The green is gone, the white is here. The hustle and bustle of harvest time has transitioned into slower, shorter winter days on the farm. And yet, a farmer’s work is never finished. Winter is the perfect time to perform essential maintenance on your fleet of farm equipment.
Preventative care and servicing of your tractors, harvesters, trucks and other machinery during the off-season can help minimize costly repairs and disruptive breakdowns when field work picks up in the spring. As your leading cooperative providing expertise and services for farms large and small, here’s our winter guide on must-do maintenance for keeping your machines running well.
Tune Up Your Tractors
Tractors are the backbone of many farming operations. Before tucking in your workhorses for the winter, be sure to show them some TLC.
Checking and replacing all fluids including oil, coolant, brake and transmission fluids will remove contaminants and top-off levels to prevent damage from sitting idle. It’s best to replace your filter during this time as well.
Inspect tires and tracks closely for decent tread, inflation and any cuts that could expand into bigger issues if ignored. Lubricate all grease fittings with fresh grease.
You should also check the battery, terminals, and alternator belt for any fraying, corrosion, or loose connections that could leave you stranded in spring. Start up the machine every week or two once parked to circulate fluids and charge the battery.
Maintain Harvesters and Farm Machinery
Combines, sprayers, seeders, balers, and other machinery should also undergo thorough inspection and maintenance to maximize longevity.
It’s best to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for any intense repairs, fluid flushes, or filter changes required based on hours of recent operation. At minimum, top off essential fluids, lubricate parts and replace basic air, oil and fuel filters.
Inspect belts and hoses for wear, checking clamps and connections for leaks or cracks. Replace any degraded parts that could fail when operations resume, and ensure tires hold adequate air pressure and check for damage to treads or sidewalls.
We also recommend that you closely examine joints, welds, pins and hydraulic cylinders for structural issues like rust or cracks. Touch up paint chips or rust spots to prevent further degradation, and also verify shields and guards are undamaged and fitted securely.
Store Machines Properly
Storage absolutely matters – whenever possible, house machines indoors rather than leaving them exposed to the elements all winter long. For outdoor storage, invest in quality weather-resistant coverings secured tightly to protect from snow, ice, and winds.
Always clean equipment thoroughly prior to storage, removing built-up debris and stubborn dirt that could corrode surfaces. Add fuel stabilizer to gas or diesel tanks as the temperatures drop, and disconnect and remove batteries from machines, avoiding parasitic drain.
When parking harvesters, sprayers, and other machinery long-term, it’s good to make sure weight rests on axles rather than tires to prevent flat spots. You can do this by positioning them on blocks or boards. Allow enough space around machines for access and ventilation to avoid moisture collection.
On the topic of moisture, one of the biggest threats to equipment integrity during winter storage is excess moisture. It can lead to corrosion, mold growth, and damage of parts. When machines sit idle outside or even in non-climate-controlled buildings, temperature fluctuations create condensation, which allows moisture to attack surfaces. A few simple steps can help safeguard your parked tractors, combines, sprayers, and other machinery:
- Invest in weatherproof coverings or store in an enclosed building whenever feasible. Well-fitted waterproof tarps help repel exterior moisture. Use frameworks over equipment if unable to garage to prevent direct contact of coverings.
- Place drain pans under machinery with oil, coolant and fuel lines to catch any slow drips or residual fluids. Small spills if left can promote rust and corrosion. Inspect pans regularly.
- Include desiccant bags once equipment is covered to actively absorb ambient moisture, or utilize portable dehumidifiers if garaged storage is an option. Regularly monitor humidity levels.
- Allow sufficient ventilation under coverings and around stored machinery. Utilize boards under tires/tracks to promote airflow circulation. Stagnant moisture exacerbates corrosion issues.
- Add fuel stabilizers and avoid filling tanks to the brim so no overflow potential exists. This reduces risk of fuels spreading under tarps or on barn floors creating safety hazards. Fuel drips also accelerate rust formation.
One last part of storing machinery correctly is to consider how to best deter pests from entering your equipment. Rodents like mice, rats, or even birds can be a nuisance when equipment sits idle. These persistent pests tend to seek shelter inside combines, tractors, and other machinery over the winter. Chewing on wires or nesting in key components can lead to repairs come spring planting. Here’s our tips for helping to keep mice and other pests away:
- Clean Thoroughly – Ensure no lingering grain, seed, or other food debris remains prior to storage that could attract rodents
- Seal Points of Entry – Use foam or steel wool to plug any noticeable holes or gaps in panels
- Remove Cushions & Clean Cab – Take out operator seat cushions and clean the cab completely
- Use Repellents – Moth balls or cotton balls soaked in ammonia deter rodents upon scent
- Use Animal-Deterrent Covers – Canvas tarps treated with repellents act as a great barrier to help prevent rodents from entering your equipment
Periodically checking stored equipment for new nests or signs of chewing allow you to evict rodents before major issues arise. A proactive approach keeps pests from damaging wires, hoses, and insulation when equipment is parked during the colder months.
