Prepping Your Tractor Now for the 2012 Growing Season
By Kathy Huting
With mild winter temperatures and the approaching growing season, there is never a better time than now to prepare your equipment for field work. Maintenance is essential if farmers want to be ready for planting, which may be early with the mild weather.
"This is an excellent time to get out that operator's manual and spend some time to review the maintenance schedule," says Mark Hanna, extension agricultural engineer for Iowa State University.
The following represents a checklist of items to consider when preparing your tractor for springtime.
Check the battery
One item that Hanna says is important in preparing a tractor for springtime is checking the condition of the battery. "If it has been a while [since the tractor has been run], check the condition of the batteries and charge them up. Don't expect that everything is going to be ready to go," says Hanna.
Check air and fuel filters
Another important item is making sure the air and fuel filters have been checked and changed if necessary. In a recent article by Hanna from the Iowa State Extension Service, he cites that regular air and fuel filter maintenance results in at least a 3.5% power increase, which is equivalent to adding seven hp on a 200 hp tractor.
"You can then cut back on the throttle setting a bit [when driving the tractor] to get the same power output," says Hanna.
Review safety procedures
Now is also a good time to review the safety section, which usually appears in the front of your tractor's owner's manual. Hanna participated in a study with a group of students and mentioned they found that while the white lighting on the back of the tractor was typically well maintained, the red and amber flashing lights were more often in need of replacement. The reflective tape on your tractor should also be checked.
Monitor tire inflation
The tractor's tire inflation also must be checked, Hanna adds. The owner's manual will contain the correct pressure settings. Tires with too little air inflation or too much greatly impact the equipment's performance and also affect fuel efficiency.
Update your software
With the increase in GPS technologies and precision guidance equipment on tractors, Hanna also recommends making sure all software is up-to-date as part of your preparation for the growing season.
Check and replace fluids with high quality lubricants
Checking and replacing the tractor's fluids with high quality lubricants are important in preparing your tractor to increase its performance now and in the long term.
Quality tractor fluids containing chemical additive packages protect transmissions, hydraulic systems, brakes, clutches, pumps and other moving parts on tractors, safeguarding your investment and livelihood. Because quality fluids are used for multiple applications on a tractor, farmers can simplify maintenance and reduce the number of lubricants kept in their farm's inventory.
"I think that it doesn't matter whether it's a small or large farmer; there are benefits to oil analysis [and replacement] now and in the future," says Paul Hendrix, equipment-pricing analyst for IronPlanet, an online auction house. "Right now, it helps them to understand what's going on internally and it also gives them the opportunity to avoid a catastrophic failure in the future, which is always more expensive to repair."
For farmers who have not been using their tractors quite as frequently over the winter months, maintenance still proves to be essential.
"When you use a machine more often, you have the idea that you need to maintain it more, but when you're only using it a few hundred hours a year, the opinion is that [since] we're not using it much, we'll go ahead and change the oil and put it back in the barn," says Hendrix.
Regular maintenance will pay off in the life and value of the tractor, says Hanna. In an article, he mentions that a "new tractor currently costs approximately $700 per hp depending on its size and options." He says that making that additional 3.5% of power available by consistently replacing the filters can add up to a value of nearly $5,000 when considering the cost of a new replacement tractor.
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- Ensuring Your Tractor's Performance and Durability
- Pre-Field Tractor and Tire Prep
- Maximize Your Tractor's Horsepower
- Engine Oil Analysis Can Head Off Trouble
- Testing Your Tractor's Oil to Improve Longevity, Save Money
- A safety checklist
- How to Buy Your Next Planter