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Latest News Guide to tractor maintenance

Guide to tractor maintenance

Guide to tractor maintenance

Modern tractors are adaptable and durable workhorses. Farmers rely on them for a wide range of tasks, from ploughing and spearing bales right through to powering tools such as wood splitters and stump grinders. They’re also much more hi-tech than the tractors of yesteryear and now offer air-conditioned cabs and even GPS systems that make tasks like ploughing and spraying both precise and efficient. However, with the advent of modern tractors, one thing hasn’t changed: if you want the best possible return on your investment, you need to make sure your machines are as well maintained as possible.

In this article, we take a look at the basics of tractor maintenance, provide you with two handy servicing checklists and explain your agricultural vehicle insurance options.

Daily / pre-use checks

If you spot issues early, you can often prevent them from becoming expensive problems. That’s why it’s worth taking a few minutes to undertake basic checks before using your tractor. A good daily or pre-use inspection regime should include the following checks:

  • Fuel. Do you have enough? Is the fuel gauge working?
  • Oil. Check the dipstick to make sure the oil level is adequate. If the level is low, check for leaks.
  • Coolant. Have you got sufficient coolant? Top it up and check for leaks if necessary.
  • Tyres. Check tyre condition and look for unexpected cracks or bumps. Ensure there is sufficient tread. Use a gauge to check tyre pressures are within the specified operating range. Front tyres often look fine, but if they are not inflated to the correct pressure there’s a danger that they will come off their rims when under load.
  • Driver’s cab. Check drivers cab panels, doors and windows for damage and security. Also assess cab access steps/platforms for security. Check the driver’s seat is secure and the seatbelt is working correctly.
  • Rollover Protection System (ROPS). If the tractor doesn’t have an enclosed cab, check the rollbar is firmly attached in place and has no corrosion, damage, or deformation.
  • Brakes. Make sure the brakes are operating properly and check brake fluid levels if in doubt.
  • Hydraulic lines. Make sure lines aren’t cracked and show no signs of friction or other wear.
  • Lights. If you are going to be working late, check the lights are working.
  • Connectors and pins. Make sure these are undamaged and properly secured.
  • Handbrake. Make sure the handbrake engages properly and can keep the tractor stationary.
  • Steering. Ensure the steering is working effectively and there is no excessive free play in the wheel.
  • Controls. Check all modes of operation are clearly marked on controls and that they return to the neutral position when released.
  • Miscellaneous checks. Check warning horn, emergency stop button, wipers and the reverse bleeper are all working correctly.

In addition to these checks, it’s also a good idea to make sure that your toolbox has all the necessary items you need for emergency repairs. We’ve listed essential tractor toolbox items later on in this article.


Follow service intervals

All manufacturers specify service and maintenance intervals. It’s a good idea to consult your owner’s manual and create a calendar of tasks. For example, your manufacturer may recommend that you check the air filter every 10 hours and replace it every 500 hours. Similarly, it might suggest that you check oil levels daily and replace the engine oil and oil filter every 200 hours (or annually, if this occurs first).

Following manufacturers’ guidelines can significantly extend the lifespan of your tractor. So be sure to keep track of how many hours you have used the machine. This will allow you to service components at the correct intervals.


Tractor maintenance checklist

Although it’s wise to follow your manufacturer’s service intervals, it’s a good idea to make frequent checks of parts and components that need regular maintenance. To help you, we’ve put together a list of items that it’s worth keeping an eye on.

