bucket that is SMALLER than the funnel made by the 2 liter bottle by about 1/8” in radius.  This will give you a little overlap when you screw the bottle to it.

Step 6: Attach the Funnel to the Hopper

Screw the bottle neck to the bottom of the bucket using each of the little flags as a mounting tab.

Step 7: Cut the Threaded Rod to Length

Test fit the drill to the bucket and cut the ¼-20 threaded rod. I made sure the chuck of my drill was at the top of the bucket so I didn't get sand into the chuck which could keep it from working.

Step 8: Make the Drill Mounting Assembly

Your bucket may have dimesions that are different from mine. I have suis just what I had. pplied them just to give you a rough idea of the parts to cut and how to install them.  Cut a pair of wooden blocks.  2x4's would be be fine.  This is just what I had. Mock up the cross member in the bucket after you have placed the two blocks in the bucket to see where the board will go.  Screw the cross member to the block and then slide it into the bucket.  Cut a piece of 1x4 for the vertical piece the drill will be taped to.  Screw it to the cross member.  AFTER SCREWING THE BLOCKS TO THE CROSSMEMBER AND THE VERTICAL PIECE THE ASSEMBLY CAN BE SCREWED TO THE SIDES OF THE BUCKET.  Sheet metal screws work well to hold the blocks to the side of the bucket.


Step 9: Mount the Drill

Tighten the drill chuck on the threaded rod.  Pull the drill up until the tee bottoms out against the funnel.  Then lower the drill 1/8" to allow for a loose fit.  Tape the drill to the vertical mount on the drill bracket with some duct tape or Gorilla tape.

Step 10: Make Mounts to Hold the Spreader on the Tractor

Cut two pieces of 3/4" plywood about 18" long and 6" high.  My tractor has a flat plate at the back of it that was perfect to hang the spreader from.  Screw the two pieces of plywood together temporarily to make cutting identical notches in them easier.  Trace out a mounting slot that will allow the wooden tang to hang over the inside of the flat steel plate on the tractor.  Make sure the tang is short enough that it can slide in under the fender deck.  Cut out the wooden tangs from both 18"x6" pieces of plywood.

Step 11: Bolt the Mounting Plates to the Side of the Bucket

Use 3 1/4-20 x 1-1/2" bolts to attach the plywood to the sides of the bucket. Use a Bolt-Washer-wood-bucket-washer-locknut sandwich in all three places.  Then bolt the other side on.  I found that hanging the brackets off the tractor made it easier to keep everything in alignment while I drilled the holes. 

Step 12: Solder Wires to the Drill

I chose to add a fuse and switch so I could turn on the spreader from my seat and wouldn't need a working battery.  To make connecting the wires easier I cut the battery housing off the handle of the drill with a multi-x.  A hacksaw would work well too. 

Step 13: Solder the Red Wire to the + Terminal on the Drill and the Black to the - Terminal

Check the housing or the defunct batter to figure out which is which.  Polarity is important.  If you hook it up wrong, it will fry the drill.  Wrap it liberally in electrical tape when finished.

Step 14: Add a Switch to Your Tractor

Route the wires from the drill to where your switch will go.  Most rocker switches can go in a simple rectangular hole.  Make a masking tape template and then drill/saw/dremel until you get the rectangle close to size.  Then finish it with a file to get it just right.  Your switch should interrupt only the positve (red, +) wire. Most chassis mount switches will have 0.25" crimp terminals.  It works out very neatly if you can use those.

Step 15: Add a Fuse Holder and Connect It to the Battery

An inline fuse holder with a 15A fuse is required.  If the wiring on your system gets worn through by some metal rubbing on it over the years it will set your tractor on fire if you don't have a fuse.  Put it on the end of the red wire.  Then condinue the red wire to an appropriately sized ring terminal.  Try using the clamping bolt on the battery as a place to take power off the battery.  Connect a second ring terminal to the black wire and connect it to the clamping bolt on the negative post.

Step 16: Profit!

Finally, we get to the PROFIT step! Use "Coarse fill sand" that is KEPT DRY to fill the spreader. Put a plastic trash bag or another bucket over the top to keep snow from getting the sand wet. Use a bungee cord to hold it around the top of the bucket. If the sand gets wet it may stick and not exit the spreader properly.
Remember how we press fit the PVC pipes together and didn't glue them? This is because we haven't seen how far the slinger throws the sand yet. If the slinger doesn't throw the sand far enough, remove the straight sections of PVC pipe and substitute in longer ones. With my drill on the "low" gear setting, I arrived at 3-1/2" straight sections as being just right to cover a 12ft wide area.

