Preparing diesel-powered equipment for winter is critical as temperatures fall

As fall settles over the Ozarks, now is the time to prepare diesel engines for cooler days and nights ahead, which will help producers keep their operation running smoothly.

Steve Gray of Gray Brothers Equipment in Fort Smith, Ark., said issues with fuel filters and water in fuel tends to the biggest issues in the winter months for tractors.

“We’re seeing tractors that don’t have clean fuel and fuel that has a lot of trash in it,” Gray said. “We really need to be changing those fuel filters on a regular intervals. Many people will change their oil, but neglect their fuel filter. If your filter has water in it, it will break the sediment bowl or stop the fuel filter up. Frozen fuel will not start a tractor.”

Producers are encouraged to drain excess water from the system of their tractor.

“On most tractors, there’s typically a drain under that sediment bowl, and you can drain that water periodically and that will really help that tractor perform,” Gray said.

Diesel fuel is prone to waxing or gelling in cold weather; both are terms for the solidification of diesel oil into a partially crystalline state. The presence of solidified waxes thickens the oil and clogs fuel filters and injectors in engines. The crystals build up in the fuel line (especially in fuel filters) until the engine is starved of fuel, causing it to stop running.

Gray said adding a fuel conditioner is important, especially if tractors are kept outside or if there is no access to plug in a block heater.

“(Block heaters) are available for every brand of tractor on the market,” he explained. “It’s so much easier to start a tractor when everything is already warm so it doesn’t have to heat itself up and helps lubricate everything quicker, which is a good idea too.”

“You should put the conditioner directly in your fuel tank and then let that tractor run for a 15, 20 minutes,” Mandi Seela, marketing manager for S&H Farm Supply, added. “Running the tractor lets it get through the system and gives you a good spread throughout.”

Stored fuel can also be a source of contamination from trash or water, especially if stored in metal cans.

“In a can, that metal can flake off if stored for a long period of time,” Gray said. “A bulk tank is actually a better idea because there’s a filter on it, so you’re filtering as fuel comes through it.” Bulk tank filters should also be changed before winter.

Seela also recommend treating any bulk fuel tanks on the farm before winter begins, and treating as needed as fuel is used.

“This time of year, it’s also good to think about treating them with an algae remover,” Seela added. “The change in temperature can create condensation inside the tank. It’s never a bad idea to treat your tank for algae, especially if you get fuel from multiple sources.”

Seela said her service department also recommends checking antifreeze in tractors to ensure it is ready for older temperatures. She added that antifreeze (coolant) levels should be at 20 degrees below zero or lower. If more coolant is needed, additional coolant, not water, should be added.

Owners should follow the recommendation of their equipment’s manufacturer for the type of antifreeze used in their equipment, and there are specific coolant products for diesel engines.

Clean air filters, Seela said, should also help equipment work properly in the winter months.

Julie Turner-CrawfordFarm Helpdiesel-powered,equipment,tractors,winterPreparing diesel-powered equipment for winter is critical as temperatures fall As fall settles over the Ozarks, now is the time to prepare diesel engines for cooler days and nights ahead, which will help producers keep their operation running smoothly. Steve Gray of Gray Brothers Equipment in Fort Smith, Ark., said...The Ozarks' most read farm newspaper, reaching more than 58,000 readers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma