The Art of Tractor Maintenance
Caring for machinery is part science — you need the proper oil viscosity to keep each component lubricated — and part, shall we say, zen: getting in tune with the beast to the point that you can anticipate what sort of TLC it needs when. Here are five areas to focus your attention to ensure that your tractor keeps purring.
Each day that you use your tractor walk around it on all sides, visually inspecting for oil leaks, tire wear, dents, and dings, as well as loose bolts and other attachments. Check the level of the three most important fluids: engine oil, coolant, and hydraulic oil. This takes about three minutes but ensures you catch any brewing problems in time to nip them in the bud.
A Little Lube Goes a Long Way
Engine, transmission, axel, brake, steering and hydraulic oil (along with the associated filters) should be changed after every 200 to 1000 hours of use, per the specifications in your owner’s manual. Every 100 hours, get out the grease gun to freshen up the grease nipples, also known as zerks, that prevent wear and tear on the tractor’s various moving parts. Also at the 100-hour interval, apply a spray or liquid lubricant to the engine hood hinges and other similar moving parts to keep them from squeaking — it also keeps them from accumulating rust.
Tractors often stir up a cloud of dust as they are used. This strains the engine, which needs to “breathe” clean air to function at its optimum — in other words, a dirty air filter can take years off its life. Thus, it’s a good idea to check the air filter every 50 hours and clean or replace it as needed. While you’re at it, wipe the dust off the engine fan blades — they will thank you.
Cold Weather Care
If you’re going to park your tractor for winter, be sure to add a fuel stabilizer to keep the fuel fresh for spring, running the engine for a few minutes after you’ve added it to make sure it circulates through the carburetor. It’s also a good idea to start the machine and let the engine run for 20 minutes or so every couple weeks during winter to keep those internal parts from getting creaky.
The Value of Aesthetics
Tractors are made to get dirty, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother cleaning them. Dirt and debris can work their way inside moving parts and shorten their lifespan. They also contribute to rust. Take a pressure washer to your machine whenever it starts to look like it needs a bath and touch up any paint dings or rust spots. You can even wax the hood to make it sparkle — it feels good and certainly won’t hurt the resale value.