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Performing basic maintenance on equipment can reduce costly repairs

Agriculturalists invest a lot of resources into managing their farm operations. Farming not only requires a lot of time but also involves a lot of expense. Whether you have invested thousands of dollars into farm equipment like tractors, trucks, combines or implements, or you’re still operating trusty granddads equipment, operating a successful and profitable farm is a difficult venture for local producers.

It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations and lose focus on the basic maintenance that all farm equipment requires. It’s also easy to prioritize maintenance of frequently used machinery, like tractors, while basic maintenance of brush hogs, planters, balers or other implements used infrequently may get prolonged. To ensure your farm equipment is in tip-top shape, there are a few regular maintenance measures you should take to maximize efficiency, encourage lifelong use of machinery and ensure safety when operating.

Beginning a maintenance routine on equipment can be overwhelming.

“Any time a piece of equipment is purchased an owner-operator manual is given to the purchaser,” said Shannon Kelsey, service manager at Chupp Implement in Prior, Okla. “The maintenance section will tell when to check certain parts, how much oil or grease to use and many other maintenance needs. It is very important to read.”

One of the initial starting points is greasing equipment. It’s important to confirm there is appropriate lubrication to reduce friction at each joint. Brush hogs are utilized by almost every agriculture producer in both the livestock and crop sectors of the industry. When maintaining brush hogs, it’s crucial to ensure the power takeoff (PTO) joints are lubricated, as they rotate 540-1,000 revolutions per minute. “Greasing some parts may be difficult due to shields and other parts having to be removed,” mentioned Kelsey. “But lack of grease is huge and is so important for safety when operating.” With various options of lubrication available on the market, refer to the owner’s manual of your equipment or talk to your dealer for recommendations.

Also, at the beginning of every season it is important to slip the slip clutch on the PTO shaft of all implements. “Slip clutches have discs and you either tighten or loosen them and run the RPM’s low to ‘slip’ the clutch,” Kelsey said. If rust builds up on the slip clutches, they may not function properly when necessary and may cause damage to the equipment. Ensuring these are slipped at the beginning of each season will save money in the long run.

Another important maintenance step is to blow out balers, brush hogs and other implements after every use. Clumping and gathering of grass, dust and fuzz around the rollers or other parts is a fire hazard. With tractors and large equipment, it’s also important to blow out the radiators and condensers to prevent overheating.

When looking to purchase used implements or beginning to use implements that have sat for an extended period of time, there are a few additional steps to consider. Checking the blades on brush hogs to make sure there isn’t a lot of wobble is important. It’s also important to check the gear boxes and make sure the oil isn’t a white, milky substance. Milky oil indicates that water has gotten mixed with the oil and could be signs of a larger problem. It’s also important to check the hoses to make sure they aren’t cracked or dry-rotted. One of the final routine maintenance checks should involve checking the drive line shields.

“I can’t emphasize that enough,” Kelsey explained.

Although there is no “universal rule” on when to inspect your equipment, a study by the University of Nebraska discovered that farmers could reduce their overall agriculture equipment repair bills by 25 percent if they improved their ways of maintaining farm machines and implements. For example, an $80,000 tractor normally requires $24,000 in repair and maintenance costs after 5,000 hours of operation. With the addition of a maintenance plan, the cost of repairs and maintenance could be reduced to $18,000.

Realistically speaking, poorly maintained farm equipment is inefficient whether you’re soil based or livestock based and breakdowns of machinery may be costly and can compromise safety of the operator, which is the most important aspect to keep in mind when operating farm equipment. The addition of a regular, basic maintenance plan for all machinery, from small implements to large equipment, is invaluable for production and profitability.

Routine Farm Equipment Maintenance

Change the filter: Tractors and pickup trucks need frequent oil changes. Check the manual that came with your vehicle for the recommended oil change times.

Check the hitch: Always check the hitch or couplings where farm equipment hooks to tractors, trucks or ATVs. Make sure that couplings are secure and clean any evidence of rust.

Check the tires: Proper tire inflation on trucks, tractors, and trailers as well as on pull-behind seeding, harvesting and processing equipment helps them run better. Tires should be inflated only to the maximum amount and never more. Repair or replace worn-out tires.

Look for battery corrosion: Corrosion on battery terminals can lead to power loss or stalls. Batteries can be stored indoors when tractors aren’t in use, especially in the winter, to prevent power loss due to disuse.

Get an oil analysis done: An oil analysis on tractor oil and transmission fluid can tell you whether or not these need to be changed on larger equipment. Small metal particles in the oil or transmission fluid, for example, may indicate wear that should be fixed before a major malfunction occurs.

Clean equipment: Always clean equipment before putting it away for the season. Cleaning off the exterior can prevent rust and stains.

Store indoors: Don’t leave equipment sitting outside all winter long. Store under a tarp if you don’t have an outside garage, shed, or even an overhang under which to store it.

Kristyn RichnerFarm Helpagriculturalists,equipment,farm operation,farming,machinery,maintenance,managingPerforming basic maintenance on equipment can reduce costly repairs Agriculturalists invest a lot of resources into managing their farm operations. Farming not only requires a lot of time but also involves a lot of expense. Whether you have invested thousands of dollars into farm equipment like tractors, trucks, combines or...The Ozarks' most read farm newspaper, reaching more than 58,000 readers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma