Is your tractor ready for the field?

There are details to look after before starting that tractor that has been stored all winter:

  • Loosen all the drain plugs. There is bound to be moisture at the bottom of every housing, and if you don’t drain it, where does it go? It mixes with the oil and shortens the life of every gear, bearing and hydraulic component. If you have not been doing this, it might be a good idea to send a sample for oil analysis.
  • If the fuel has not been moved for three months, it will sometimes cause poor starting, rough running and low horsepower just for a day or so.
  • You can either dump the fuel or use diesel fuel conditioner to improve response and get your horsepower back.
  • Change the outer air filter. This should be done every year. If the inner one is dirty, throw them both away. It’s a small investment for a big return. Research at Iowa State University has shown that clean fuel and air filters typically improve horsepower by 3.5 percent, which is 10 found horsepower on a 300 h.p. tractor. More importantly, it means you can throttle back a little and save fuel once operating in the field.
  • Check the outside axle bearings if the tractor has lots of hours on it. Take the weight off the wheels and see if the axle bearings are loose. If so, it’s time for repairs before the wear gets serious.
  • Check that the high idle is set properly, especially on older tractors.
  • If you have had a power hop problem, it might a good idea to do some of the preliminary work to improve that issue while the tractor is at home. Make sure the tire pressure is right. The outer tire should not be more then three pounds different from the inside one. The front wheels turn faster than the rear ones on a front-wheel assist tractor. It is a good idea to make them slip first. To ensure this takes place, raise the pressure as high as the maximum rated in the manual and lower the pressure on the back to the minimum. This lowers the pulling point on the machine, which adds weight to the front end. This also lowers the hitch and might require resetting the seeding unit, depending on the drill or cultivator hitch’s design.
  • Check the batteries. Put a charger on them and top them up. There is nothing more frustrating than batteries that fail when you are otherwise ready to run. If they don’t check out well, put them on augers and buy new ones.
  • If the machine is a few years old, think about how much fun it would be to replace a water pump when you are seeding. The pump relies on lubricant in the fluid, and if it has broken down, it won’t be long before the pump will, too. Is it time for a change?
  • Go over the manual with employees. They could probably use a quick refresher on the machine and there are good operational, maintenance and safety points in there that might help keep the tractor a season or two longer. What is that worth to you?

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Henry Guenter is a former service manager 
for Massey Ferguson. Contact: insidemachines@producer.com.