Thank you for the time you spent looking over my instructable. If you have read this far and are thinking, "This was great and totally worth a buck" You can help me continue to make more instructables by making a donation using this link to my ebay store. Thanks, and keep building! -- Yeltrow

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26 Discussions


2 years ago

I made this last weekend, and boy what a time saver! I have a long (.3 mile) road into my home with a very steep hill. This sander was easy to build and I attach it to my side by side and plug it into the connector for my sprayer. That way I can easily turn it on and off from the drivers seat. Thanks for posting this!


2 years ago

How far does this sling the sand? I'd like to be able to use it on sidewalks


2 years ago

thank you this will make my job easier this winter my driveway is gravel and about 1/2 a mile long we got stuck so much last winter


3 years ago

I made one using hand seed spreader electric motor off car fan and square bucket used hand brake off bike to open and close salt door and electric trailer brake control box to adjust speed got idea off looking at yours and used what I had in shed laying around

Master of Homemade

3 years ago

I am going to build one but mount it on a had truck so I can tow it with my snapper


4 years ago on Introduction

Do you think the starter off an 18 horse motor would work on one for a 250 yard road? I have one on an old mower that still works. I could even enclose the motor for more protection. They stay outside year round anyway. Do you think it could be put on a rheostat for slower speed? Would it get too hot? I like this design and want to do some modification to put behind my box blade on the tractor. Thanks for sharing this.

1 reply

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

richnchicks: Sorry, but the starter would be difficult to make work. They draw a tremendous amount of current and tend to run pretty fast. It would take a HUGE rheostat to control a motor of that size. Motor starters also are meant for very short duty cycles (on times). Running them for long will overheat their windings because they are not sized for continuous duty.


5 years ago

Wow I was about to click purchase now on a 300 dollar sander attachment for my quad like 3 days ago and I found this and noticed I had about 80% of the parts in my basement and it's not quite the commercial application I was looking going to get but it's really good fabulous design and would also work with grass seed and gradual fertilizers a+ on the write up also

2 replies

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

If you decide to use it it on something where the application rate should be uniform like grass seed, you will want to mount it on it's own wheels or something and pull it FAR behind the tractor. It slings in a perfect circle. If your pull vehicle is in that circle it will distort the pattern and your coverage will not be uniform in that area. If the pulling tongue is longer than the sling radius, you will be in fine shape.


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Or you can (should anyways) install a deflector to focus the application towards the rear of the vehicle, just as commercial units do. You don't really want to be slinging sand or salt into the rear of your tractor - breaks, bearings etc. will fail prematurely and body/chassis rust will happen in no time once the paint wears off!.

Absolutely Brilliant! I will build this for spreading fertilizer and ant bait.

Very well done!


5 years ago

Fantastic use of your surroundings, MacGyver award for sure! Also would like to reiterate others comments on the excellent documentation. I often need to carry tools such as pruners, rake a/o chainsaw when I am cutting grass/working around the property. I thought about building a little box/bed, but never came up w/ a good mount. I might just use some of your clever "hanging" design.


5 years ago on Introduction

I love the use of items that one may have around the home/garage or may be able to pick up inexpensively. Thank you for posting this.


5 years ago on Introduction

Excellent article. I have a 300' driveway with an incline and have 3 sanding stations along the length (pain!). I bought a walk behind spreader for $150 or so and knew within minutes it wouldn't spread because of clumping. This looks very promising. Any chance of posting a video of this in action?


5 years ago on Introduction

I love this. It is effective, approachable, and well documented! And it uses stuff I probably could find around the house. Perfect Instructable!

Now this is in the spirit of this site, great innovating !!! Thanks for sharing !


5 years ago

vbianco... you could change out the plastic bottle with a 3"x1.5" pvc coupleing and the reduce that to the I belive 1" (could be reduced even smaller like 3/4) either way it would look more pro. and if ya wanted a even more clean look short run of 6 pvc and use it as the bucket and reduce that with fittings from there on down to the spreader. hope this helps... ps awesome design!!!!


5 years ago on Introduction

Very Nice, I could use one some times.............like now!