Follow a Preventative Maintenance Schedule
While the manufacturer guidelines for servicing intervals provide a reliable blueprint, the needs of each piece of your farm equipment can vary based on hours used annually. Creating a preventative maintenance schedule tuned to actual Annual Usage Hours (AUH) is the best choice.
Closely tracking machine hours and documenting service history provides you with data to use to help you form a schedule for service. Winter is the perfect time to block off time for your scheduled services, whether performed internally at your operation or by trusted partners like your United Farmers Cooperative experts. Prioritizing regular maintenance of your equipment not only extends their lives, but ensures you’re ready to hit the ground running (or driving) come spring.
UFC As Your Trusted Ag Service Center
If you are savvy when it comes to fixing and maintaining your own ag equipment, we applaud you! We hope the above guide is your go-to when it comes to your service projects for the winter.
However, if you don’t have the time or expertise, there are expert ag service centers and providers out there – like us!
At UFC, we understand the importance of keeping your farm equipment and machinery in working order. As farming operations rely more and more on complex and expensive equipment, having a trusted service provider you can count on is becoming a necessity. That’s why our Ag Service Center in Lafayette, MN goes above and beyond to meet not only all of your service needs, but your sales and parts needs as well.
We Are Your One-Stop Shop
Our Ag Service Center brings unparalleled expertise when it comes to equipping and maintaining ag operations of all sizes. We carry all the major brands you know and trust when it comes to tractors, harvesters, sprayers, seeders, and more. Our connections with leading manufacturers like Bobcat, Gehl, Wil-Rich, Salford, Vermeer, Precision Planting, Ag Leader, Cub Cadet, and others ensure we can get the machines you need, when you need them.
And it’s not just farm machinery. We also offer outdoor power equipment for your property maintenance needs. From lawn mowers, chainsaws, and snowblowers to generators, leaf blowers, and more. Plus construction equipment like skid steers, excavators and lifts to tackle big projects.
We provide new and used equipment sales, rental, parts, and service all in one convenient local spot.
Unmatched Service Capabilities
While sales get machines out the door, our service keeps them running in the fields and job sites where they belong. Our service center allows swift repairs, maintenance, and reconditioning of equipment so downtime is minimal as possible. (We get it.) With factory-certified technicians and all the high-tech tooling, we can tackle even the most complex issues.
Here at UFC, we take a proactive approach when it comes to servicing your equipment, both large and small engines. From fluid changes to hydraulics, engine and transmission rebuilds, electrical repairs and more – regular service enhances performance while helping to prevent breakdowns before they happen. And if trouble does strike with your equipment out on the job, our mobile field service trucks can be quickly dispatched for on-site assistance.
Here’s a breakdown of the types of ag equipment services we offer mentioned above:
- Scheduled maintenance – Regular servicing including fluid changes, filter replacements, belt and hose inspections, lubrication, and cleaning helps prevent larger issues. We can customize a maintenance plan for your fleet.
- Repairs – Our expert technicians can troubleshoot and fix electrical, hydraulic, engine, drivetrain, and other systems to get your equipment quickly up and running again.
- Overhauls – For equipment with extensive hours, we perform complete overhauls and rebuilds of engines, transmissions, and other major components. This extensive service brings new life into well-used machines.
Fluid services – Scheduled oil, coolant, brake fluid, hydraulic fluid, and diesel exhaust fluid changes remove contaminants and maintain optimal performance.
Other services we offer:
- DOT Services and Inspections – We are certified to perform Department of Transportation (DOT) inspections and services on trucks and trailers. This includes brake system inspections, lamp and reflector checks, exhaust system checks, and more to ensure your vehicles meet DOT safety standards. We can perform annual DOT inspections and assist with any repairs or modifications needed to pass.
- Tire Services and Repair – From routine tire rotations and pressure checks to emergency road service for flats or blowouts, we perform all tire maintenance and repairs. Our services include mounting, balancing, repairs, retreads, replacements, and more for all types of machinery from compact tractors to large combines. We stock a wide selection of ag tire brands and sizes, too!
.Grain Systems – We build grain systems from the ground up. We can construct bucket elevators, drag line conveyors, receiving pits, catwalks and towers, millwright services, portable welding, boom truck services, and more. We also have a large inventory of elevator parts and accessories to repair or maintain your grain handling system.
We know this is a lot of information, but the bottom line is – whatever you need help servicing on the farm, chances are UFC can handle it. If you have any questions about any of the above services or information, we’d love to help you out. You can contact one of our experts here, and we’ll have you on your way soon.