Anyone who's lived on a farm knows the work never stops. But after harvest, you can usually put the tractor away for at least a few months. You might be tempted to just drive the tractor into the barn or shed and come back to it when the days start getting longer again. If you want to keep it in the best shape possible for the longest time, though, you'll need to do some work to prepare it for its time off. From cleaning to engine prep, it's important to get it to a good place to be wintered, and this short guide will teach you how.
Picking a good place to store your tractor is crucial. You may not have much in the way of options, but it's important to at least park it in a covered location such as a barn, garage, or shed. A carport will even do in a pinch, but more sheltered areas are preferable. To increase the protection factor, you can also cover your rig with a tractor cover, tarp, or piece of canvas. It's best to use something that's breathable, as plastic will reduce air circulation, thus trapping moisture and encouraging rust. For climate controlled shelters, though, a covering shouldn't be necessary.
Months in the fields probably left your tractor covered in mud, grease, and grime. Before you put it away, it's helpful to give it a deep clean, as any leftover mud can hold water on the surface of your tractor, causing more rust and corrosion. Even beyond the practical value of putting it away clean, it's just a good practice! You wouldn't put dirty dishes back in the cupboard, right?
The easiest way to wash a tractor is with a power washer. A power washer will help you blast through layers of mud and grime and get down to the paint or powder coating. As you clean your tractor, start at the top and work your way down. Don't be shy about cleaning out the driver's seat area. You'll be glad you did when you get back on it in the spring. Make sure to get the undercarriage clean. Even though you can't see it, this is the area that gets the dirtiest and thus is most susceptible to corrosion and rust. If you don't have a power washer, a pressure nozzle on a hose in combination with a brush and a bucket of suds will do the trick. Just be aware of where your runoff water is going, as some agricultural areas have waste water purity requirements.
A tractor is meant for work, so unlike a car, caring for the exterior isn't nearly as important as caring for the machinery. Starting the winter with clean is always a good start, as old oil can break down and lead to engine corrosion. Make sure to change your oil filter whenever you change your oil, too. If you've topped off your fuel tank, add a bottle of fuel stabilizer to make sure it doesn't break down. This will help deal with any water that might have entered your fuel system, and it will also keep your fuel in good shape. Make sure to remove the battery, too, and store it in a cool, dry place that's off the ground. A battery left in the tractor will eventually drain itself, and it might drain itself so severely that it won't be able to hold a charge after.
Tractors are heavy, and when they sit in one place they can cause flat spots in the tires. One way to handle this problem is to put blocks under your tractor’s frame rails, and then release some of the tire pressure so the tractor lowers itself onto the blocks and takes pressure off the tires. You can also just start your tractor once every couple weeks and roll it forward a few feet. A tractor is an important investment to protect, so make sure you take steps to protect your tractor over the winter offseason. If you find you need maintenance on your tractor, give us a call here at Everglades Equipment Group.