Winterize Your Farm Equipment

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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A few maintenance steps now can prolong equipment life and make spring an easier time. (DTN/The Progressive Farmer photo by Tom Dodge.)

It's December and while it's still nice outside for fieldwork here in the Western Corn Belt, at some point soon Mother Nature will slam the door closed with wintery weather and most of the farm equipment will be put away until spring. To have equipment ready to go next spring and to protect their equipment investment, farmers should winterize their equipment.

AGCO a few years introduced the acronym FARMS when it comes to getting farm equipment ready for storage. FARMS consists of five steps: fill tanks, adequately lubricate, repair damage, maintain and clean, and store equipment.

Here are more details on each of the steps.

Fill Tanks: AGCO reported that condensation could occur as the weather changes from cool to warm and this can cause water to enter empty tanks, resulting in costly damage. To avoid this, top off both the fuel and hydraulic oil tanks. Diesel exhaust fuel (DEF) should be stored in its original container during the winter.

Adequately Lubricate: Equipment needs to be well lubricated to protect it from breakdowns, and this is also important in storage. AGCO suggests you refer to the owner's manual and lubricate as indicated. Grease unpainted metal parts, such as hydraulic cylinder rods, to protect them from the elements.

Repair Damage: Be sure to fix any damage done during harvest or during the course of the year before the equipment is stored. This will ensure that broken parts don't worsen or rust during the winter and the equipment will be ready to go when needed in the spring.

Maintain and Clean: Harvest is a dirty job, and before storing equipment dust and debris from inside and outside the equipment should be removed. This is a good time to conduct regular maintenance, such as changing the oil and fluids and checking air pressure in the tires. Other recommendations from AGCO include protecting the air inlet and exhaust from humidity, lowering each linkage fully to avoid pressure buildup in the hydraulic rams and, if possible, loosening the engine accessories' belt tensioner.

Store Equipment: ACGO suggests storing equipment under a roof to protect it from the elements. However, that is not possible for every farmer. Cover equipment if left outdoors and protect computerized mechanisms from sun damage by covering with a cloth.

Every farmer's operation is different, but on our farm I guess we do forms of the AGCO FARMS plan on different equipment. Since we have livestock, we continue to use the tractors in the winter months, so there is no storage for them.

I guess we do some prep work before storage for our combine, grain cart and hay equipment, as these implements will certainly sit untouched for many months.

While I don't know if we always do all five steps, we will usually clean the equipment before we put the equipment back in the sheds.

Our round baler and combine will get a once over with compressed air to get rid of dirt and hay/leaves built up in various nooks and crannies. Our sheds have dirt floors so washing the equipment is a losing proposition.

We also will vacuum out as much grain as we can from the various parts of the combine (head, cab, grain tank, etc.) to eliminate feed for rodents. My job for many years was to take the old shop-vac into the grain tank of the combine after harvest.

This year after harvest I passed on this ritual to my 12-year-old son. My dad even taped about a foot long old garden hose to the end of the hose of the shop-vac for him to get into really tight places to get the corn.

While I'm very happy this chore has been passed onto the next generation (I also have a 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter; I may not have to do this chore for a long time), I do wonder why this clever garden hose idea was not implemented for me 30 years ago.

Russ Quinn