Bumper sticker recently spotted on a tractor: “If I’m not working, you’re not either.” For many a farm owner, the tractor is the trusty workhorse… the safe, sturdy, dependable piece of equipment without which many tasks—or even running the farm—would be impossible. Whether you have a new tractor or ride around on an old or “previously appreciated” model, regular maintenance is the key to protecting your investment.
Stable Management spoke with some experts to get their advice on keeping your tractor in tip-top shape and rarin’ to go. (The recommendations in this article apply to diesel tractors, which comprise the bulk of tractors available today. Also, this article offers general guidelines that might not apply to your tractor. Consult your owner’s manual or tractor dealership for maintenance information that is specific for your manufacturer and year of tractor.)
Good tractor maintenance begins with your eyes. First, read and consult the owner’s manual for regular service and maintenance information specific to the model that you own. If you don’t have a maintenance manual, check online for information. People who have very old tractors (as in classic or vintage) can visit useful websites such as Yesterday’s Tractor Co. (www.ytmag.com), which is full of useful information and also offers discussion forums, a parts marketplace, and an interesting department called “stuck and troubled.”
Other Internet resources that offer information and support include www.tractorlinks.com (for antique and/or classic tractor enthusiasts), www.tractorhome.com, www.mytractorforum.com, and www.justanswer.com (this site does ask a fee for the answers it provides).
Next, use your eyes for an overall inspection. Replace missing or worn clamps, bolts, nuts, or screws, and tighten any loose connections. The team at Massey Ferguson warns, “Loose fasteners can damage thread parts, linkages, and bushings, can loosen tolerances on tight-fitting mechanisms, and can waste your time on repairs that could be prevented.”
Make sure the loader or other attachments are connected properly, and that all pins and bolts are in place. Tighten fuel tank mountings if necessary. Inspect hoses for leaks and loose connections, and belts for signs of wear or rot. Also, be sure to check fluid levels in the battery, transmission, radiator, and hydraulic system. Be alert to possible signs of abnormal wear, both on the tractor chassis and the tires. The checklist on page 25 provides a summary of items to review regularly.
Oil and Fluids
Temple Rhodes of Temple Rhodes Excavating manages 3,000 acres of farmland in rural Maryland. When asked what he considers to be the most important steps to keeping his equipment in great shape, he doesn’t hesitate. “Check the oil, transmission fluid, and water regularly,” he advises. The frequency of your checks will vary, depending on hours of use. “During the summer, when we typically run our equipment 10 to 15 hours a day, we check fluids and oil daily. If we were using the tractor for one or two hours a day, we would only need to check once a week. In the winter, we check every 20 hours,” Temple explains. Colin Campbell of Campbell’s Services in Bridgewater, Connecticut, recommends checking the oil level daily before climbing into the driver’s seat. You should also check front axle fluid every eight hours.