We want to help you understand what you need to do to maintain and get your tractor ready for Spring.
And as a quick aside --- we are here to help you purchase a new tractor when the time is right.
Let’s get started.
Spring is here!
We have a checklist of maintenance procedures that will help you keep your tractor running great in Spring and Summer.
Of course, to complete these procedures, see your owner’s manual, or contact your local dealer for any help that you may need. You also may want to contact your local mechanic if you do not feel comfortable performing any of these tasks and procedures.
Check the hydraulic oil level with a dip stick.
Most tractors require all hydraulics to be fully extended when you check the oil.
Follow the instructions in your owner’s manual.
Change the filter. If you changed to a lighter hydraulic oil for the winter --- then replace it with a summer oil.
Check all the hydraulic hoses for cracking and leaks. Cycle the hydraulics to make sure they move smoothly and that all the cylinders will stay in the extended position without drifting down.
Inspecting your hydraulics is a big part of your tractor’s Spring checkup.
Inspect all the wiring.
Sometimes mice or squirrels get inside and chew on the insulation. A nest or cache of acorns under the hood is a good indication that your tractor has served as a rodent residence over the winter.
Check all the lights and make sure the alternator gauge shows a normal charge when the engine is at operating speed.
If your tractor has been idle for the entire winter, the gasoline in the tank might have gone flat.
That is --- unless you added a stabilizer.
This occurs as the volatile compounds evaporate over time --- which is not a problem with diesel fuel.
Deal with flat gas by draining it and replacing it with fresh gas. Diesel fuel is pretty much maintenance-free, as long as it contains no contaminants --- and the filter is clean.
Several contaminants can work their way into your fuel system over the winter. Moisture can condense on the inside of the fuel tank. This contaminates the fuel and can cause rust on the inside of the tank. This will eventually flake off and block the fuel flow.
If your tractor has a carburetor, it probably has a sediment bowl (also called a settling bowl). Remove the bowl and check it for water and contaminants. While the sediment bowl is off, remove the drain bolt on the bottom of the carburetor and drain the gas into a glass jar to clear it of water and contaminants.
Removing the drain plug on the bottom of the carburetor allows the gas in the fuel line and carburetor to drain out --- along with any water and sediment that got past the sediment bowl.
Catching the gas in a glass jar lets you inspect the fuel for water and sediment and keeps the fuel from spilling on the ground. If it is clear, just pour it back into the fuel tank. Use a siphon to check for contaminants on the bottom of the fuel tank.
Make sure the siphon hose goes all the way to the bottom of the tank --- so it gets everything --- including the water, dirt and rust that has settled to the bottom of the tank. Siphon about a quart or so into a glass jar and inspect it.
If flakes of rust are present, move the siphon hose around the bottom of the tank to get as much out as possible. Otherwise, it will find a way to clog the tank outlet.
Let the glass jar sit for several hours, then observe it for contaminants. Water appears as a clear bubble on the bottom of the jar.
Because water and sediment settle on the bottom of the jar, you can carefully pour the clean fuel back into the tank. If rust inside the tank is a serious problem, consider getting a polymer tank liner, such as from a gas tank sealer kit.
Cold weather takes a serious toll on tractor batteries.
Many batteries completely discharge.
If the tractor has been sitting idle all winter, it might not have enough power to start. If that happens, it is easiest on the battery to put it on a charger for a few hours.
A jump-start should be a last resort as it is hard on the battery. Depending on the battery’s condition --- it might not hold a charge and you will need to replace it.
Check the battery cable connectors on both ends to make sure the connections are secure.
Check the hot (positive) cable anywhere it touches the frame to make sure the insulation is good at that point --- otherwise, it can short out.
If the insulation is worn, wrap it liberally with electrical tape until you can replace the cable.
Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on fluids.
Check all the fluid levels including the engine oil, hydraulic oil, radiator, and gear oil.
There might be some hidden gear oil fill points for steering and the front hubs on a four-wheel-drive tractor.
Change fluids, as recommended by the tractor manufacturer.
Diesel injectors develop pressure up to 2,500 psi to force fuel through openings that are .005 inches in diameter.
Any bigger particles can clog the openings and reduce the engine’s performance.
