Whether for field work, hauling or powering, a tractor is the indispensable piece of equipment that is central to a farm’s profitability. The frequency of its use generally exceeds that of other machines and implements so, needless to say, it represents a major investor for growers. The harsh reality is that even used tractors, with many hours clocked, can still fetch high prices. It is essential for the farmer, then, to maximize this vehicle’s longevity by means of consistent and thorough maintenance. After all, a tractor is a configuration of parts and parts wear out. Taking steps to preserve both raises a farmer’s return on investment.
Nothing beats clean living
This goes for people and tractors, the latter spending a good deal of its life in dirt. Tilling, planting and pulling grain carts at harvest — not to mention spreading manure, cutting, raking and baling — are all time-consuming jobs during which a tractor traverses the soil. If conditions are wet, there is mud; if dry, dust. The presence of livestock can mean manure is about. If roads must be traveled, snow and salt are also unwelcome invaders. To prevent clogs, malfunction and corrosion, users should give the tractor a good cleansing, a power-wash if possible, on a regular basis. Pay close attention to tires, air filters and surfaces.
Rust not, want not
Rust is an insidious form of corrosion that can sometimes sneak up on a tractor owner. Examining the vehicle diligently is one way to keep this kind of oxidation from degrading the works. Preventive measures include parking the tractor indoors when not in use; waxing it once a year; retracting the hydraulic cylinders to reduce metallic exposure; and greasing the bearings and other moving parts before winter storage. In addition, maintain a supply of rust preventative coating since the original coating eventually loses its repellent properties.
Upon close examination
Some tractor owners bury their heads in the sand, preferring not to know about potential problems. They do not apprehend that potential problems are quicker and cheaper to deal with than actual ones. Inspecting often, i.e. more frequently than once a year, can reveal signs of wear that need to be addressed. Tires should be checked for wear, for cuts and perforations. Make sure nuts and bolts are sufficiently tight. Also, look closely at hoses for leaking and aging. Oil pressure, lights and gauges, and computer systems should be reviewed for proper function. Moreover, an important task is to check the battery’s fluid levels and mounting, and making sure its connections are free of debris. Use the tractor’s operator’s manual as a guide to systematically evaluate its works.For safety’s sake, giving the safety guards, as well as the power-takeoff (PTO) shields a once-over will spare the user of future nightmares. For the same reason, the status of handrails, steps and brakes should not be neglected. Neither should steering column connections be overlooked — make sure they are intact and tight.
Document, document, document
The findings of these ordered inspections are best logged on paper, in a computer file or, preferably, both. This way, the user can measure any deterioration that may not initially require action. Able to see the rate of a part or system breaking down, the farmer or employee can decide when to order new parts or to request servicing. Being meticulous about record keeping allows the owner to exercise informed judgment as to whether minor or major repairs are warranted at any given time. This optimized the tractor’s durability.