20 top tips for keeping your tractor in tip top condition
1. Store your tractor out of the elements if possible. The more extreme weather conditions of sun, wind and snow will age your tractor at an accelerated rate. A simple and inexpensive shelter will keep your agricultural equipment looking and running better for much longer.
2. If you're going to be storing your tractor for over a year it is advisable to reduce the tyre pressure below normal, or to remove the tyres altogether and support your tractor on jackstands. This will relieve pressure from the wheel bearing and suspension. Your tyres should also be stored in a dry cool place and should be kept out of direct sunlight.
3. Most tyre manufacturers will advise you to inflate your tractor tyres 10-15 lbs over the maximum air pressure indicated on the tire to get them ready for storage. This helps prevent flat spots from forming. This over inflation is only for storage. When you're ready to hit the road make sure to bring the pressure back to normal.
4. If storing your tractor for a long period disconnect the tractor battery and connect it to a trickle charger to keep it alive. This will reduce the risk of fire and electrical issues further on down the line.
5. When storing your tractor top off fluids including oil, brake, clutch and hydraulics. If you're confident that there are no fire hazards in your storage facility, you could top off the fuel as well. For maximum security, replace all fluids with a fresh supply. Older fluids are likely to contain contaminants that can cause rust, corrosion and mechanical failure. Topping off the fluids leaves less space for moisture to accumulate.
6. Add stabilizers to your tractor fluids to prevent them from deteriorating. Fuel stabilizer prevents the formation of gum and varnish which can clog your tractor engine. Follow the manufacturers instructions. You should typically drive your tractor around for 10 miles to fully circulate the stabilizers before storing it.
7. Regularly change the oil and filter in your tractor when it is in use. Used tractor oil contains acids, moisture and combustrion byproducts that can cause corrosion inside your tractor's engine.
8. Set up a scheduled, regular maintenance program for oil and filter changes on your tractor. The engine oil and filter should be changed every 150 hours and hydraulic oils changed at 1,200 hours. Check your operator's manual for exact change interval as it varies by make and model. At least have the filter changed yearly and the oil every two years.
9. Don't skimp and buy bargain engine oil. The engine is the lifeblood of your tractor, has the most moving parts and is usually the most costly to repair or replace. Many over-the-counter name brand oils are formulated for on-road truck use only and are not designed for off-road application in a dirty environment. Long term use of these oils can reduce the life of your engine.
10. Use the correct grade of hydraulic oil for your tractor. Newer tractors with power shift and reverser transmissions require special additives and viscosities of oil from the transmission to operate correctly. The little you save now on cheaper hydraulic oil will only cost you big money in the future.
11. Keep all the fluids in your tractor at recommended levels. Oil, water, hydraulic, transmission and brake fluids should be checked before each use and replenished whenever necessary.
12. Put a drop of oil on every nut, bolt and screw on your tractor. This prevents these parts from corroding, rusting or seizing up from dryness. Do this every few months (monthly for light duty machinery or equipment that will be left out in the weather) and future repairs will be much easier. A pump oilcan with a long, flexible snout will make this procedure much easier.
13. Pull the spark plugs out of your tractor and pour a teaspoon of fresh oil into each cylinder and then replace the plugs. The oil will coat the cylinders and help to fight rust.
14. Your tractor radiator needs to be checked and cleaned and the coolant level check daily when the tractor is used regularly. The radiator needs to be flushed, and new antifreeze added at least twice a year. A coolant conditioner/stabilizer additive is a good, inexpensive investment to reduce electrolysis. PH tape now can be used to confirm when your antifreeze needs to be changed and/or when conditioner needs to be added.
15. When draining the tractor cooling system replace it with fresh coolant specifically formulated for your tractor engine type. The wrong coolant can cause damage to your tractor's engine and in some cases even void your manufacturer's warranty.
16. Maintenance of your tractor's air conditioning system is also important. You need to regularly check the A/C condenser and keep it blown out and clean. The A/C condenser is located under the hood in front of the radiator on most models. Older model tractors may need Freon added each year, due to small leaks in the A/C system. It's best to find a warm day in the spring and check the system, and repair it early before it gets busy.
17. Small tractors can be quickly and severely damaged by big jobs. Loader and 3PH arms can be bent by too-heavy loads, transmissions can be burned out by pulling against too-strong forces and implements can be broken by being used inappropriately. With small tractors, large jobs must often be done with finesse, rather than with brute force. A big job can sometimes be broken up into several smaller jobs, which are not problematic for smaller equipment. With small tractors, take small bites.
18. Wash off as much mud and grass from your tractor and accessories with a hose or pressure washer as often as you can. Wet grass and mud stuck to metal parts is an ideal environment for rust or corrosion.
19. Spare parts for your chosen tractor should be readily available and affordable.
20. Usually you can expect a year's warranty on a new tractor, covering both labour and parts.