Gasoline engines, whether carbureted or injected, also have small orifices that are easily clogged.
The fuel filter is your first line of defense against poor performance and expensive repairs. Other filters that need attention are the air filter, oil filter and hydraulic filter.
A good rule of thumb is to change the filters at least once per year when you change the engine oil. This depends on how much you use your tractor.
Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Make sure all the clamps and fittings are tight and secure to keep the fluids in and the dust out.
Check the alternator and fan belts for cracks.
Also, feel them for tension.
Tighten them if necessary.
Replace any belt that is damaged or even questionable.
The tractor is the leading cause of death on a farm.
The most frequent causes of tractor-related deaths are side and rear overturns (96 deaths per year), according to the National Tractor Safety Coalition.
Rollover protection systems are said to be 99% effective in preventing an injury or death in the event of an overturn when used with a seatbelt --- and 70% effective when used without a seatbelt.
Make sure all the nuts and bolts on the roll cage are tight.
Scan the welds for cracks.
Does the seat belt work properly and fit snugly?
If not, fix it or replace it.
Don’t make it easy to skip using your seatbelt.
Your manual will indicate all the lubrication points and the recommended grease.
If you can’t force grease through a zerk (grease fitting) --- replace it.
Keep a few spares in your toolbox.
Check tire pressure and add air if needed.
Look for worn tread, splits, or other signs of problems or damage.
Repair or replace the tire(s) as needed.
If your tractor is a two-wheel-drive --- jack up each of the front wheels --- safety it with a block or jack stand --- and check the bearings.
Remove the wheel and the bearing nut. This is most likely a castle nut with a cotter pin to keep it in place.
Check the bearing to make sure it is intact. If it is in good condition, apply a liberal dose of bearing grease and re-assemble the wheel --- tightening the bearing nut just enough to eliminate any wobble --- while letting it turn freely.
Then pin the castle nut to hold it in place.
If the bearing is hard to turn or falls apart, replace it.
To do this, drive the outer race (bearing frame) out of the wheel and take it to an auto parts store. The number stamped on it will make it easy to find a replacement.
Check your hand brake for stopping and holding power.
Be sure to disengage it when you are done.
If your tractor is equipped with separate left and right brakes --- test them individually to make sure they both work and have about the same braking effect.
Repair faulty brakes before putting your tractor to work. A tractor with a working brake on only one side is at risk for a rollover --- especially on hills and while making turns at road speeds.
Attachments and Implements
If the brush hog, posthole auger, and disk have all been sitting idle all winter, mostly under a blanket of snow --- it would be a good idea to do a little maintenance.
If the implement has a gearbox such as a mower, tiller, or auger --- check the oil level and top it off with the recommended gear lube (usually SAE 90).
There may be two holes. One for adding oil and one for indicating the level. There are gear oil dispensers that make it easier to get the oil in the fill hole without making a mess.
Mower blades take a real beating. This is a good time to remove and sharpen them. If you remove/install the blades while the mower is on the tractor, block the mower up in case the hydraulics fail for any reason. If you tip the mower up with the front-end loader, be sure to have secondary support. It is also a good idea to have a safety person with you who knows how to operate the tractor.
As important as the tractor is for just about every aspect of farming, following the steps listed in this article for a proper checkup will help ensure that the tractor will be ready for any task at hand with a simple turn of the key.
One last safety precaution that we can’t stress enough --- Use common sense for safety, and have backup support any time you are working under something that could come down and injure you.
Hopefully, this brief article has helped you understand how to get your tractor ready for the Spring and Summer seasons.
If you need any further help or have any questions about maintenance, tractors, implements, or anything else equipment-related, please contact your dealer, local mechanic, or call us at 602-734-9944. Please ask about our current new and used tractor supply.
If you are looking for old, vintage, classic, or new tractor parts, send us a part request.
Team Tractor Ranch - #1 Tractor Dealer in Arizona. We sell and service most major brands of tractors including Yanmar, Kubota, John Deere, TYM, Mahindra, Kioti, Case, New Holland, Massey Ferguson, Ford, Deutz, Case IH, Farmall, International Harvester, Branson Tractors, LS, Shibura, Claas Tractor, McCormick Tractors, Valtra, Solis, YTO, Montana, and Nortrac.