Tips For Off-Season Tractor Maintenance

When it’s time to roll, will your equipment be up to the task? We offer tips for off-season overhauls.

By Jason Jenkins

You hustled all through harvest. You endured the long days, the weather delays, the meals eaten from the seat of the combine. And yet you still found time for what’s important: family, friends and faith. Now that the crop is in, you’ve earned a little downtime.

However, spring is just around the corner.

The non-growing season may move at a slightly slower pace, but preparing to plant the next crop begins while the north wind still bites and snow still blankets the fields. Among the tasks is pre-season maintenance on tractors, planters and tillage equipment. Taking time to ensure that each implement is in ideal working condition before “spring rush” hits breakneck speed is one step toward a successful season.

Tractor Tune-up

As the proverbial workhorses on the farm, tractors literally pull producers through planting season. But when machines sit for months between harvest and planting, it’s critical that they’re put through their paces before any seed is sown.

“The first law of physics is that that an object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Tractors are kind of the same,” says Andrew Sunderman, AGCO tactical marketing manager for high-horsepower tractors. “After a tractor has been sitting through the wintertime, it’s important that we check all the critical moving components and make sure they’re oiled properly and greased properly.”

Sunderman says the first step in an off-season maintenance program is ensuring that all tractors are up to date on their service intervals. Such service should be based on each machine’s engine hours.

“With our Fendt tractors, all the standard service intervals are covered by the Fendt Gold Star Program for the first three years or 3,000 hours,” he explains. “Through the AGCO Parts Division, customers can enroll in PM360, which is a preventative maintenance program designed to catch problems before they become breakdowns. With these programs, we’re trying to make sure that when those prime operating windows open, a customer is running and not fixing something that could have been taken care of beforehand.”

Programs such as Fendt Gold Star and PM360 allow customers to take advantage of the expertise found at their local AGCO dealership, Sunderman adds.

“They’re skilled at what to check and at recognizing something that has an excessive amount of wear,” he says. “I might look at a belt, for instance, and not notice anything wrong, but they can tell by discoloration or by the way it’s tensioned. That’s the value of relying on the dealership.”

Beyond regular service, Sunderman says it’s important to follow daily maintenance checkpoints as covered in the operator’s manual. This includes items such as topping up oil and other fluids, making sure joints are adequately lubricated and bolts are properly torqued, inflating tires to the optimal pressure, ensuring that radiators and air intakes are clear of debris and that filters are cleaned or replaced.

“Ballasting is also important,” he continues. “You want the proper ballasting for different tasks, whether that’s tillage or planting. That’s something that can be taken care of ahead of time so you’re not rushing at the last minute.”

Training for tractor operators is another key to off-season preparation. Whether the tractor is new, the operator is new or both, it’s important that operators are comfortable and can efficiently run the tractor and all connected implements. Practice during the winter can help avoid any issues in the spring.

“This also gives you a chance to make sure that your equipment is set up properly in terms of their calibrations and working in parallel with the tractor,” Sunderman says.

Sunderman says that while annual off-season maintenance may cost some additional money upfront, it can really save in the long run.

“When you need to run, you need to run,” he says. “Maybe I save $100 or $200 by not doing my maintenance, but if something breaks down during that spring rush, it could cost me thousands — not just the cost of the repair, but also the lost opportunity of getting that crop in at the optimal time.”