Have you ever wished you had an instructor standing behind you to offer advice when tackling a mechanical repair? Well, here’s the next best thing. Drawing on the knowledge of instructors at Assiniboine Community College’s School of Trades and Technology, this series offers advice straight from the pros.
Instructor Dietrich Schellenberg starts the series off with a look at proper equipment maintenance procedures. Now that summer is over, it’s a good time to take a close look at your machinery, and these articles should get you primed and ready for the job. Before we get to oil changes, the topic in article one, Schellenberg begins with a few general tips about maintenance.
“A properly maintained machine looks good, performs smoothly and, above all, is a safe machine,” says Schellenberg. “Well maintained machines will get the job done faster. You can save money, eliminate costly, unexpected breakdowns and the frustration that comes with these delays by creating a good maintenance plan for all your equipment.”
Start your plan by setting up a maintenance schedule. “Establishing a good record keeping system for each machine or piece of machinery is very important,” he says. “Use a large white board in a convenient location in the shop, a service binder, or spreadsheet on your computer. By maintaining quality record keeping, you can easily foresee any maintenance due dates.” If you aren’t keeping track, you’re likely to miss a periodic service entirely.
And make sure those service intervals are exactly what the operator’s manual calls for. “Manufacturers are well aware most of us are not avid of readers,” says Schellenberg. “So almost all these operating and maintenance manuals are also produced on CD or DVD, or they can be found online at the manufacturers website. Many online manuals contain visual and interactive videos on numerous how-to tasks.”
Also, make sure you’re wearing the proper safety gear. “Safety glasses should be worn when working in and around your machines,” he says. “Today’s safety glasses are built to withstand considerable shatter force and fit tightly around your eyes.”
So now that you have a plan and the proper safety gear, where do you start? Because most machines have engines, looking at proper oil change procedures seems appropriate. Most producers have likely done this job many times, but here is what Schellenberg recommends to make sure the job is done right.
TIPS FOR A BETTER OIL CHANGE
First, increase the frequency of oil changes if your machine operates in very dusty conditions. Don’t scrimp here. Several extra oil changes are still far cheaper and easier than one engine overhaul.
And it is always a good idea to change your engine oil before storing machines for winter. Contaminants from combustion build up in oil during engine use and can cause internal damage during long periods of inactivity. Fresh oil prevents that. An added benefit is your machine is ready to go in the spring.
If you have to start your machines in winter, make sure you’ve selected the appropriate oil for cold weather use. Synthetic 0W40 is usually good pick for winter operations, but check the engine manufacturer’s recommendation to make sure. Oils with a viscosity rating suitable only for warmer weather can delay getting lubrication to vital components during cold-weather starts.
Work cleanly says Schellenberg. It is very important to clean filler caps, dipsticks and their immediate areas before removing them. Yanking off a dirty fill cap will introduce dirt into the engine, which can take a toll on the oil pump and bearings. As a side note, always take the time to wipe off your grease fittings before greasing the nipple. If you don’t, you are forcing a clump of
dirt into the bearing — exactly what you don’t want.
Start the engine to warm up the oil before draining it. This stirs up all the contaminants and lets the oil drain easier. But use caution when handling hot oil — it can burn you, severely. And always wear nitrile gloves. Skin can absorb harmful chemicals from waste oil.
If your oil filters mount vertically, pre-fill them with fresh oil before installation. This fills the system more quickly and restores oil pressure sooner.
Before spinning your filters on, always clean off the filter base and use some clean oil to lubricate the rubber filter gasket. Follow the installation instructions on the oil filter, and don’t over-tighten it.
Then, run the engine and check for leaks. Shut it down, and ensure the oil is actually at the full mark on the dipstick. Operating an engine with too much oil could cause excessive oil consumption and leakage from the front and rear crankshaft seals.
During normal use, let your engine cool down by idling it for several minutes before shutting it off. This allows your turbo to slow down and cool off. And let a machine stand for several minutes before checking the oil level. This allows all the oil to leak down into the pan for an accurate reading.
Finally, inspect the engine for leaks, which allow dirt to build up. Not only does that look bad, too much dirt on an engine in the wrong places can seriously hamper its ability to cool properly.
Next month, Schellenberg discusses engine cooling system maintenance.
Scott Garvey specializes in writing about tractors and farm machinery technology for publications in Canada and Great Britain. He’s also a former affiliate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). He farms near Moosomin, Sask.
ACC’s School of Trades
This article was prepared with technical assistance from the staff at Assiniboine Community College’s School of Trades and Technology in Brandon, Man. If you’re interested in more information on the training programs offered there, check out www.assiniboine.net.