Every tractor owner wants to keep his or her equipment in as good shape as possible. In an article in Hobby Farms, Jim Ruen offers these five seasonal maintenance tips for operators. For the article, Ruen consulted with Craig Tammel, a mechanic at a local John Deere dealership in Preston, Minnesota.
It is important that you follow these guidelines in tandem with the recommendations from your tractor owner's manual:
1. Change and evaluate the tractor oil: Tammel explains that you should change your fluids and filters at least once a year. You want to be thorough in your evaluation, checking for any possible contaminants, such as diesel fuel. To do this, "Carefully pour off oil from the collection pan, and look for signs of metal filings that can indicate other problems, such as excessive wear of moving engine parts and potential failure," Ruen suggests.
2. Change tractor filters: Changing your tractor filters is another important seasonal maintenance task. At the time that you replace your outer air filter, make sure to replace the inner one as well. The first step in changing your filter is to close off the fuel line. "Be prepared to catch fuel in the line leading to and from the fuel filter, as well as any fuel in the filter," Ruen explains, adding that you should "check your tractor owner's manual to see if fuel-line replacement is recommended at this time."
Finally, always remember to complete the step of replacing the filter and re-opening the fuel lines before you reopen the fuel line that goes to the tank.
3. Check spark plugs: Especially in older, gas-fueled tractors, it is important to make sure there are no tell-tale signs of incorrect firing. One of the main signs is carbon buildup. The manufacturer's instructions should contain information for how you can rethread plugs without causing damage.
4. Check the machine's coolant: While you might not need to add new coolant for your radiator each year, you should on a regular basis, use a hydrometer to evaluate the machine's water-based coolants. However, before doing this, make sure that the tractor engine has fully cooled down. After waiting the necessary time, you can cover the radiator cap with a cloth, turn it halfway to check the pressure at that point and, then finally, remove it.
The next step is to check the filler neck for debris, which should be removed from the system. "If you find none, insert the hydrometer hose into the neck, squeeze the bulb and release to fill the column. The 'freeze' scale on one side of the hydrometer indicates the freezing point of the solution. It should register less than negative 34 degrees F." Meanwhile, the reverse side shows the boiling point. Coolant that's working properly should have a boiling point reading at 265 degrees F. If your freezing and boiling point requirements don't meet the standard ones, you should remove and replace the coolant. At this point, you'll also likely want to replace the thermostat.
5. Check the tractor battery: Tractor-battery maintenance, even if your machine seems to be operating completely normally, is something you should do at least twice a year. If you find that fluid levels are low, add distilled water and recharge. If the charge level still remains low, change the battery.
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Keep your tractor in the best shape possible with this checklist.