Winterizing Farm Equipment
- Paul Betz, Sales Associate and owner of High Ledge Farm
in Vermont, time is dwindling for field work as the ground is
tightening and will soon be covered (we hope) with snow. Much of the
work left to do is getting ready for winter and next spring. Picking up
where the snowplow runs and putting tools and equipment under cover is a
priority, but long term storage is also a concern. For farm equipment
with gasoline engines, a few extra steps now make a big difference in
how they fire up in the spring.
Any discussion about small engines needs to include a
section about ethanol blended fuel. Federal mandates require a 10%
ethanol blend, and plans are to increase the amount added to gasoline in
the future. The ethanol can cause lots of damage to small engines as a
result of its aggressive nature. It attracts water through condensation,
which can pollute the fuel in the tank. Ethanol attacks rubber seals
and hoses as well as liberating older deposits in carburetors and fuel
lines, introducing them into the fuel system. I would recommend using an
additive to your fuel for any small engines on the farm.
The first step for putting
equipment away should be a cleaning. Pull the spark plug wire first. Get
the dirt, grease and grime off the tool. Then put the plug boot back on
and start the engine and let it run for a minute or two to warm up.
Then change the oil and oil filter if the engine has one. Lots of small
engines don’t have an oil filter, which increases the importance of
changing your oil at the recommended interval. Replace the filter and
refill based on manufacturer’s specs. Inspect the air filter, and
replace or clean as needed. Check and replace the fuel filter if
needed. Add fuel stabilizer and fill the tank. Run the engine for a few
minutes to give the new fuel a chance to get through the entire system.
Keeping the fuel tank full reduces the air space in the tank, which
reduces the available area for water to condense. Some people suggest
draining a metal tank, because the fuel can eat at the tank and cause
problems in the future. Use of an additive should lessen the aggression
of the fuel, and this shouldn’t be too much of a concern. Having the
tank empty does create more space for water to condense as the tank
heats and cools, which will definitely cause problems.
If you are working on putting away a tractor, or something
with hydraulics, now is the time to check your fluid for any water. If
it’s brown or frothy, change it now. The water can separate and freeze,
as well as cause corrosion to internal machined parts, neither of which
is good. If the quality of the fluid looks OK, change it based on the
manufacturer’s specs. Also test your antifreeze to make sure you have
the temperature protection you need for your area. If you need to add
coolant, be sure to run your engine until your thermostat kicks in to
fully circulate the coolant through the block.
the engine cool, and then pull the spark plug, or plugs, one at a time
(if you do one at a time, you will lower your risk of hooking up the
wrong plug wire) and spray the inside of the cylinder with some fogging
oil. It will cling to the cylinder and be there for the first start up
in the spring. Check the plug and replace if necessary, then put the
boot back on.
Then hit all your fittings with a good quality grease, and call it done.
Spring gets closer every day. Better to have the season start with one pull.
All my best,