Farmers know that routine agriculture equipment maintenance keeps their equipment in peak condition so that when it’s time to act, your equipment is ready and waiting. A Midwest farming report states that farmers can cut repair costs by 25 percent by keeping up with routine maintenance. It’s time well spent on the farm.
Plowing, harrowing, planting, reaping, threshing, and winnowing runs on its own schedule. Waiting for service people to arrive can significantly delay critical weather-dependent tasks. Hay must be cut in time to dry. Seed must be planted within a specific window of time. Delays from equipment malfunctions can be costly.
Farmers today must master a dozen skills, including routine farm machinery repair and agricultural equipment maintenance. Without basic machinery and repair skills, you might waste valuable time and favorable weather conditions for important steps in farm production. You can’t afford down time.
Fortunately, many of the routine maintenance and repair steps recommended for agricultural equipment are quite similar to those recommended for your average automobile. Although some repairs may require specialized tools such as unique socket wrenches that fit large agricultural equipment, the actual skills you need are virtually the same.
10 Farm Equipment Repair and Maintenance Tips
Once you have your list of equipment, it’s time to make up your own farm equipment repair and maintenance checklist. These 10 tips provide you with the basics. Add onto this list any additional tasks you know need to get done for specific equipment.
- Keep accurate records: Keep a notebook in your equipment shed so that you can record maintenance tasks and mileage (if applicable.) You can easily carry a notebook with you into the field if necessary, or back into your home or office to update computer records. Your equipment maintenance log book should also be used to record problems, dealership phone numbers and other contact information, and mileage.
- Make a chart: A large whiteboard or chart is an invaluable planning tool. Use is to note major equipment maintenance tasks and reminders. Cover it with Plexiglas or a thin sheet of plastic, hinged at the top so that you can easily move the glass away to reach the board. This keeps dust and dirt off of it and prevents it from smudging.
- Change the filter: Tractors and pickup trucks need frequent oil changes. Check the manual that came with your vehicle for the recommended oil change times. Oil changes on tractors can sometimes be difficult if the oil filter is hard to reach. You may want to invest in a tractor jack, a special jack that can safely hoist the tractor up enough so that you can reach oil and air filter. Air filters and other filters should also be changed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Dirty air filters make your engine work harder than it should and can lead to premature wear.
- Check the hitch: Always check the hitch or couplings where farm equipment hooks to tractors, trucks or ATVs. Make sure that couplings are secure and clean any evidence of rust.
- Examine the lights: Make sure that brake lights, headlights, and other lights are all working. If you have a stock trailer, hook it up and have a partner or friend check to make sure that the signal lamps are working and the brake lights are in order.
- Check the tires: Proper tire inflation on trucks, tractors, and trailers as well as on pull-behind seeding, harvesting and processing equipment helps them run better and for vehicles, helps you save money on gas by getting better gas mileage. Tires should be inflated only to the maximum amount and never more. Check truck spare tires, too. Also, check the tread, and repair or replace worn-out tires.
- Look for battery corrosion: Corrosion on battery terminals can lead to power loss or stalls. Open up the hood on your truck or uncover the battery carefully on your tractor and visually inspect the terminals. Change batteries with clearly corroded parts, always following the owner’s manual. Batteries can be stored indoors when tractors aren’t in use, especially in the winter, to prevent power loss due to disuse.
- Get an oil analysis done: An oil analysis on tractor oil and transmission fluid can tell you whether or not these need to be changed on larger equipment. Samples taken to your dealership can identify potential problems before they happen. Small metal particles in the oil or transmission fluid, for example, may indicate wear that should be fixed before a major malfunction occurs.
- Clean equipment: Always clean off your equipment before you put it away for the season. Use a broom to sweep loose hay, straw or plant material off of tractors and other equipment. Hose down implements and check the tires before storing equipment for the season. Cleaning off the exterior can prevent rust and stains.
- Store indoors: Don’t leave your equipment sitting outside all winter long. Move it indoors when it’s not in use. Store under a tarp if you don’t have an outside garage, shed, or even an overhang under which to store it. The best way to store equipment is to have a dedicated garage, equipment shed or equipment barn for all of your trucks, tractors and equipment. Storing equipment away from snow, ice and rain also keeps it from rusting.
Storing Equipment Indoors Pays Off
Some farmers question the wisdom of storing equipment indoors. After all, they reason, their fathers and grandfathers just left the harrow or tractor outside. What’s the point of moving it under cover?
