Machinery is vital for the agricultural sector, especially during the busy spring and summer months. Agricultural machinery helps to keep farms running smoothly and malfunctions or breakdowns can
be devastating for production, so it’s important to be aware of proper maintenance.
Well maintained machines last longer, function more efficiently and have a reduced risk of breakdown or malfunction. If you work with agricultural machinery and want to know how to look after this equipment, read on for our guide to maintaining these essential machines.
What is agricultural machinery?
Agricultural machinery is used in livestock farming, dairy farming, horticulture, food production and many other areas of agriculture. This machinery has transformed the way the world is fed since its advance during the industrial revolution. Some of the most common types of agricultural machinery include:
- Tractors – tractors are often used to pull other pieces of equipment, such as trailers or plows. They can also be used to power stationary machinery.
- Combine harvesters – combines are used to harvest vast quantities of grain quickly and easily.
- Planters – there are several different types of planter machinery, all used to plant seeds or crops. Some planters space seeds a few metres apart in long rows, while some automate the task of transplanting seedlings in the field.
- Sprayers – as the name suggests, these machines spray fields and crops with insecticides, pesticides or fertiliser. They can also be used to water crops.
- Balers – balers are used to cut hay and straw and tightly package it for easier storage.
- Shredders and cutters – these machines shred and cut unwanted growth from a field or planting area, including weeds.
Your guide to maintenance
As you can see, agricultural machinery includes a wide range of equipment which perform vital functions on a farm. Breakdowns can be expensive to repair and it halts production which can result in losses for farmers. Improperly maintained machinery is also a safety hazard, so it’s essential that all workers know how to maintain these large pieces of equipment. With this in mind, see below for our top tips to keep your farm machinery in good working order.
Choose the right fuel
The majority of agricultural machines are fuelled by red diesel, a gas oil specifically designed for agricultural, industrial and commercial use. Red diesel has many benefits, including maximum heat output, efficient combustion and clean burning properties.
It’s also a good idea to switch to winter grade fuel during the colder months. British weather is famously unpredictable and temperatures can drop below zero very quickly. These low temperatures can cause diesel to start to solidify, making it more difficult for it to move around the engine. Winter grade diesel is blended differently to prevent wax in the fuel from crystallising (which causes the fuel to start solidifying). You can also purchase an anti-waxing agent to add to the fuel tank yourself.
Lubricants are very important for maintenance and should be used on all moving parts of agricultural machinery. Lubricants reduce friction, extend machinery life and reduce operation costs, as well as protecting machines and their parts from damage. Some lubricants can also prolong oil life and improve engine efficiency.
Remember to thoroughly clean machinery parts before adding new lubricant to prevent buildups and ensure your machines are running smoothly.
Keep machinery clean
Agricultural work can be messy but it’s more difficult to spot signs of damage if your machines are very dirty. Oil should be changed regularly to prevent buildups of dust and debris which can damage your machines. The exterior bodywork of machinery should be washed with soapy water (use a high pH alkaline detergent) and a high pressure hose to remove buildups of dirt and mud. There are professional cleaning companies who can do this for you if you don’t have the time and they can also polish machines to a shiny finish.
Air filters should also be cleaned (more on this later) and the inside of the machine can be dusted and vacuumed.
Proper operator training
Proper education and training is essential for any workers operating agricultural machinery. Employees should also be familiar with each individual machine; for example, they may have operated a tractor before but not the particular make and model currently in use.
Proper training ensures the safety of all agriculture workers and they’ll be more likely to spot any issues with the machinery. Keep all instruction manuals close to hand and provide additional training if necessary.
Know the signs of wear and tear
The more familiar you are with your machines, the easier it will be to spot signs of wear and tear. Signs of damage will depend on the individual machinery, but common issues to look out for include extreme vibrations, unusual noises, friction and overheating. It’s always best to get any issues looked at sooner rather than later to avoid a major breakdown and costly repairs.
Maintain your fuel tanks
Reliable fuel storage is essential for the agricultural industry and maintaining your fuel tanks ensures your machines have clean, efficient fuel when they need it. Fuel tanks should be professionally cleaned once every one or two years to remove buildups of sludge or other contamination.
You should also regularly check your fuel tank for water. Water entering your tank accelerates fuel degradation, which can then cause damage to your machinery or lead to malfunctions. Water in a tank also promotes the growth of algae and bacteria, leading to a buildup of sludge which can contaminate your fuel and clog filters. Most tanks have an automatic gauge to detect any water and you should also examine the seals, vents and fill caps for any signs of damage. Replace any damaged parts straight away to prevent water from entering.
Check the batteries
Cold weather and inactivity can cause batteries to go flat so regularly check the batteries on your agricultural machinery, especially during the winter or after long periods of storage. Reduce the chances of a flat battery by disconnecting it before storing machinery away. It’s also a good idea to have a spare battery as a backup for emergencies.
Clean air filters
Air filters ensure that the engine has access to clean air for maximum fuel efficiency. Buildups of dust, dirt and debris can quickly block filters and prevent your engine from functioning at its best, so they need to be regularly cleaned.
In most cases, you can simply remove the filter and knock or blow any buildup out of it. Heavily clogged filters may need some help from an air compressor to blast the debris out. You’ll need to replace your air filter if it’s still fully clogged or if unclogging reveals signs of damage.
Keep a maintenance schedule
Agricultural life is busy and fast paced, so it’s easy to forget when you last inspected a machine or took it in for a service. Start keeping a record of any previous repairs or maintenance for each machine and set reminders on a calendar to keep on top of inspections.
You could also devise a schedule for machinery operators to ensure fair division of labour and to make sure each employee is properly maintaining the machinery.
Agricultural fuel services from the experts at Moorland Fuels
If you’re in need of agricultural fuel services in Devon, get in touch with the team at Moorland Fuels. We’re proud to have built strong links with the local agricultural community over the past 15 years and we understand the unique challenges faced by the farming sector. We know that lack of fuel can be devastating, especially during peak periods, which is why we’ve put together a range of reliable services to suit your needs.
Join our agricultural loyalty programme for access to services including a 24 hour emergency fuel line, free delivery on all lubricants and greases, loyalty rewards, expert advice and next day delivery on certain orders. For more information about our agricultural services and gas oil delivery, give us a call today or get in contact via our website.