Tooling up for spring

Winter is almost over, which means it’s time for spring cleaning — farmer style. An equipment inspection of your tractors, trailers, and augers, and other machinery will give you a head start for planting season.

Have your tools ready and service manuals in hand. If you have misplaced a manual, look for one on the internet. You can usually find a PDF to download or purchase a print copy.

Step 1: Clean

Clean decks, housings, and rakes of any debris. Cleaning not only makes inspection easier, it also serves as a safety precaution because chaff and other debris can ignite from the heat of farm machinery. While cleaning, take note of anything that may need repairs.

Step 2: Use a farm-equipment inspection checklist

Ensure that your equipment is in top working condition before you hit the fields.

•  Nuts and bolts: Make sure all nuts and bolts are secure.

•  Tires: Check pressure and tread wear for each tire. Tighten lug nuts.

•  Blades: Sharpen and replace as needed.

•  Mirrors: Climb in the seat and identify any driver blind spots. Will you be able to see people, fences, buildings, or other equipment in your path? Adjust the mirrors for visibility.

•  Fluids: Check and/or change the gas, transmission oil, hydraulic fluid oil, coolant level, and any other fluids. Remove all water that may have condensed over the winter. 

•  Hitches: Make sure you have the proper hitch pins and safety clips for what you plan to pull. (Read about six good habits for hitching farm equipment.)

•  Brakes: Adjust brakes, drives, and clutches according to the manual.

•  Cooling system: Look for cracks from freezing and leaks and check coolant level. 

•  Hoses, belts, and plastic parts: Check all belts, rubber hoses, and plastic parts like fans for cracks. 

•  Hydraulic lines: The best way to test hydraulic systems is to pressurize them and look for leaks. However, be aware that not every leak will create a telltale puddle.

•  Batteries: Does the battery hold a charge?

•  Engine and steering: Run the engine for at least 5 minutes to let it warm up after the long winter — you may need to reconnect the battery. Also, ensure steering and exhaust systems are in working order. 

•  Safety Equipment: Make sure all shields and guards are in place and in good working order.

Step 3: Do a final walk-around

Are your headlights, taillights, and turn signals working? Testing your lights now gives you the opportunity to make a repair. While it could be a faulty wire on a trailer, it may be as simple as replacing a bad bulb.

Also, are your slow-moving-vehicle signs still reflective and visible from the rear of the equipment? The last thing you need as you start your spring planting is to get pulled over for a broken tail light or missing sign before you even reach your field. (Read more about farmers and rural roads.)

For more information

For more farm safety tips, read the Front Porch blog on grinnellmutual.com.