With harvest nearly complete, growers should begin preparing machinery for the winter.
While some tractors will be used throughout the winter, harvest equipment and combines may sit idle for months before returning to daily service. Without proper winterization, these machines slowly degenerate and lose vitality.
According to Jim Rossbach, CHS director of technical services and quality, taking the proper steps to care for equipment after heavy use is one of the most important things growers can do to protect their investment in their equipment.
"After running a machine hard, such as during harvest, the first step is to conduct a visual inspection to see what things might need repair," says Rossbach. "And, since it's after harvest, machines covered in dust, dirt and grime are going to need to be cleaned."
The goal of post-harvest winterizing is to prepare equipment for the next usage, whether that is next month, next spring or next fall. Without a proper inspection after fall use, growers will likely have to spend more time and resources fixing equipment later – time that could be spent in the field.
"Winterizing basics include cleaning equipment first, then changing the oil and filters, checking the cooling system, checking the battery, changing the air filters, topping off the fuel, adding a fuel stabilizer, and properly lubricating or greasing equipment," says Rossbach. "Ideally, farmers should have their equipment all set to go for the next time they need to get into the field."
When evaluating a machine at the end of harvest, make note of things like burned-out headlights that might cause unnecessary downtime in the spring.
"It is a good idea to make a checklist of the 7 or 8 items to evaluate on each piece of machinery," recommends Rossbach. "Use the owner's manual as a starting point, but a personalized list will be helpful to look back on year after year."
The sooner these repair and maintenance projects are completed after a piece of machinery is done being used for the season, the better. If you put in the time and elbow grease now, equipment will be better protected throughout the cold winter months and ready to go next spring.
Rossbach also advises growers to tune up tractors that they will continue to use before the colder weather hits.
"Lubricants and greases become thicker in colder temperatures, making it more difficult to operate equipment in extreme cold. A lighter fluid is a good engine oil for cold weather and winter work," says Rossbach. "At the very least, clean off the dirt and grime, change the oil and filters, make sure there are fresh fluids in the tractor and top off or check the cooling system so that it's ready to go when you need it."
Farm machinery requires maintenance both on and off the field to keep it running smoothly year after year. Caring for equipment is one way to ensure efficient fieldwork and less downtime.
For more helpful advice and general farming tips throughout the year, check out the Cenexperts blog written by experts with CHS at www.TanksofThanks.com