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Tips to get your iron in order
Just because harvest may be over for you doesn't make the rest of this fall any less busy. There's a lot of fieldwork and fertilizer applications to take care of. So, it may be tough to make time to spend on getting your machinery ready for a winter in the shop.
But, instead of a quick once-over with your iron, take some time to go through things carefully, says Iowa State University Extension ag engineer Mark Hanna. "I'm suggesting not just a 15-minute cleaning, but 2 to 4 hours to go around the machine getting it pretty well cleaned up," he says. "15 minutes won't cut it."
Spend a lot of time cleaning up first, namely to avoid issues later on in the winter with rodents who will be looking for places to live and feed when temperatures sink. Failing to do what you can to keep rodents out can be costly. "I'm suggesting not just a 15-minute cleaning with high-pressure air, but going around the machine and getting it cleaned up," Hanna says.
"Rodents tend to gnaw through wiring and wiring harnesses that can be expensive to replace," he adds. "If there's some wiring chewed through, some of those wiring packages are a couple thousand dollars." Cleaning thoroughly also gives you time to spread rodent bait and traps, Hanna adds.
Once you've got things cleaned up, do a check of your belts and hoses. On belts, Hanna advises maybe even loosening them if the machine's going to spend the winter in the shed, but it's not necessary. "You can tell quite a bit in terms of whether needs to be replaced right now," he says.
And, don't forget to check all your hoses. "Some of these things can come back and haunt you later on if you don't do some tidying up now," Hanna says. "You probably don't need to clean out that combine today or this week, but around mid-December, you realize you need to do it and then, it waits. You need to get it done early."
It's also a good idea to top off all your fluids before putting your tractors and combines away for the winter, Hanna says. Doing so helps prevent moisture in fuel tanks and engine components. "Check fluid levels, condition of fluids, including oil and coolant. That includes oil in several different places, Not just the engine, but transmission and some other gear cases," Hanna says.
It's also a good idea, Hanna says, to fully charge batteries and disconnect them before going into the shop for the winter. That helps prevent trickle discharge and even freezing if the battery's power is low. "You're more likely to get into problems with lower charge," he says.
And, if you didn't get a chance to do so immediately after spraying earlier this year, take some time to clean out your sprayer lines and nozzles now before it gets below freezing and makes that job a lot tougher later this winter. "Sometime around thanksgiving, damage is going to get done," Hanna says. "We've still probably got a couple weeks to get that sprayer drained."
Here are a few ideas on the right maintenance to conduct before it gets too cold this winter.