In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
Cold Weather Machinery Tips
Nov 24, 2013
From the Deep South to the Canadian prairies, it takes preparation and a different mindset to get machinery to start and run in cold weather. A few reminders, tips and suggestions:
-If the fuel tanks on diesel engines haven't already been switched to a "lighter" grade of fuel appropriate to the ambient temperatures in your area, do it. South of Missouri, "winter-grade" #2 diesel fuels is usually adequate. From Missouri north, winter-grade #2 diesel fuel is okay down to 20-degrees F., but should be supplemented with #1 diesel or "anti-gel" fuel additive. Personally, I put anti-gel in any diesel I want to run in temperatures below 32 degrees F.
-Ethanol-enhanced gasoline is controversial in urban areas, but well accepted in rural areas. I won't get into the discussion whether E-10 is "hard" on engines and fuel systems, accept to say I've run E-10 for 35 years in all my car, truck, motorcycle and lawn mower engines with absolutely no problems. More important, this time of year--I don't have to add fuel de-icer to their fuel systems. The ethanol in E-10 absorbs moisture and prevents fuel line icing.
-Bio-diesel is another fuel that can generate controversy. I've been scolded in the past for noting there are "challenges" associated with bio-diesel in cold weather. I'll therefore simply recommend that bio-diesel users check with their local fuel supplier to discuss any unique concerns related to the fluidity of bio-diesel in cold weather.
-Batteries that easily started engines in warm weather often struggle to crank those same engines when their oil is thick and sluggish on cold mornings. Plug-in heaters that warm engine coolant ease starting. Heaters that warm crankcase oil not only ease starting but reduce wear on engine components during the critical first minute of operation when cold, thick oil doesn't flow easily. Engine builders tell me that over the lifespan of a engine, 90 percent of the wear accumulates in the first minute after every start-up, during the period when engine components are "dry" due to oil drain-down.
-One of the best investments for farmers who have engines in remote locations that may need started on cold days is a battery jumper pack. Jumper packs come in many sizes, but are basically a deep-cycle battery in a carrying case. Special integrated circuitry allows the battery to discharge at a very high rate, then be recharged via a charger that plugs into a 115-volt wall outlet. Some come with cigarette lighter-adapters for re-charging. Battery jumper packs are essentially portable, cordless battery boosters. Perfect to keep behind the pickup seat, ready to boost a chilled engine to life on a cold winter morning.