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Five Ways To Prepare Machinery For Winter

Now that the 2011 crop what there was of it, if you live in southeastern Saskatchewan is in the bin and winter crops are safely in the ground, it s time to put your equipment back into winter storage. That means it s also the perfect time to perform all those annual, routine engine maintenance chores.

Aside from saving you time in the spring, getting fresh oil and fluids into engines now will better protect them during a long period of inactivity. That s the advice we picked up from the mechanics instructors at Assiniboine College at Brandon, Man., when they contributed to a previous instalment in the Shop Class Series. Here s a summary of what they recommended farmers keep in mind when doing maintenance on engines, along with a few other tips.


Fall is the ideal time for an oil change. The contaminants from combustion that build up in oil can cause internal damage to an engine during long periods of inactivity. Leaving machines sitting with a sump full of fresh oil prevents that, extending an engine s life.

If you plan on starting a machine during the winter, make sure you ve selected the appropriate oil for cold-weather use. Synthetic 0W40 is usually a good pick for winter operations; it has very good viscosity in cold weather. First check the owner s manual to make sure that that weight is recommended for the engine you intend to put it in. Using an oil with a viscosity rating suitable only for warmer weather can delay getting lubrication to vital components during cold-weather starts. That, of course, translates into rapid wear and brings you closer to a costly overhaul.

When performing an oil change, start the engine to warm up the oil before draining it, this stirs up the contaminants that settle to the bottom and lets the oil drain easier and faster. But, use caution handling hot oil as it can burn you, sometimes severely. Always wear nitrile gloves; skin can absorb harmful chemicals from waste oil.

When changing filters, pre-fill those that mount vertically with fresh oil before installation. This restores full oil pressure much sooner. Before spinning your filters on, always clean off the filter base. Use some clean oil to lubricate the rubber filter gasket. Follow the installation instructions on the oil filter, and don t over tighten it.


Don t forget about the other fluids either particularly the engine coolant. Long-life coolant usually lasts for about five years, while regular types should be changed and the system flushed every two to three years. Even if the engine isn t due for a coolant change, use a commercial test kit to check its condition regularly and ensure the additive concentration is still correct. If it is not, specific additives can be added without changing all the coolant. Also, check to see if your engine has a coolant filter, if so it must be changed annually.

When replacing coolant, be sure to select the correct type. For diesels, heavy-duty diesel antifreeze is the only option. Don t use an automotive type or anything containing silicate, which is an additive that coats and protects internal aluminium engine components from acid corrosion. Gasoline car engines have a lot of aluminium components, but diesel engines have very few, so the silicate has nothing to cling to. That causes it to collect in the radiator and heater core causing trouble. This is known as silicate fall-out.

Conversely, specialized diesel antifreeze does not contain silicate and can be harmful to gasoline-fuelled automotive engines.


It is also a good idea to check the rest of your cooling system periodically. Check the radiator cap sealing rubbers for cracks or hardness. Also, look in the radiator neck for contamination which can prevent the cap from sealing properly. Check fan belts for cracks or shiny glazing, replace them if you find these problems. Then, check the fan and fan shroud for cracks. Check the water pump weep hole for signs of leakage. If coolant is dripping from the weep hole, it is time for a new water pump.

To inspect and clean the outside of the radiator, use a soft broom to brush debris or chaff away. Be careful using compressed air, a steam cleaner or pressure washer to clean radiators; use only lower air or water pressures to prevent damage to the radiator s delicate fins.


Be sure to also inspect the air intake system, too. Some machines have a smaller, primary air filter inside the larger secondary one. A secondary filter element should be changed at least every second year. If this filter is dirty, never clean it, just replace it. Finding a secondary filter dirty means your primary filter has a hole in it, and it, too, must be replaced. Always use the new gaskets that come with your filter.

Many newer-model machines have a filter restriction gauge that lets you know when it s time to service the elements. If the gauge indicates everything is OK and it s not due for service, leave it buttoned up. Don t open air intake systems unnecessarily.

When you remove a primary air filter, it can be inspected for cleanliness by putting a trouble light inside and looking at how much light passes through the paper element. There should be a nice glow visible. If you see a very bright point of light, the filter has a hole in it; and you should not reuse it.

If the filter is dusty when you take it out of the housing, tap it lightly in your hands to shake off the loose particles. Then, using an air compressor, reduce the line pressure to no more than 30 p.s.i. and carefully blow compressed air from the inside out. Never do this with full air pressure; it will tear the element, rendering the filter useless. Also, do not tap the filter too hard; that will dent it, which will also ruin it. If you remove a filter that is loaded with dirt and chaff, do not bother cleaning it; just replace it. After servicing the filter, inspect it again with a light to make sure there are still no holes in it.


Finally, give your machines a bath. A few minutes with a pressure washer will remove all the dirt and grime. Keep in mind that one of the things engineers are currently looking at for new equipment in the future is onboard fire suppression systems, because new emissions-compliant engines tend to run warmer than older designs. That increases the fire risk from buildup of chaff and debris. So clean engines thoroughly.

A little wax on a machine s sheet metal will also help preserve that like-new shine. Once all the maintenance and cleaning is done, your equipment will be washed and ready to be put to bed for the winter.


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About the author


Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.



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