Winter Farm Equipment Maintenance
Farm equipment and its ability to do what you want it to do, when you want it to, is integral to the efficiency and sometimes, the very survival of a commercial farm enterprise. Yet, how often does one see farming equipment left outside for the winter where it is expected to perform again as good as new in the spring? Yes, this policy may work for a year or so, but eventually that neglected piece of equipment is going to cost you in terms of performance and production and perhaps even be the cause of a workplace accident. There are steps you can take during the winter months to help prevent costly breakdowns that will also save you money.
Organize Keep Machinery Paperwork
Before you even think of getting your hands dirty or calling in a mechanic to do maintenance you would be well advised to get the paperwork straight. Make up an equipment service program and keep records of services and work done as recommended in the service handbook for each piece of your farm equipment. The Virginia Cooperative Extension, says, "A Midwest study showed that many farmers could reduce machinery repair costs 25 percent by improving routine maintenance procedures." The first step to saving those dollars is the ability to identify what needs doing and when. Make easy to read charts. Those very records could also mean extra dollars when it is time to trade the equipment in or sell it.
Farm Equipment Storage
Farm equipment that is left outside will deteriorate faster than if it is stored inside. Clean your equipment off, dry it, lubricate it, and get it inside. Keeping moisture away from bearings and important parts will help prevent rust. Also, having the ability to use either or both of high pressure air and high pressure water are valuable tools; avoid using water on seals containing bearings. Be stringent with your cleaning, if you do not remove crop residues from the engine compartments of combines for instance, then you are risking a fire the next time you take it out to the fields. Ensure that you pay special attention to cutter blades and cylinder pans on forage harvesters and the knotters on balers; treat any bare metal on all your farm equipment with grease or use a rust preventative solvent spray. If you cannot get all of your farm equipment inside then select the most expensive equipment first. Again, this is a dollar issue; equipment that is in a better condition should achieve a higher trade-in value or sale price.
Build A Farming Machinery Shop
Spend some money on a well equipped, suitable sized and warm shop to perform your maintenance tasks. Make sure that your shop can accommodate the largest piece of your farm equipment and that it has suitable doors to get the equipment in and out of your shop easily. Also stock up on supplies and spares that you are most likely to use. If you are building or fitting out a shop from scratch, designate a space in the center of your shop for the largest piece of your equipment; allocate a five foot perimeter around that for a service area, and a further four foot perimeter around that workspace to allow for workbenches. Ensure that you have adequate insulation, lighting, heating, and most importantly, ventilation.
You will be changing your farm equipment oil as per your service handbook and disposing of it in an environmentally correct way, but did you know that, like a blood test can pick up a problem in your health, an oil analysis can perhaps point to a problem in your equipment that will manifest itself when you can least afford it? It is best to take your oil sample when it is hot and thoroughly mixed. So, take appropriate precautions to prevent being burned. Your local machinery dealer should be able to arrange the analysis for you or point you in the right direction to get one. The analysis will establish a base for normal conditions and can alert you when abnormal wear or contamination occurs. Furthermore, no two pieces of equipment are exactly the same and the oil analysis may show that you are changing the oil too often, or indeed, not often enough. Either way this information could save you money.
Maintain The Engine
Engines be they diesel or gas are generally at their most powerful and fuel efficient when they are tuned optimally. Your farm machinery dealer will have modern equipment to test the efficiency of your engines and tune them appropriately. The cost of this should be recoverable from fuel economies and the peak performance you reap in return. Also, try not to be tempted to alter or modify your engines in the quest for better performance. The likelihood is that your engine will not have been designed for such modifications and you could be asking for trouble somewhere down the line. Basically, "if it isn't broken, don't fix it."
See your local Southern States store or give us a call to see what we have to help you increase the productivity on your farm!