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7 Tips to get your tractor ready for winter

Tags :  viscosity-landing  | 

Neil from Messicks here out doing some winterization of my equipment today. Some things I thought you could come along with. The weather here lately is just sometimes crazy. On Saturday, it was literally 80 degrees, and this morning when I pulled out to go to work, it was 35. That means I've got some stuff to do, some important winterization that needs to happen and I didn't do right last year and frankly cracked some fittings and stuff on my sprayer. Today we're going to talk through some of the things that I'm going to do here on my own machinery going into wintertime that have cold weather implications.
The first tip that I have is to put eyes on the battery of your machine. As temperatures get cold, the battery's cranking amps start to diminish. If you have a weak battery, you're probably going to find that out when the temperatures start to dip. In your new equipment and your new tractors, that initial battery from the factory usually lasts about six to eight years. The smaller lawn and garden batteries sometimes can only be 12 to 24 months or so before you'll start to notice those struggling to crank. It might be worth coming out, putting eyes on that battery, and maybe replacing it ahead of the time that it actually goes dead.
If you're like me and you got a foot of snow outside on the ground and you need to get out and go to work, the last thing you want to find is a dead battery, so now is the time to put eyes on it.
The next service item that I would look at would be your engine oils. Maybe you're coming out of season here, maybe you're parking your equipment for the winter time, and now is a great time to jump in and do that routine maintenance on your engine. Most of these machines are going to need a 50-hour break-in interval after that. Usually somewhere in the 250 to 500-hour mark, depending on your machine, it's going to expect all those oils and fluids to be flushed out.
One thing that I do consider for cold climates like ours, when you go through your owner's manual and look what kind of oil is supposed to be running your machine, oftentimes it's totally okay to go to something one step thinner. That little bit thinner oil is going to help those tractors that are really cold, start up a little bit easier. It gets the fluids flowing more quickly and that's not necessarily a bad thing for your machine. A lot of people hesitate to do that because it may not be strictly listed in your owner's manual, but I've heard it said several times that it's totally okay to do.
A third item to consider is very related to your engine oil. It's your transmission oil. If you've not changed those fluids, now's a great time to go through and do it. If you are in a cold climate like I am, buying more premium hydraulic fluid is worth every penny. This is out of my own garage. This is an open can here, not a prop. I go and buy Kubota Super UDT2.
The 2 stuff is a semisynthetic and it is much, much better in cold climates than what the standard UDT transmission fluids are. It starts flowing a lot quicker, a lot easier.
You'll hear a lot less whine from your hydrostatic transmission using this fluid versus the slightly less expensive by say 15% or so standard UDT2 transmission oil. This stuff is worth the added expense. Going into wintertime is a great time to put it in your tractor.
Next up and probably the most important thing that we'll talk about here today is putting eyes on your fuel filter. You'll see here on my tractor I have an external fuel water separator, the little O-ring that sits down here in the bottom. If you see that O-ring start to float up here, it means it's sitting on top of water that's sitting in the bottom of your fuel ball.
That water is going to freeze at a higher temperature than the diesel fuel that's inside of there. When that happens, you can start to get some of that ice and sludge and stuff inside of your fuel that will begin to clog your filters and not allow that fuel to flow into your engine. Checking for that water line in there and proactively draining out that fuel bowl can prevent a problem.
Another thing out of my garage here I do keep an additive inside my garage in order to add to my fuel in the wintertime. This is an additive. It's cost about $12 for enough to treat 250 gallons for anti-gel pour point depressant, lubricity additive and water dispersant. Now that water dispersant anti-gel and pour point, all has cold weather implications. When it gets cold outside, diesel fuel can gel up. It'll not flow freely through your fuel system, it'll clog up in those filters.
This little thing, just one cap of this in the top of a five-gallon can, can help treat that fuel. Fuel in the wintertime is treated from the gas pumps if you buy at retail, but I still go through and add a little bit of this into my fuel cans in order to make sure I don't have trouble.
Another advantage that you can give your tractor in cold weather is installing a block heater on the engine. Block heaters are usually less than $100 and there's a freeze plug in the side of the engine that you can pull out and you simply screw in a block heater into it. That's going to have a heating element on the inside, an electric plug on the outside to be able to plug your tractor in and physically keep that engine warm. Now in our climate here in Pennsylvania, we usually find that's not quite necessary. I can take a key ring and walk around our parking lot and start almost every tractor outside with no issues. When I can't, it's almost always related to the battery.
These newer diesel engines start a lot easier in cold weather than what a lot of people might be used to. If you have climates that are say sub-zero for weeks and months on end, adding an inexpensive block heater to your engine can give you a plugin solution that keeps that machine ready to go.
Our final tip and the reason why I'm not here today is if you have something that has water in it, namely a sprayer, don't forget that that sprayer needs annual winterization. That water will freeze, it'll crack the fittings. Last season, I didn't get to this early enough and I had a fitting down here cracked that I JB-Welded it back together and got going again, but would've been a lot easier if I would've had a little bit of foresight to come out here with a container of RV Antifreeze. Drain the sprayer out the best that you can, fill it back up, and run this through the lines to make sure that you don't have any fittings crack through the wintertime.
In summary, when you think about your equipment going into the wintertime, remember all these things that are fluids, be it engine oil, hydraulic oil, your fuel, or your spray chemicals, all these things, they get more viscous. They can freeze when they start to get cold. There's strategies that you can use for every one of those fluids in order to keep them operating correctly in the wintertime as your tractor starts to cool.
If we can help you with any of these maintenance items or if you're shopping for any parts for your rest of your machinery, give us a call at Messicks. We're available at 800-222-3373 or online at messicks.com to make sure that you don't crack fittings because we'll save you a couple of bucks unlike my whatever, I closed that really poorly.

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