Machinery Chatter

Keep the Machinery Happy

(Progressive Farmer photo by Jim Patrico)

Changing the fluids and filters in your tractor is an important, sometimes overlooked, duty. Let's face it, it is a pain. But it is money well spent -- and not all that much compared to the cost of a blown engine or a transmission ground to shards of scrap metal.

I get a good many questions about this subject. But two questions cover most of the subject.

First, will non-OEM oil shorten the life of my engine or transmission? Second, will non-OEM oil void my warranty? OEM stands for original equipment manufacturer.

Regarding the first question, there are not that many manufacturers of oils and filters. Engine and transmission manufacturers spend millions on research and development of all the components, including the oil and filers that will protect them. The manufacturers use oil blends and filter designs to meet the particular needs of their designs. They will claim especially, that the additives in their oils are vital for the long life of their components.

Now, some of you believe that oil can reach OEM minimum specifications without any consideration of the additives in the oil. Other readers never use anything else but non-OEM oils and filters. They claim they have never had any trouble. Still others have told me that they went back to the OEM oils and filters to eliminate problems that arose with non-OEM supplies.

My opinion, based on all the maintenance and repairs I've done, is that you should make sure your oils and filters meet or exceed OEM specifications. Spend the time to read the labels, to research of the products you want to use. Purchase your fluids and filters from reputable dealers. Never put oils into your equipment that fall below OEM specifications.

The second question about OEMs honoring their warranties if non-OEM oils and filters are used grows out of the first question.

I remember talking with a guy who asked if he could get by with the oils available at local, non-dealership store without jeopardizing the warranty on his equipment.

My response was that many manufacturers would not honor a warranty claim if their own oils and filters were not used in the tractor. But that statement is not entirely correct. I should have stated that many tractor manufacturers might not honor a warranty claim if their own oils and filters are not used in the tractor.

But if the oil meets or exceeds the OEM's specifications, then you are covered no matter where you buy it (see the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 if you are dying for more information).

The bigger question is, "How do I know if the oils and fluids meet OEM specs?"

Of course, you can read about it on the label of the container holding the oil. But make sure you understand what you're reading and that this product does indeed meet the manufacturer's specs.

If you are using another oil and have a warranty claim -- say the clutch burned up in a powershift transmission -- you may have to wait until the dealer sends an oil sample to the OEM for analysis to see if the oil is up to snuff, I mean specs. If it is, they should honor the warranty. If it is not, they can deny the warranty claim.

So what about changing your oils? I have found that a tractor used daily for feeding livestock for example, needs shorter service intervals. The constant heating and cooling of the oils and components of these short-run tractors make for increased condensation.

I have also found it best to change your oil before the spring work begins. It's just a good habit to start the season with fresh oils and filters.

Here's a quick way to judge your maintenance needs. First, keep records of operating hours and the days and months that have passed since you last serviced your tractor. Second, make notes on the conditions in which your tractor has been operating. Highly dirty conditions justify frequent servicing.

So, let's review:

-- Change your oils and filters based on the manufacturer's recommended service schedule.

-- Shorten the maintenance intervals when the tractor is operating under "special conditions," such as running in extreme dust and where daily use is combined with short run times.

-- If we purchase oils and filters other than the OEM's, we make sure they meet or exceed the OEM's specs—not just because someone tells us they do, but because we know that they do from reading labels or buying from a reputable dealer.

This has been fun. If you have any questions about your machinery, let me hear from you. Write to me, Steve Thompson at: Ask the Mechanic, 2204 Lakeshore Drive, Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209 or e-mail to dan.miller@dtn.com. Dan Miller will pass your question on to me.

(JP/AG)

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