Farm Equipment Winter Maintenance
How do you Maintain Farm Equipment?
Reading Time: 4 minutes
By Anita B. Stone – Farm equipment winter maintenance is necessary for any equipment that you own that is critical for harvest and in the coming months, to help prevent costly breakdowns.
• The first order of business is to stock up on supplies and spares and have all maintenance agreements handy. Also be sure you have access to a mechanic who can perform maintenance procedures or repairs should you need them.
• Keep all records of services and work done in a service handbook or journal where they can be easily located.
• Make easy-to-read notes. These records could mean extra dollars when it is time to trade or sell a piece of equipment.
• Farm equipment left outside can deteriorate fast. Ideally, utilize a workshop for your maintenance jobs. Make sure the shop can accommodate the largest piece of farm equipment and that it has doors of corresponding size to move the equipment in and out easily.
• Clean the equipment, dry, and lubricate it when necessary and get it indoors. If you do not have room to park the equipment indoors, then choose the most appropriate available cover.
• Keeping moisture away from bearings and major components will help prevent rust. Avoid using water on seals containing bearings.
• Remove crop residue from engine compartments or you risk a fire when you start it up. Surface dirt and rust often hide serious deterioration. All surfaces of any equipment should be periodically cleaned and inspected. Regularly clean straw and chaff deposits from the engine compartment and around belts and pulleys to reduce the risk of fire.
• Pay attention to cutter blades and cylinder pans on forage harvesters and knotters on balers.
• Grease metal parts or use a rust-preventative solvent.
• Consider an oil analysis to make sure your machinery is not harboring any problems and to reassure any equipment is running properly. The results may reveal an oil problem, contamination, or another problematic situation such as difficulties due to changing the oil too often or too infrequently.
• Indoors, allocate a five-foot perimeter around the equipment for a service area and a four-foot perimeter around the workspace to allow for workbenches. Also, make sure there is adequate insulation, lighting, heating, and ventilation in the work area.
Engines are generally most powerful and fuel-efficient when they are tuned properly. Whether your equipment fuel type is diesel or gas, your dealer can use modern equipment to test the efficiency of your engines. The cost should be recoverable from fuel economies and the peak performance
of your machinery.
For harvesters, lubrication is key on wheel spindles and bearings to prevent severe wear and eventual failure. Spindle and bearing grease should be inspected for proper levels and cleanliness prior to each use. Underinflated tires will result in rapid wear and sidewall damage. All tires should be checked for proper inflation and surface condition prior to each use. Routinely check and remove rocks and other obstructions from the fields. Foreign objects can result in breakage or damage to the cutting surfaces and cutting drivetrain.
Electronics and GPS guidance systems tend to be more fragile than the mechanical systems. Keep these systems cool, clean, and dry. Monitor the electrical connections, keeping them tight. Do not allow wires to bundle up and become entangled in other equipment. Overvoltage will almost always damage electronics and control boards.
Operate combines or harvesters at the recommended speed. The faster the equipment operates, the more fuel it uses. Ensure the harvester gas cap fits properly. Caps that are damaged, loose, or missing will cause fuel to vaporize.
Make sure all safety guards are in position and correctly fitted before starting work. Do not run the combine with the guards raised or removed.
Combines and harvesters may have obstructive vision to the rear of the equipment. So, extra care is needed when driving in reverse. Sounding the horn before starting the engine or driving in reverse can alert others. Make sure all audible warnings are maintained and are in working condition.
It is important to routinely replace worn components on a harvester or combine. Worn components can place increased strain on other parts and almost always result in poor performance. Poorly functioning equipment leads to reduced harvest yield.
Harvesting equipment varies, not only by type of crop, but also by the farmer’s preference. Small grain crops such as corn, wheat, or soybeans and other field crops like potatoes, cotton, and animal forage often involve use of large and powerful harvesting equipment. Harvesting may be done by using a tractor and drawbar towed behind the tractor.
Large, high-powered, self-propelled harvesters and combines are also common. Simple forage harvesting involves cutting, discharging, gathering, and baling prior to transport to storage for later use as animal feed. Harvesting grain crops not only involves cutting, but also involves threshing and charges the chaff back to the field. Every part used requires proper attention for proper functioning. It all begins with cleaning, inspecting, and keeping parts well-oiled as part of the whole task.
The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) provides operation, maintenance, and repair guidelines. Copies of OEM applications, operation, inspection, maintenance, and repair guides are usually available
at no charge from the OEM and the OEM website. Copies can be received from the place of purchase.
These farm equipment winter maintenance details may sound extensive, expensive, and time consuming. But, if carried out as an integral part and standard of farm operations, winter maintenance of equipment will bring handsome rewards.
What other tips do you have when it comes to farm equipment winter maintenance? We’d love to hear your comments below!
Originally published in the November/December 2020 issue of Countryside and Small Stock Journal.