Winterizing equipment can save time when needed most during busy seasons and can reduce the expense of repairs, said Mark Hanna, Iowa State University Extension.
“It’s a lot easier to take care of things when you have extra time during the off season,” he added.
If running diesel equipment, it’s time to switch from Number-2 diesel to Number-1. Dealers have already changed the blend with the weather, so the only time this becomes a real issue is if a tractor has been sitting around since August or September.
“Farmers may have problems with fuel gelling if there’s Number-2 diesel left in there,” Hanna said.
Number-1 diesel fuel has a lower cloud point, so it gels at a lower temperature than Number-2 diesel. However, Number-2 diesel has more energy content per gallon, the reason to use it most of the year.
It’s important that smaller gasoline engines on the farm also have a winter blend.
Make sure the engine coolant will work for expected winter temperatures. On smaller outdoor equipment, it may be necessary to go to a lighter weight oil.
Also top off fuel and hydraulic oil tanks. Condensation in the spring can cause water to enter tanks if they aren’t full.
There are two options for batteries. Either keep the batteries as fully charged as possible, which is a good idea if that piece of equipment will be used this winter. Or disconnect the battery.
“If the battery is on a piece of equipment that isn’t going to be used much this winter, then disconnect the battery so there is not a leak.”
When diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) is stored in a fuel trailer or delivery tote and the equipment could be exposed to freezing temperatures, the system needs to be winterized.
DEF freezes at 12 degrees Fahrenheit. and expands by 7 percent, which can damage the pump, plumbing, and tank unless all of the fluid is removed.
First of all, empty the DEF tank. The easiest way to do this is to top off equipment. Let the nozzle run dry for 30 seconds to make sure all of the fluid is out.
Second, set the valve to fill, turn the pump on, and squeeze nozzle for 30 seconds. Next, remove any DEF remaining in the coupler.
Last, test the nozzle. Pull the nozzle up and pull the connector. Only a few drops should come out.
At this point, any fluid in the pumping system will be in the bottom of the tank. This is all right for transport totes, but trailers will need to be drained.
To do this, simply remove the drain plug on the tank, let fluid out, and then replace the plug. Heating systems are available when needing to use DEF during the winter.
DEF tanks on diesel-powered equipment don’t require any steps to winterize. When the machine is turned off, the system purges the fluid paths, injectors, and pumps so DEF is only in the on-board tank.
If the fluid does freeze, these tanks are built to withstand expansion. The systems also have heaters so when the engine starts, any frozen DEF is thawed before the system engages.
It’s probably too late for a good power washing, unless there’s a heated place to wash, but make sure that plant debris and dirt are cleaned off equipment.
“Plant debris tends to draw and hold moisture,” Hanna said. “If it’s in close proximity to steel, it will rust faster.”
Keeping equipment clean will also help keep pests away, particularly from wiring.
Hanna recommended taking the time to vacuum and clean out combine cabs and make sure planters are clean.
“A good thorough cleaning now can save potential repair costs later on,” Hanna said.
“When harvest season was done, farmers were probably glad to get the last load in and get the combine put in the shed,” Hanna said. “There were 15 other tasks in front to do at the time. Now may be a good time to go back and spend an hour or two looking the combine over and seeing what may need some attention before harvest season next year.”
Inspect the combine, tillage equipment, planters, and sprayers. Look at the frame and structure to see if there are broken welds or anything that needs to be fixed.
Are the planter closing wheels out of alignment? Are there any wear points on tillage equipment? Are there any loose bolts? Does the equipment need lubrication?
“The reason to look over the equipment is that it’s a good time to make some notes on what needs attention during the next three to four months before spring fieldwork season begins,” Hanna said.
In other words, take advantage of the extra time now, and get equipment ready to go.