Keep Machinery Safe This Winter

January 2, 2016 02:22 AM

Lubricants play a key role in making your equipment last

Changing farm equipment trends could bring along a few interesting side effects, says Andrew Hamilton, CHS technical services and quality manager. “It’s not like it was five years ago when farmers were trading out equipment every couple of years,” he says. “Today, chances are you’ll have to hold onto equipment longer and take care of it better.”

Lubricants can play a critical role in equipment lifespan, he adds. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you put equipment away for the winter.

  • Understand your oil. Not all fluids are the same, or particularly compatible with each other. 

“If you’ve been using a specific oil-grade and viscosity level, you should stick with it,” he says. “Don’t make a habit of swapping out for a different type of oil with every change interval, especially if you don’t know what it’s made of. You should always adhere to your equipment manufacturer’s oil-grade recommendations.”

  • Don’t just “top it off.” Hamilton admits it’s tempting to add in 2 qt. or 3 qt. of oil before parking equipment in storage. That could prove to be risky because the machine could still have 10 gal. or more oil in its system, Hamilton says.

“Newer oil will do a better job of protecting equipment while it’s idle,” he says. “Otherwise, water, dirt, soot and small metal particles will get re-dispersed. Topping off is like pouring a cup of clean water into a sink that’s half-full of dirty dishes.”

Iowa mechanic and Farm Journal columnist Dan Anderson prefers combines, sprayers and other seasonal equipment not go into storage with used oil in the crankcase.

“It’s probably best not to have soot and other combustion byproducts that develop in used oil in the engine during storage,” he says. “I’d feel better with fresh oil in the crankcase.”

  • Synthetic blends work better in colder weather. Most conventional oils are made from paraffinic bases that solidify in extremely cold weather, Hamilton says.

Pistons, gears and engine components can experience significant wear when traditional engine oils thicken in freezing temperatures. Full-synthetic or synthetic-blend oils with lower “pour points” are designed to operate more effectively in colder temperatures.

  • Know your equipment’s particular needs. “As sophisticated as the equipment has gotten, you might need two, three or more oils to get the job done,” Hamilton says. “Each piece of equipment has its own precise needs.”
  • Consider performing an oil analysis at least once a year. 

“It’s similar to getting a physical from your doctor,” he says. Be sure to keep the reports because it might help you get more money when you trade-in your equipment.

Anderson says oil analysis is an excellent way to stay ahead of potential problems in engines, hydraulic systems and gear cases.

“Those analyses are so sensitive they can detect antifreeze in engine oil due to a leaky cylinder liner or cracked cylinder head before the operator even notices a decrease in coolant level or an increase in crankcase oil level,” he says.

Be sure hydraulics and gear cases are warm when pulling samples to ensure contamination hasn’t settled to the bottom, he adds.

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