Storage prep requires more than draining and parking
There’s nothing glamorous about winterizing sprayers, but it’s a necessary chore—and it saves farmers money.
"An electric ball valve retails for around $200," says Kevin Covey, general manager of parts and service for Equipment Technologies, the manufacturer of Apache-brand self-propelled sprayers. "It’s definitely worth the time and money to protect valves like that and other sprayer components from freeze damage."
Winterization isn’t only for sprayers north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Covey recommends protecting any sprayer that will experience temperatures below 30°F.
"Unfold the booms and add 20 gal. to 30 gal. of antifreeze solution to the spray tank," he says. "We recommend Recreational Vehicle [RV] antifreeze because it’s environmentally safer than traditional engine antifreeze if or when you spray the antifreeze on the ground to flush the system."
Flush it out. Turn on the spray system and let it run until colored antifreeze sprays from the nozzles at the end of the booms.
"Be sure to open the agitation valve and the chemical inductor to flush antifreeze through those portions of the system, too," Covey says. "If the sprayer has a rinse tank, flush antifreeze through that system as well. If you have a foam marker system, flush it with water, then use windshield washer fluid to winterize that system. We use windshield washer fluid because antifreeze residues can react with foam concentrate next year and interfere with creating good foam."
Covey prefers to store spray pumps and spray control valves "wet" (with antifreeze inside), but he drains and reuses as much antifreeze as possible.
"Big sprayers can take $120 worth of antifreeze to completely flush the spray system—from the spray tank, through the pump, lines and strainers, all the way to the ends of the boom," he says. "Rather than run it out on the ground next spring, it’s worth it to drain the antifreeze from the tank and main lines so you can re-use it."
Cleaner cabs. Pre-storage is a good time to change engine oil and filter, engine air filters and engine fuel filters on self-propelled sprayers. Manufacturers recommend changing hydraulic and hydrostatic filters annually. Changing filters before storage saves time next spring during the rush to begin preplant or postemerge spraying.
Change cab air filters before storage. Activated charcoal cab air filters that reduce operator exposure to chemical vapors are factory-installed in many self-propelled sprayers, and "drop-in filters" are available for tractors that tow pull-type sprayers.
"Activated charcoal filters are dual-purpose," says Michael Schmitz of Clean Air Filter in Defiance, Iowa. "The filter medium captures normal dust loads, and the activated charcoal segment absorbs chemical vapors."
Schmitz recommends changing activated charcoal filters annually or when "odor, taste or symptoms of chemicals are evident in the cab," he says.
This will eliminate the risk of chemicals in a "full" filter from "out-gassing" and contaminating the cab during off-season storage, he adds.
"After working with chemicals, you shouldn’t keep any used gloves, goggles, aprons or shoe booties in the cab, but if you do, don’t leave them in the cab during the off-season," Covey says. "Chemical residues can out-gas from those items and contaminate surfaces you’ll touch next year with your bare hands. Thoroughly clean all of the surfaces in the cab before storage, including the floor, to reduce the risk of exposing the operator to residual chemicals next year."