  1. Air filters. If air filters get clogged or dirty, it reduces the amount of air available for the combustion process. If this happens, the tractor’s engine can run roughly, lack power and lose fuel efficiency. It’s worth taking time to make a visual inspection of the filter to ensure it isn’t packed with dirt, debris, or pollen. If it is, you’ll need to clean the filter (if possible) or replace it.
  2. Fuel filters. Fuel filters also prevent debris from reaching your engine and damaging it. However, when they get clogged it reduces the amount of fuel being delivered to the fuel injectors. This can cause poor running or even make it impossible to start the engine. Regular checks allow you to clean or replace this filter before problems occur.
  3. Fuel. If you haven’t used the tractor for a significant period of time, any fuel still in the tank may have deteriorated. If there is only a small amount of fuel remaining in the tank, you simply need to top it up with fresh fuel and you should be good to go. For this reason, if you don’t plan to use a tractor for an extended period, make sure you don’t leave too much fuel in the tank.
  4. Oil. As well as checking oil levels regularly, be sure to replace the engine oil with the correct grade at the recommended intervals. Change the oil filter at the same time to give your engine added protection from abrasive debris.
  5. Blade attachments. Be sure to check and sharpen blade attachments on a regular basis. Checking that blades are sharp and free from defects will help you get the job done quicker and more safely.
  6. Hydraulics. Tractors rely on hydraulic systems to get many different tasks done. Check hydraulic pumps, pipework, and fittings. Replace hydraulic lines if they show signs of damage. Ensure there is enough hydraulic oil. Inspect ram seals and check for leakage and then check the rams themselves for evidence of scoring. Check ram anchor pins, bushes, and keep plates for signs of wear.
  7. Wheels. In addition to inspecting tyres daily, be sure to check regularly that wheel nuts are secure, and the rims aren’t damaged.
  8. Battery. Inspect the battery every few weeks and make sure the terminal connectors are tight. Remove any dirt from inside the battery caps. If you remove the terminal connectors, gently smear the terminals with a small amount of petroleum jelly. This will help prevent corrosion and strengthen the connection. Use a voltmeter and / or hydrometer to check battery charge. If using a voltmeter, a normal lead acid battery should read in the region of 12.2v – 12.8v when resting.
  9. Belts. Give belts regular visual inspections to make sure there are no signs of cracking or damage. Replace as needed.
  10. Grease. Tractors have many moving parts that need greasing, such as hitch pivot points and bearings. Check your user manual for a full list of parts that need greasing, and at which intervals. Always use the specified type of grease. Mixing different kinds of grease can result in failure when used in high-stress applications such as bearings.
  11. Paint. Keep an eye out for paint loss. Chipped or damaged paint lets water reach metalwork, which can lead to corrosion. If rust takes hold, grind it back to bare metal, prime and re-paint and soon as possible.
  12. Chassis, fittings and moving parts. Every month or so, take a look at the chassis and check for cracks, loose bolts, and broken welds. While you’re doing this, also examine the stub axles, axle pivot points, castor wheel, pins, bushes, steering rams, and anchorages. Similarly, check rigger footplates for structural integrity and operating rams and associated anchors where fitted. Also check electrical and mechanical interlocks for the outrigger control (usually fitted to tractors with a backhoe).
  13. Forks. Regularly check forks for wear, surface cracks and for straightness of blade and shank. Check fork angles and ensure there is no difference in tip height. Check fork tips for sharp edges and ensure the fork capacity is compatible with your tractor.


Essential tractor toolbox tools

Different tractors can require different specialist tools. However, if you’re out in the field it’s a good idea to carry a toolbox with some dependable, general-use items. They can not only help you get back up and running if there’s a problem, but they can also save you a long walk back to your workshop!

These are some of the key tools to keep in your tractor at all times:

  • Pliers and mole grips. Essential for tightening bolts if you don’t have room to carry lots of spanners, sockets, and wrenches.
  • Screwdrivers (flat head and Phillips – Torx if needed). For tightening loose screws.
  • Hammer. Can get you out of difficulties in many situations, such as when vibration knocks a part out of alignment.
  • Wire cutters. In case wire gets wrapped around machinery.
  • Fuses. If a circuit blows, you need spare fuses to get it working again.
  • Duct tape and electrical tape. Electrical tape can help you fix loose connections, while duct tape can be used as a temporary fix for all sorts of leaks and breakages.
  • Pins and shear pins. It’s wise to carry spares.
  • Utility knife. A knife is useful in hundreds of situations around the farm – and not just when you’re on the tractor.


Don’t forget insurance

Even the best maintained tractor can develop faults or get damaged beyond repair. If this happens, it can be expensive and time consuming to put right. That’s why farmers who rely on their tractors tend to make sure they’re covered in case anything goes wrong. You can opt for general farm insurance with an option to cover one or more vehicles and tractors. Alternatively, for higher-value machinery, you can choose agricultural vehicle insurance. This allows you to tailor insurance to your vehicles, adding cover for items such as GPS equipment, trailers, agricultural implements, and attachments. If you’d like to talk through your insurance options, please get in touch today on 01603 218000.

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