April 16, 2019
Farm machinery might be built with reliability in mind, but hard use on rough fields and twisting country roads can take its toll.
And as every farmer and contractor knows, a major breakdown during harvest can cause delays that will hit them where it hurts … their pocket.
So, how do you ensure your agricultural equipment doesn’t let you down when you need it most?
In this post, we explore our 10 top tips to help you get the best from your farm machinery.
1) Keep your fuel tank in good order
Fuel tanks are expensive pieces of kit that occasionally need routine maintenance to comply with environmental and health and safety legislation.
Whereas this might be seen as an unwelcome cost, it’s worth keeping your tank well maintained. A fuel delivery driver is well within their rights to refuse to fill it if they consider it unsafe.
If this occurs near or during harvest, you’ll need to sort your tank out, reorder your fuel and wait for it to be delivered. As fuel demand is high at that time of the year, this could set you back a long way.
2) Prevent water from getting into your fuel tank
Water accelerates fuel degradation which causes machinery malfunction. In short, it plays havoc with farm machinery. It also promotes the growth of algae and other microorganisms, causing sludge to build up and block injectors and filters.
Regularly check your tank for water with an automatic tank gauge or manually with a water paste. Check all the seals, gaskets, vents and fill caps for signs of wear or damage, and have your tank cleaned once or twice a year.
If possible, install your tank undercover to prevent rain from getting to it.
3) Monitor your fuel levels
This might sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many farmers we see who leave it to the last minute to fill up on diesel. That might work at quiet times of year but do this during harvest or autumn drill and you might find your farm machinery grinding to a halt as you wait for your delivery to come.
However, telemetry systems monitor fuel use and alert you when it’s low, so there really is no excuse for letting supplies dwindle when you need them most.
4) Use winter grade fuel during in cold season
Although winters might not be as cold as they used to be, the British weather can still unleash sub-zero temperatures upon us.
In the cold weather, diesel can begin to solidify, making it difficult to circulate around the engine.
For this reason, winter grade diesel is blended differently to prevent waxing taking place. It is usually wax-resistant down to about -15o.
So, when buying diesel in the autumn/winter, check with your supplier it is winter grade. And if the weather forecast looks particularly bleak, consider adding an anti-waxing agent to your tank, as this is a cost-effective way of ensuring your fuel doesn’t begin to solidify.
5) Change your oil regularly
One of the least talked about functions of oil is that it prevents the build-up of dirt and debris that might otherwise cause damage.
This is important because most farm machinery works in dusty, muddy, gritty conditions, meaning agricultural oils and fluids need to work extra hard.
For this reason, agricultural lubricants should be changed frequently. Whereas oils don’t lose their lubrication properties as they age, they can become full or dirt and debris, meaning they need replacing.
Lubricants can be a confusing world for many, but this can be levitated with a supplier that knows what they're doing.
6) Clean or change the air filter
Related to the last point about the debris, engines need clean air to function at their full potential. Without it, fuel won’t burn efficiently.
It is the air filter’s job to make sure they get plenty of clean air, but working in dirty, dusty and muddy environments can soon block filters up and stop farm machinery from functioning properly. So, check your filters regularly and clean them out.
Often, this is just a case of removing the filter and knocking the soil and debris out of it. If this doesn’t work, it is possible to blow dirt and debris out with an air compressor, but the proper safety clothing and equipment must be worn.
If it’s so blocked up you can’t fully unclog it, or it is damaged, it’s time to change it.
7) Check the battery
Any battery stood for a long period of time risks going flat. This is particularly the case in cold weather. Cold weather kills old batteries.
To avoid a flat or dead battery, always disconnect it before storing your farm machinery and check it is charged before you need to use the machinery again.
It is always worth keeping a spare battery at the farm in case one suddenly lets you down, as they are prone to do when they age.
8) Keep an eye on your fan belt
The fan belt operates the fan which cools the engine and it plays a role in circulating coolants around the engine. If the belt is not tight enough, these essential cooling operations will not work efficiently, or at all.
In that case, you could soon find your engine overheating, or in the worst-case scenario, seizing altogether.
Your fan belt should have around two inches of play in the centre of the longest length; any more than this and it could be time to tighten it or replace it altogether.
If you’re concerned the fan belt isn’t tight enough or is past its best, consult an agricultural engineer for professional advice.
9) Keep hydraulic systems well maintained
Hydraulic systems on tractors and other farm machinery work with very heavy loads, often under severe conditions. This means if they are not well maintained and used in conjunction with the right fluids, they’re vulnerable to failure.
Experts recommend inspecting your hydraulics after every use, looking for evidence of leaks, kinks and other pipe damage, wear and tear, and restriction in joint movement.
Make sure you use high-quality hydraulic fluids – cheap fluids are a false economy – and check the fluid levels in the hydraulic reservoirs. Low levels here are a warning sign of leaks or damage.
10) Use the right tool for the job
This oft-heard piece of advice is applicable to all aspects of farming. From using the right machinery to work the land, lift and tow, to using the right tools to maintain and repair engines, hydraulic systems or other complex, mechanical systems.
Using the wrong tools can damage equipment or turn basic repairs into expensive and time-consuming jobs.
So, if you want to keep your farm machinery running all year round, don’t bodge, use the right tool for the job!