Do you use a tractor around your property? I’m not sure how we’d handle farm life without our tractor. It saves my feet and my back a ton of work.
Our first tractor was an old 1940’s Ford tractor. We recently sold it because we upgraded to a new tractor with a front loader.
Whether you invest in an older tractor (which is still a few thousand dollars) or purchase a new tractor (which is more expensive than some cars) you know you should protect the said investment.
Winter is no exception. I’m going to walk you through how to winterize your tractor. It could protect your investment and make spring much easier.
Here’s what you should do:
1. Diesel Tractors Have Their Own Rules
Tractors can either run on regular gasoline or diesel fuel. You don’t treat all tractors equally. Instead, it’s based on what type of fuel they run on.
In the case of diesel-fueled tractors, you must know how to treat them properly or you’ll have a mess on your hands.
Let’s start with the basics. Some equipment is powered by diesel fuel because it’s more efficient than gasoline. On average, diesel fuel will give 10% more energy per gallon than regular gas. Where gasoline is measured by octane, diesel fuel is measured by cetane. This will tell you how easy the fuel will ignite and how well it will burn.
The problem with diesel fuel is it has a ‘gelling’ point. This is the point where the fuel will freeze. Diesel fuel has wax in it. When the temperatures drops and fuel freezes, it forms wax crystals.
These crystals prevent the fuel from flowing through a fuel line. The best way to avoid this from happening is adding an anti-gel additive to your fuel prior to cold weather setting in.
The anti-gel additives fight the wax crystals from forming in the fuel. This is a simple fix regardless of what type of diesel fuel you’re using in your tractor.
Diesel tractors who were not prepped for winter and left to manage on their own, will have to wait until the temperatures rise, and the fuel reaches the ungel point and finally the remix temperature.
The ungel point is where the fuel has become almost pourable. However, to utilize the fuel again, it must reach the remix temperature. You’ll know the fuel has reached this temperature when the wax crystals have fully melted and dissolved back into the fuel.
Keep in mind, if this happens, your tractor will be unusable until it reaches the remix temperature, and you do run the risk of parts of your tractor becoming clogged and potential damage being done.
Therefore, it’s best to play it safe and add the anti-gel additive to your tractor prior to cooler temperatures.
However, diesel fuel comes in different types. Diesel fuel #2 (also called 2-D) reaches a gelling point at 17.5° Fahrenheit. This is why many people recommend swapping diesel fuel #2 for diesel fuel #1 during winter.
Diesel fuel #1 has had the wax removed from its chemical mixture. Therefore, it doesn’t reach gelling point until around 10° Fahrenheit.
Unless you’re special ordering your own fuel, the local gas station probably has the perfect mix of diesel fuel for your tractor in your area for the winter. Usually, winterized fuel is a mixture of diesel fuel #1 (also referred to as 1-D) and diesel fuel #2.
The difference is the ratio of 1-D is higher than 2-D in the winterized fuel. 2-D is used throughout the warmer months because it provides better fuel efficiency. Using the winter mix for your area should help you avoid gelling to a certain temperature and also provide fuel efficiency.
Overall, the best recommendation is to use diesel fuel specially designed for your state and also use an anti-gel additive.
Obviously, warmer states which don’t have temperatures near the 20° Fahrenheit mark don’t have to worry about this predicament. If you live in planting zone 10 or higher, you most likely wouldn’t have to be concerned about this issue with a diesel tractor.
2. Gas Models Require Work Too
If you have a gas model tractor don’t shrug your shoulders yet. You aren’t quite off the hook. If you aren’t planning on using your tractor at all over the winter, drain the fuel.
Be sure to disconnect the gas line, run a hose to the petcock, and drain the gas into a proper gas storage container.
If you leave the tractor standing for months on end, the gas will become stale. This could clog parts in your tractor and make it spit, sputter, and not want to run in general.
Yes, we’ve done this in our old tractor, and it can be quite the pain when spring rolls around. Do yourself a favor and either run your tractor sporadically over the winter or drain the fuel.
3. Take Care of the Fluids
Regardless of how your tractor runs, make sure all the fluids (with the exception of gasoline) are filled to the brim.
The main reason for this step is when spring hits, condensation will form on the parts inside your tractor if there’s room for water.
If the fluids aren’t topped off, the condensation has a place to go and will mix in with the fluids.
However, if your fluids are full, the condensation has nowhere to form and therefore, can’t mix with the fluids.
You don’t want water in your fluids. This step takes only a few minutes and costs little money. Again, it’s worth the extra effort to save yourself a headache.
4. Battery Option One
If you’re not planning on using your tractor at all over the winter, you don’t want to leave the battery hooked up.
The battery will drain and could potentially leak. This isn’t good for you when you go to use your tractor. Nor is it good for your tractor.
Therefore, if you aren’t planning on using the tractor at all over the winter months, disconnect the battery all together.
You can leave the battery in the tractor if you want, but it doesn’t hurt to have a battery storage box to protect the battery until the next year.
When spring rolls around, you can charge the battery, and it should be as good as new.
5. Battery Option Two
If you use your tractor somewhat over the winter, you won’t want to go through the hassle of pulling the battery out of storage, charging it, and using it for short spurts of time.
Therefore, you may want to purchase a battery charger and maintainer. This will keep a charge on your battery enough to keep it ready to go when needed and maintain the quality of the battery simultaneously.
6. Does It Need an Oil Change?
There’s some debate as to when you should change the oil in your tractor. Some say you should change the oil before winter to put fresh oil in the tractor from all the use the equipment has endured during the growing seasons.
However, some say it’s best to change the oil prior to spring because condensation can build up inside your tractor and cause water to get into the oil.
Again, this can cause problems for your equipment, and you should avoid this from happening when possible.
This will be a personal choice for you and what you feel is best for your equipment. The main thing is to make sure the tractor gets an oil change at some point during the year whether it be before winter or after.
7. Make Repairs
Putting your tractor up for winter is the perfect time to make sure all necessary repairs are made. As we’ve already discussed, tractors are an investment.
Therefore, you should make sure they’re properly taken care of. Don’t put away a piece of damage equipment, if you can help it.
It’ll only be one more thing to deal with when spring rolls around and spring is busy enough all on its own.
8. Proper Storage
How you store your tractor matters. We all know the elements can be quite harsh over the winter months.
Therefore, if at all possible, you should store your tractor where the elements can’t reach it. If you have a temperature-controlled garage or barn (lucky you!) it would work perfectly.
However, if you’re like me (because I don’t have those options) you can store the tractor in a pole barn or shed.
The idea is to keep the equipment from being buried in rain or snow. These can cause the tractor to deteriorate over time.
9. Shine It Up
Lastly, be sure to clean your tractor prior to storage. Keeping anything clean is one more way to care for it.
Making sure you don’t put the tractor away caked with dirt and other natural items it may pick up around a farm. Cleaning it helps to keep it looking better for longer periods of time.
Not to mention, funny things happen over winter. Dirt can freeze to the tractor, or it could run down it with the moisture and potentially cause clogs to happen. Stranger things have been known to happen.
Try to stay one step ahead of dilemmas by taking the best care possible for your tractor.
Well, you now have nine different tips explaining how to winterize your tractor. Hopefully, it’ll help you to take excellent care of a vital piece of equipment around many farms.
Also, it should help you to better protect the money spent to purchase such a piece of equipment. The idea is to keep tractors running for as long as possible. Properly winterizing should help with this task.