6 things to check on your tractor this spring

What to do before you fire up the tractor for spring.

Words: Nadene Hall

1. Check for birds

The leading cause of tractor fires in NZ is bird nests in the engine bay, which causes millions of dollars of damage each year. Birds are fast too; starlings can build a nest in under an hour.
■ Stop and check for nests before starting your tractor every time you use it.
■ When you finish, open the hood and leave it up to stop birds from nesting in it.
■ Always carry a fire extinguisher, and have one in your barn.

2. Look at the ground under the tractor

Is there any sign of leaking oil or other fluids underneath it?

3. What colour is your oil?

Change oil and filters according to your machine’s maintenance manual, but generally, it’s every 100-200 hours of work. Oil filters and the dipstick are usually on the side of the engine and accessible without needing to lift the hood. Oil on the dipstick should be light-coloured, and clear.

If it’s a white-brown colour, it indicates water contamination. It could be from water entering the exhaust pipe (a sign of worn gaskets), a crack in the engine block, or a symptom of another serious mechanical issue. Black oil indicates the oil and filters need changing.

4. Check the tyres

Tyres are one of the most common and expensive things you may need to replace on a tractor.
■ Is there damage to the tyre tread, such as cuts or missing chunks of rubber?
■ Is there rust ‘weeping’ out of the wheel nuts – it’s an indication the nuts are loose.
■ How much wear is left on the tread? Compare the tread depth of a new tyre
for a similar-sized machine.
■ Look at the sidewalls for cracks and cuts. A cut is repairable, but it’s not possible to repair cracks. Once the sidewalls deteriorate, the tyre may slowly deflate, until eventually, the tube bursts out a hole, ruining it.
■ Check the rims for damage and rust.  If you need new tyres, it may be difficult/expensive to get the right size for old machines.

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5. Check the tie rods on the front wheels

Tie rods are the joint where the tractor axle meets the wheel. As you turn the steering wheel, these joints should be tight – if they wobble or look loose, they may need replacing.

6. Check the grease points

All tractors (and the machinery they run) have grease points. They’re small and can be hard to spot, so check your machine’s manual. Do they show signs of grease, or are they dry? Any metallic surface that moves against another also needs lubrication, eg, steering components.


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