We want to help you understand what to do if your tractor catches on fire.
If you do not feel that you understand these steps, or can perform them safely, consult your tractor dealer or local mechanic. Also always consult your tractor owner’s manual for model-specific information.
Let’s get started.
It can happen in an instant.
You are happily working in your field. And suddenly you smell smoke. You get a pit in your stomach --- that sinking feeling we all know far too well. Something is wrong. You see flames and fire coming from the tractor. An emergency has sprung up from seemingly nowhere.
Next, you exit the tractor wishing you were closer to your cell phone and fire extinguisher. You have neither.
As you turn around again, you see bright orange flames and smoke pouring out of the engine compartment. You may have been wise enough to carry a fire extinguisher and were able to put out the flames yourself. Or you may be too late and now must watch your tractor, worth thousands of dollars, burn right in front of you. And hopefully, nobody was injured.
This one incident alone could cost a life, a severe injury, and even thousands of dollars in property and equipment damage.
Does this scene sound far-fetched or a bit alarmist? Unfortunately, it is not far-fetched and happens quite a bit.
In fact --- tractor and combine fires are a major problem. They cause over $20 million in property losses each year. They also cause the loss of millions of dollars more due to lost time and downed crops during the busy harvest season.
Tractor and combine fires not only cause huge property, financial, and time losses --- they also cause near 50 serious injuries and at least one death each year.
To prevent tractor fires, an operator must be properly educated.
There are two keys:
Fires require three things: (1.) Air, (2.) Material to Burn, and a (3.) Heat Source.
It is impossible to eliminate air around a tractor. So, you need to make sure to keep the tractor clean of possible fire-causing materials. You must also eliminate all the possible sources of heat that could lead to a fire.
Cleanliness and Maintenance Let’s begin by discussing cleanliness.
Begin every harvest season with a clean tractor. Pay special attention to the engine and the engine compartment. Roughly 75% of all tractor fires start there.
Use a pressure washer to remove all oil, caked-on grease, and any crop residue. A clean engine will typically run cooler, operate more efficiently, and greatly reduce your chance of a fire.
After starting the season, make sure you frequently use compressed air to blow away any dry chaff, leaves, and other materials that are on the tractor. Also clear off any wrapped plant materials on the bearings, belts, and any other moving parts.
Read your tractor’s operator's manual. Follow all the instructions and schedules for lubrication and routine maintenance and service.
If you notice any leaking fuel or oil hoses, fittings, or metal lines --- make sure to replace or repair them immediately. They can create an emergency very quickly.
Eliminate Heat Sources There are several heat sources that can cause a tractor fire.
The most common sources are the exhaust system surfaces that contact any flammable material. Make sure your exhaust system (manifold, muffler, turbocharger) is in good condition and 100% leak-free.
When checking your oil and performing other daily maintenance --- scan all the exposed electrical wiring for damage or signs of deterioration. Replace any worn or malfunctioning electrical component with the proper parts from your dealer.
If you are blowing fuses, or have a circuit that intermittently cuts out, it is a sign that there is a short or loose connection in the system. The arcing electrical wires on a tractor will generate extremely high temperatures.
Also watch for worn bearings, belts, and chains. A badly worn bearing can glow red-hot. Any rubber belt subjected to intense heat from a worn part can burst into flames in an instant.
Preparation Even with the best intentions and proper maintenance --- a tractor fire can still occur.
You should have a fully-charged ten-pound ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher on your tractor.
Make sure the extinguisher has an Underwriter's Laboratory approval. Having two fire extinguishers on the tractor is even better --- in case one malfunctions or loses pressure.
Keep one in the cab and one where it can be reached from the ground.
Check your extinguishers periodically. Pay special attention to the pressure gauge. To function effectively, the gauge must show adequate pressure to expel the powder inside.
Extinguishers should also be checked periodically by someone from your local fire department or insurance company. Any extinguisher that has been even partially discharged must be fully recharged before it is used again.
During even a brief discharge, the tiny dry chemical particles will create a small gap in the internal seal of the extinguisher valve. This tiny opening will cause the remaining pressure to leak out in a few hours or days.
In the Event of a Fire So what should you do if a fire breaks out?
If a fire breaks out on the tractor you are operating --- quickly shut off the engine --- grab your extinguisher --- get out/off --- and get (or call for) help. If you can safely get near the tractor, and the fire is very small, start to extinguish the fire.
If you forget to grab the fire extinguisher, don't try to get it, unless the fire is extremely small or confined to an area far away from the cab.
Having a cellular phone or a two-way radio nearby will help you get professional fire assistance to the field more quickly. Call emergency personnel no matter what.
Approach any fire with extreme caution. Even a small fire can flare up dramatically as you open doors, hatches, or other areas to gain access. These types of fires are especially dangerous when liquid fuels are involved.
If possible, use the fire extinguisher's flexible hose to shoot the chemical from a safe distance at the base of any flames you see. Continue to blanket the flames to allow the fire to cool and prevent a reflash.
It may not be possible to put out every fire. If it is in a difficult-to-reach area or seems out of control, don't risk the chance of an injury or a death. Call for professional help.
Before resuming any tractor operation after any fire, make sure to find and correct the cause. Take the tractor for a professional inspection and perform all services required.
Hopefully, this short article helped you better understand what to do if your tractor catches on fire.
If you need any further help or have any questions about equipment fires, tractors, implements, or anything else, please contact your dealer, local mechanic, or call us at 602-734-9944. Please ask about our current new and used tractor supply.
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