Stress is a fact of life in farming, but there’s a way to reduce it before getting into the planting and harvesting seasons. A little extra preventative maintenance on machinery right before the busy times can provide a sense of comfort, like eating a hearty breakfast before a work day.

Most preventative maintenance doesn’t take a lot of time or expense and can prevent a stressful and costly failure later on. On one of the dreary, rainy spring days when field work isn’t possible, it’s a great time to head to the machine shed, grab a grease gun, torque wrench, can of WD-40® Multi-Use Product and an air pressure gauge, then check on the following six items that may get overlooked in the heat of battle. 

Check the Torque on All Bolts

Farm machinery vibrates frequently so bolts work their way loose from time to time. It’s important to not just check for tight bolts on older equipment but also a new machine that’s never seen the field. Grab a torque wrench and check wheel bolts on every machine you own. Don’t forget the bolts that attach hubs to rims, if the machine has them. If you’ve never had a wheel come off a machine, you’re probably lucky; I can tell you from experience that it will significantly add to your stress level in the busy season.

Check all loader, drawbar and front weight carrier bolts on any tractor you own. On planters and implements, check the bolts that hold attachments that may have been put on during the assembly process at the dealership. Finally, check the gearboxes on your brush hog. Those encounter a significant amount of vibration and one coming loose is a disaster, especially if it happens in use. In my experience, I’ve always found at least one loose bolt that surprised and scared me.

Shoot Grease in Every Fitting on the Machine

I was at a baler service workshop one time when a good friend of mine was shown a grease zerk he’d never noticed. He had a baler just like the one in the school and took meticulous care of it, but there was one fitting that he’d never been aware of until the factory service rep showed him. It’s hard to hit all of the grease zerks in the pressure of planting or harvesting, but when you aren’t in the middle of the season, you can take your time. Use the owner’s manual as a guide to where every grease fitting is located. Sometimes you’ll be like my friend and find one you never knew existed.

Don’t Forget the Chains and Sprockets

A visual inspection of all the sprockets may prevent a costly failure in the busy season. If the teeth are getting sharp, it’s time to replace them. If you replace the sprockets, make sure you replace the chain at the same time. If everything is in good shape, I recommend a great product for chain lubrication, it is WD-40® Specialist® Non-Fling Roller Chain Lubricant.

Shoot a healthy dose of that on your chains and they’ll be ready for work, without a mess. The product’s thick gel will stay where you spray it, lubricating and protecting your chains from rust for up to one year.

 Lubricate All Moving Parts

I like WD-40 EZ-REACH™, which has the same WD-40® Multi-Use Product that’s been around for 65 years and comes with a flexible straw that makes it easy to get into tight places. Lubricate tractor loader quick attach mechanisms, seat rails on all tractors, combines and self-propelled windrowers; all of the three-point components, including stabilizers that connect the arms to the axle to keep implements from swinging; the balls in the top link and lower link arms; the top link threads; the three-point adjustment turnbuckles or crank; and all of the PTO shafts, including the pins or collars that lock them on and the safety shields.

A healthy dose of WD-40 Multi-Use Product in springtime will make hooking and unhooking attachments so much easier throughout the season. WD-40® Specialist® Rust Release Penetrant Spray has additional penetrating power to free components that may have frozen up over the winter.

Check the Air in All Tires

A low tire can cause premature wear as well as other problems. If you’ve ever had difficulty getting under pallets with your front-end loader due to uneven forks, or you’ve noticed a ragged cut with your three-point brush hog, you may have a low tire.

There’s also the opposite possibility; some equipment can have too much air from the factory. I’m not sure why, but compact and utility tractors, are generally shipped to dealers with way more air in the tires than they need, which can cause uneven wear patterns and a really rough ride. I recommend inflating back tires on a tractor at the low end of recommended pressure, for a good ride, traction and even wear, and the front tires near their maximum recommended inflation if the tractor is equipped with a loader.

Check All Hydraulic Hoses for Signs of Wear, But Don’t Stop There

A low tire can cause premature wear as well as other problems. If you’ve ever had difficulty getting under pallets with your front-end loader due to uneven forks, or you’ve noticed a ragged cut with your three-point brush hog, you may have a low tire.

There’s also the opposite possibility; some equipment can have too much air from the factory. I’m not sure why, but compact and utility tractors, are generally shipped to dealers with way more air in the tires than they need, which can cause uneven wear patterns and a really rough ride. I recommend inflating back tires on a tractor at the low end of recommended pressure, for a good ride, traction and even wear, and the front tires near their maximum recommended inflation if the tractor is equipped with a loader.

–by Mike Wiles

Mike Wiles hosts the “Tractor Mike” YouTube channel, which educates tractor owners and enthusiasts about the different options available, buying tips, proper maintenance, attachments and implements, and safety. Mike has more than 25 years of farm equipment experience, including equipment manufacturer sales and dealership management.

Visit his website at asktractormike.com