By regularly practicing certain maintenance tasks, you can safeguard the upkeep and safety of your tractor. Jim Ruen of Hobby Farms spoke with Craig Tammel, a mechanic at Preston Equipment Co. The following is their list of key tractor maintenance duties:
Perform a visual inspection of your tractor
In particular, you want to check for leaks, as well as loose or worn hoses and cables. To fix leaks, you should tighten or replace hoses, clamps and drain plugs.
Make sure that the radiator-fluid level of your tractor is adequate
While gradual loss of fluids is normal for small farm tractors, if you find you often need more fluid, it could be a sign of more serious problems, including coolant leaking into the engine oil, Tammel says.
Inspect the fan's drive belt for signs of wear and tension, and carefully examine the radiator core and grill screen
If any dirt or debris has accumulated, you should clear it out. Applying air pressure is the best method for doing this task, as it also avoids damage to the fins on the radiator. "If your tractor cab is equipped with air conditioning, take a minute to check the condenser, and remove any debris built up around it, as well," Ruen says. "If cleaning with a pressure washer, take care not to bend radiator fins or damage seals or other components."
Top off the tractor's fuel tank
You should always aim to have at least a days worth of fresh fuel supply, which should have been in storage for no more than three months, says Tammel.
"If you are using smaller fuel storage, like 5-gallon cans, check to be sure they are clean and rust-free," Tammel says. "You don't want to dump rust and contaminants into the tractor's fuel tank."
Check the tractor's oil
Just as problems with your coolant can indicate more serious issues, Ruen explains that "low engine-oil levels are indicators of other problems" as well. Blue smoke in the exhaust and less power are often the first signs you'll initially notice with internal oil leaks. At this point, also make sure to grease the joints.
Make sure the tractor's tire pressure is at the right level
A tire check is one of the fastest and easiest steps to take, and yet it is absolutely vital to making sure your tractor runs safely and efficiently.
Check the air filter
This seventh step — checking the air filter — is optional, but crop- or weed-residue buildup signals that you should inspect your filter.
In particular, Tammel advises to "watch for air restrictions that affect power and also for dusty operating conditions that can put an extra load on air filters." He adds that "black smoke in the exhaust can also be a sign of insufficient air mixing with the fuel."
Ruen offers further instructions, explaining that air filters usually have two filters: a larger outside one, and a smaller (backup) inner filter. You should never remove the inner filter apart from times you are actually replacing it. However, if the outer filter is significantly dirty, you should remove it and clear it out "using no more than 35-psi airflow" and then "return it to the housing." Finally, take the step of wiping out dirt and dust before closing the housing.
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Practice these seven tips to keep your tractor in tip top form.