Engine oil, fluids and rodent control are top concerns when winterizing large farm equipment.
Linn Benton Tractor Co. spends the winter maintaining windrowers, balers and tractors at its dealership in Tangent, Ore., and in the field.
“Because we have such a short harvest season in the Willamette Valley there are not a lot of things the customers do after harvest,” Roy Garman, service manager at Linn Benton Tractor, said. “They’ll blow out all the chaff; grass and seed so it doesn’t grow during the winter. They’ll clean and grease everything and park it for the winter until they’re ready to do their overhaul or whatever program they do.”
Tractors especially need servicing to protect them from the harsh winter. Coolants, oil and filters should be changed so accumulated acids don’t sit there all winter. And, of course, it needs a good greasing. Even machinery stored inside experiences condensation.
It’s important keep a close eye on the Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) in “emissionized” engines. It has a short shelf life and is susceptible to freezing.
“You don’t want to keep a lot of it in the equipment when you park it. You then put in fresh DEF fluid when the season starts,” Garman said.
Especially important through the dormant season is good rodent control to prevent mice from building nests in the engines and wiring.
“Everything’s electronic these days so it doesn’t take much to cause problems,” Garman said.
On windrowers, it’s important to paint or lubricate headers and oil the chain and engine to prevent rust. Balers need a good cleaning and lubricating so components don’t sit against wet chaff all winter.
“Having a good winter inspection and overhaul program is essential to all harvesting equipment,” Garman said. “To just pull it out of the barn and think it’s going to work because it worked last year is not a good idea.”
Garman’s 29 mechanics range from 25-year veterans to those just coming up. They keep about 15 service trucks in the field — and more help is needed.
“The big asset for a dealership is its quality of mechanics and it’s the hardest asset,” Garman said. “There’s a real shortage of them all over; it’s a huge, huge problem.”
Linn Benton Community College and John Deere offer programs for mechanics.
“I think everybody realizes the shortage and the importance of having good quality people; it’s finally getting to where they’re going to form programs at the manufacturer’s level,” Garman said. “We all love being under 4 percent employment; the problem is there’s nobody in the pool for us to hire.”
In addition, Garman said, the work ethic has shifted in the past 10-15 years.
“It’s hard work; it takes dedication; we work long hours during harvest and there are easier ways to make a living,” Garman said. “I think the younger generation has found that out.”