Simple tips that keep your farm machinery operational.June 27, 2018
I always viewed planting season as being an agricultural version of a precision military operation ——- there is no room for anything to go wrong on our end; we need to have our machinery ready. A simple mechanical issue can easily extrapolate out into missing the optimal window to get seed into the ground, thus costing yield and profit.
I prepared the following tips covering areas that some of you may have overlooked during your winter PM.
It is not anti-freeze…. it is coolant!
The job of the liquid in the radiator is to cool the engine while the radiator’s task is to remove heat from the liquid. The fact that it does not freeze is required so the block does not crack and so fluid flow through the engine can be maintained during winter.
The additive package in the coolant becomes consumed from boiling cycles in the cylinder head during high thermal loading, such as pulling tillage equipment or a planter. When this occurs, the coolant will allow cylinder liner cavitation, electrolysis and other events that will damage the engine. Use a test strip to check the coolant if it was not changed this past winter. Add an SCA if necessary.
SDS is not just for soybeans
Sudden death syndrome can occur to a storage battery in any vehicle/machine. It is the result of the tie or buss bar that connects all of the cells together becoming degraded (thin) and then suddenly breaking. When this occurs all of the cells will check fine with a hydrometer but the battery will produce zero volts —- it is broken inside.
A load test will usually indicate the tie bar becoming challenged but if you do not have that ability, replace any battery that is five years or older with a new one designed for the use — no car batteries in farm tractors.
Just because the engine cranks fine right now is no indicator of the internal condition. Also, a battery with more than 14.6 volts after the surface charge is removed with a load tester is internally sulphated and is on the way out.
Analyze all fluids
Before you change any fluids or lubricants pull a proper sample and have it sent to a lab for study. The cost for this is only around $25 per sample and will give a world of information about what is going on inside. The only caveat being that the fluid/oil needs to have use on it and the sample must be drawn into the prescribed container from the test lab. Think of it as a machine version of plant tissue analysis.
Modern farm equipment depends on direct current electricity more than ever and the ground circuit is just as important as the voltage supply. In addition, some implements such as a planter may use a ground on the tractor, thus taxing it more. By the time your eyes tell you the ground is not good it has been bad for a long while.
Remove, clean and tighten all grounds as a first step. If possible, examine the eyelet/wire connection for corrosion. Then use a voltmeter to do a voltage drop test. Connect the positive lead to the ground and the negative lead to the battery negative. Evoke the circuit and have a helper read the meter. The reading on the ground should be less than 0.20 volt. If greater, find where the high impedance is. A high impedance ground will drive modern electronics crazy and can occur randomly based upon the ground circuit load at the moment.
Put eyes and wrenches on it
Give each gas or diesel engine a good and thorough visual inspection while also checking all fasteners on the engine such as the intake manifold, carburetor, diesel injector lines, etc. Vibration and thermal cycling will cause things to loosen up.
On turbocharger equipped engines, check all hoses for damage and fit to the intercooler and engine along with that to the waste gate, if so equipped. Check the waste gate linkage for wear and tightness and lubricate if required. A minimally stuck open waste gate will limit boost pressure and engine power.
Change the air filter using a high quality or OE design. A clogged or poor flowing, new but cheap filter will cause the seal on the turbocharger compressor to fail under long periods of boost, such as when planting or tilling. Most turbocharger compressor seals that suck oil and fail are the result of a restrictive air filter or cheap replacement.
Small engine, big headaches
Many planting days have been derailed by a small gas engine that does not want to run such as on a nurse tank trailer or seed tender. To avoid this, clean and tighten the carburetor/intake manifold, service the air and fuel filter and oil, and install a new spark plug(s). Put anti-seize compound on the threads of the spark plug and dielectric compound in the boot of the wire. Make sure it is tight for proper heat transfer, grounding and to seal the cylinder.
Inspect the engine shroud for signs of any rodent nests and if necessary, remove the sheet metal and blow out any dust from the cylinder head fins. This is the only cooling the engine has.
Run the engine and adjust the carburetor mixture. Then dose the gasoline with one ounce per gallon of Chevron Techron Fuel System Cleaner and let it run for one hour at full throttle or one tank of fuel.
This will clean the internal passages of the carburetor and remove carbon deposits from the intake valve and piston crown. You may have to slightly retune the carburetor if the engine was carbon laden. Use gasoline treated in the same manner the first few days of planting so that everything is cleaned out well.