Farm equipment that’s been stored indoors often has higher resale value than comparable equipment left out in the field. The trade-in value, according to Purdue’s Cooperative Extension Office, is often 10-15 times higher on tractors stored indoors than equipment stored outside. For equipment such as planters and harvesters, that can be up to 25 times higher. That’s a lot of money and it can add up quickly.
Another benefit of storing equipment inside a shed or specific building is security. Farm equipment and accessories represent an important investment for a farmer. A good mid-level tractor can cost almost as much as a small house, and top of the line, new Caterpillar® equipment, for example, can be an important fixed asset for a farm. An equipment building with locking doors, motion-sensitive lights and internet-based security cameras can ensure that a farmer’s equipment investment is kept safe.
Equipment sheds can also be a major investment, but they don’t have to be grand palaces for your farm implements. Many different types of buildings can be used to safely and securely store farm equipment. This includes steel frame buildings, stick buildings, and converted barns.
If you’re building an equipment shed from scratch, consider adding a small area to house your routine maintenance tools. A pegboard for wrenches, a cabinet for screws and shelving for oil are all useful additions that will help you store and organize your agriculture equipment maintenance tools.
Another consideration when building equipment sheds is location. Make sure that your shed is central to your farm chores, near enough to the house, barn and fields so that it’s easy to access. Keep the road to the shed maintained and graded so that the bumps from road ruts don’t wear down your tires, shocks or springs prematurely.
Keeping Costs Down on Routine Agricultural Maintenance
Running out for parts to fix broken farm equipment can get expensive. Not only can replacement parts be expensive, but driving into town or to your nearest dealership takes time away from other tasks you could be doing around the farm.
One way to keep costs down on routine agricultural maintenance is to stock up on parts you know you’ll need when they are on sale. Many stores have seasonal sales in the spring and fall on oil filters, oil, air filters, grease guns and other items you may need for your maintenance tasks. Take advantage of these sales and buy replacement items for routine maintenance while they are on sale. Visit our specials and promotions page to view Altorfer’s current sales.
Another task that may be forgotten in the excitement of buying new farm equipment is a storage and retrieval system for important paperwork. This includes the user manuals for your equipment, warranties, receipts, and dealership information.
A file cabinet in your farm office can serve as a central repository for receipts and warranties. For user manuals, try making a binder to keep them handy. Place plastic sleeves inside the binder, then slip the manuals into the sleeves. This keeps them clean and handy for when you need them to look up maintenance tasks.
When to See Your Altorfer Service Professional
Some farm equipment problems are just too big to fix on your own. When that happens, it’s time to contact your dealer.
Some problems that may require you to call Altorfer include:
- Stalls or loss of power during operation
- Malfunctioning computers or GPS devices
- Malfunctioning sensors, such as hydraulic sensors
Altorfer has a fleet of service professionals ready to come to you. Our professionals come equipped with mobile diagnostic units, complete with laptops and the latest software, to diagnose and fix your farm equipment. We will send someone out to your farm as soon as possible. Smaller equipment may be conveyed into the dealership if it’s safe to do so.
Have your equipment’s make, model and serial number handy. If you have a service or repair contract or warranty, have that information handy, too.
Many small engines that run on diesel or gas also need regular tune-ups. Some of these tune-ups you can do at home, according to the user manual. Others should be performed by your Altorfer service professional. A tune up can help your engine run at peak efficiency and prevent future problems caused by improper or uneven wear and tear on bearings and other moving parts.
Don’t Modify Engines
Farmers are do-it-yourself type people. They tend to tinker with machines a lot, trying to make them more efficient or adapting one kind of machine to another task. While this may have been easy to do with older farm equipment, the modern computerized farm machines can be ruined by modifications. Most dealers caution against at-home modifications of farm equipment and engines.
When You Need New Equipment or Service, Contact Altorfer Ag
Altorfer Ag Products is one of the nation’s leading distributors of agricultural equipment, serving Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. Our dealerships offer the latest equipment and expert service technicians who make farm calls throughout these states.
Our company is known for service, first and foremost. We were founded on a “tell it like it is” philosophy that still effects how we do business today. Honesty, integrity, and knowledge stand behind each and every transaction. We are farmers serving farmers, men and women just like you who know and love the challenges of farming.