Tackling Winter Equipment Maintenance Tasks
By Josh Boyd
With the bitter cold months of winter, comes an inevitable slow period for many small farms. The winter lull typically serves as a time of reflection for the farmer, filled with a staunch sense of satisfaction toward successes of the past, and tedious ponderings of shortcomings from the previous year.
However, like most who take enjoyment in the rural lifestyle are so well aware, there is no such thing as true downtime on the farm, and the winter is no exception. The winter months offer the distinct opportunity to repair what has failed, and prepare what must be ready at a moment’s notice.
The equipment that one uses from season to season is every bit as valuable to farm operation as the ground that we work. Tractors and implements serve to facilitate the end goal for which we strive, through mechanical means. In the absence of proper equipment operation, our efforts often fall short, and frustrations build. For this reason, it is of immense value to formulate a regular equipment maintenance plan, which is to be carried out without fail.
No time is as ripe for such endeavors as the idle period of winter. After all, putting off until tomorrow, what you could have done today can cost you dearly when it comes to equipment maintenance. Utilizing the winter months as a time for seeing to all items of equipment maintenance, allows you to handle the task at hand, before constant spring chores dwindle your free time to a minimum.
Where to Begin?
When it comes to equipment maintenance, few items come to mind quite as quickly as our beloved tractors. First and foremost, you should tend to matters of basic service, if they have not been seen to recently. Engine oil is the lifeblood of your tractor’s power plant, and neglecting to change it at standard service intervals is asking for catastrophic mechanical failure. Handle this task before it gets forgotten among the clutter of spring.
Additionally, other maintenance items such as air cleaner upkeep and fuel filter replacement should also take precedence. Neglecting either of these tasks can cost you time and money as the year moves forward. Hydraulic system maintenance is also of pertinence. Change both filter and fluid as recommended by factory service intervals.
It is also worth mentioning that all hydraulic hoses should be checked at this time as well. If any rubbed spots, dry-rotting, or damage to a line’s critical structure is noted, making replacements now will save you costly down-time when in the field at a later date.
Greasing all alemites is also highly advised, as a failure to do so can lead to problematic issues that will only compound with time. Anyone who has ever been forced to contend with frozen pins and pivot points, is likely well aware of the importance of greasing such components.
Don’t Forget the Implements
Your tractor is no more than a glorified field vehicle in the absence of properly operating implements; therefore, maintenance of such should not be neglected. A mechanical failure of an implement that you need, is every bit as detrimental as a tractor that is dead in the water.
Perhaps the most important item of implement maintenance comes in relation to a particular piece of equipment’s drive components. For most implements such as rotary cutters, this begins and ends with the gearbox. Changing gear oil within an implement’s gearbox assists in increasing component longevity and preventing costly breakdowns. Drain and refill these gearboxes as specified, while also checking for metallic residue that can spell future trouble.
Additionally, all drive belts such as those found on sickle-bar and finish mowers should be checked for fraying and excessive wear. If any of the like is noted, replace these belts as needed to prevent issues in the field. It is also advisable to check pulleys, both of the drive and idler variety, for bearing wear and fatigue.
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Equipment components such as blades on rotary cutters, knives and guards on sickle bar mowers, and teeth on rakes should also be checked for extensive wear, as well as chipping and gouging. If any such wear is noted, make replacements as necessary now, as opposed to when you are facing a short weather window when the spring season arrives.
Making The Most of Winter Maintenance
By taking the bull by the horns, and tackling equipment maintenance head-on during the winter months, you will be setting the stage for success upon spring’s arrival. Not only will tackling such tasks during winter’s lull prevent the emergence of issues at a later date, but doing so will also provide you with the peace of mind that you have made every effort to better the days ahead.
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