November 11, 2023

Machinery Matters: winter maintenance that lasts all year round

Machinery Matters: winter maintenance that lasts all year round

Agricultural journalist, smallholder and Editor of the Ferguson Heritage Magazine Jane Brooks, joins us for her regular look at the world of agricultural machinery, with a focus on winter maintenance.

While you’re snug and warm beside a roaring fire, spare a thought for your tractor, locked away, safe, sound and secure in a shed, or at least you hope so. Tis the season to take proper care of your tractor otherwise, there could be a few nasty shocks in store for you.

Best to take action now before we get any snow, as who knows next time you come to use it or even drag it out of the shed in the spring you could be in for a shock, or even a cracked block.

To avoid breakdowns next here’s a simple checklist of some evasive action best taken in the not to-distant future:

Cosset your batteries
Cold weather will wreak havoc on dormant batteries. Over time, batteries begin to lose their charge, on old tractors it happens far more quickly than you expect. Do not let batteries completely drain of charge over the winter as freezing weather can completely kill empty batteries. Either check the battery every couple of weeks, or use the tractor. Also, if you are not using it and have a more modern machine it’s a good idea to detach the electronics and tech in your tractor, as they can slowly drain battery power too.

Stay warm
No, not you, the tractor, an open shed exposed to the elements may seem ok, but if it’s possible being stored in a frost proof, wind proof and burglar proof shed or barn is a good idea.  As a last resort if you have no inside storage, in extreme conditions, you can also use a heavy, waterproof tarp. Antifreeze Check your anti-freeze you need a good strength one to last through winter, there are plenty on the market, use one to suit the lowest temperature you expect to get over the winter months, but don’t overdo it. Adding too much antifreeze can do some damage, so, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. You can use an antifreeze tester, to check the freeze point of the fluid in the system. On some older tractors it was recommended to change the fluid every 300 hours, with our classic tractors we go for a 50/50 mix.

Check the other fluids
While you’re checking the antifreeze, look at the tractor’s other bodily fluids, check transmission fluid levels, if you have one, the washer tank should be full. Also go around with a grease gun, make certain everywhere that needs fluid is at full capacity. This will stop condensation forming in empty spaces, which as well as watering down vital fluids can lead to freezing and damage to pipework.

Fuel maintenance 
There is quite a difference between the winter treatment of diesel and petrol, here are the basics:

Diesel  – Diesel engines need extra cold weather pampering, this is because the wax content in diesel reaches a gelling point if the temperature drops too low. This turns it into a jelly like mess and stops it from running through the fuel lines.

This article extract was taken from the December 2023 edition of The Country Smallholder. To read the article in full, you can buy the issue here.

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by The Country Smallholder

The Country Smallholder is aimed at the ever-increasing UK audience interested in living a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable way of life. From people already living on a smallholding, to allotment owners; from those with a couple of acres of land, to those aspiring to get more out of their garden or even window box. With 73% of UK residents claiming to want to live more sustainably post Covid, The Country Smallholder has something for everyone.

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