Close attention to equipment fluids pays in longer life, fewer repairs

LUBRICANTS and fuels may be among the least glamorous components of a piece of farm equipment, but there's no denying they also are among the most vital.

That's why it's important to make sure that before you begin pumping any fluids this spring that you take time now to perform some basic maintenance. Part of this maintenance program involves the equipment that heads to the field, while another often overlooked part concerns equipment in the shop.

Completing a maintenance program and making a few changes to organize and clean up your shop can pay significant dividends where efficiency and production costs are concerned when spring fieldwork arrives.

Perform routine fluid changes Most farmers stick to a tight schedule when it comes to oil changes, says Bernie Elliott, lubricants manager for Country Energy, LLC, an agent for Cenex Harvest States Cooperatives and Farmland Industries, Inc. In fact, most farmers change engine oil at required intervals or even earlier. However, transmission hydraulic fluid (THF) is another matter.

Elliott says breakdowns are much more common in THF systems than they are in engines, and it's likely that the extra problems can be traced to contaminated fluid and lack of maintenance.

"It only makes sense to change out all the THF at least on an annual basis," Elliott stresses, and he points out that THF system repairs are often more expensive than engine repairs. "The typical cost of a THF repair is $10,000 to $14,000, while engine repairs usually range from $3,000 to $9,000."

He recommends Cenex and Farmland brand products, such as Qwiklift HTB and Maxtron THF, which are formulated for tractors that use a central system for lubricating the transmission, differential, wet brake, power steering and hydraulic systems.

When it comes to engine oil, Norm Dooley, a certified energy specialist with Andale Farmers Co-op in Andale, Kan., says what's most important is that it meet OEM standards. He works with farmers to examine the specs of various oil alternatives and find one that meets the customer's expectations for price and performance while still conforming to OEM standards so as not to void the warranty.

Dooley stresses that farmers do not have to purchase oil from the equipment manufacturer to maintain the warranty. Elliott agrees and points out that Cenex and Farmland brand products, such as Maxtron DEO, Super TMS Plus and Superlube 518, meet the specifications of many new engines. It's a simple matter of reviewing those standards and comparing with the alternative product.

Servicing lube and fuel equipment Finding the right fluids and lubricants is one step toward a productive spring, but getting the right product is only part of the equation.

"I spend a lot of time advising farmers on preventive maintenance in the shop," says Dooley. "If you've got a dirty environment it's going to cause problems with the fuel and fluids that are put into the equipment."

One way to quickly clean up lubricant product storage is to take advantage of bulk packaging options. "If you've got a dirty barrel, it's a dirty environment, which can lead to equipment problems," says Dooley.

At Sunray Cooperative in Texas, certified energy specialist Jimmy Mardis says he advises customers to take advantage of bulk storage not only for motor oil but also for hydraulic fluid because it is more convenient.

Bulk lubricant storage has been around for a while, but Elliott says bulk lubricant storage improvements in recent years have prompted a significant shift away from barrels to containers that are more convenient, less messy and more efficient. These containers typically range in size from 110 gallons up to 275 gallons and can be used to hold a variety of fluids, including engine oil, hydraulic fluid and even anti-freeze.

One such option is a system that allows bulk storage in a multi-compartment storage unit, offering a neater storage area and more efficient use of space.

By eliminating drums, farmers reduce waste because the new bulk option allows all oil to be used; there is no disposal of used drums; and, perhaps best of all, new bulk options are convenient.

"Many of our cooperatives offer a program where a truck is sent to refill the bulk storage on a regular basis," Elliott adds. "This saves producers from multiple trips into town, and they never have to worry about being out of oil when they need it most."

Maintenance and recommended applications for pumps, storage tanks, hoses and nozzles Before the season begins, special attention should be given to the maintenance of your dispensing equipment for lubricants and fuels. The life of this equipment can be significantly extended with proper maintenance.

Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your petroleum equipment in the safest way possible.

* PUMPS: To extend the life of hand and electric consumer pumps take care to remove product, moisture, and foreign matter, especially when the pump will not be used for some time. Also, during storage periods it pays to lubricate internal pump components. This can be accomplished by using a light-weight (10W) oil to thinly coat interior working components.

* FUEL STORAGE TANKS: Fuel tank manufacturers recommend cleaning tanks every two years, but often fuel tanks go through two family generations before being cleaned. When tanks are left without proper maintenance water and sediment can build up, eventually causing unnecessary engine wear or pump failure.

To prevent this, tanks should be checked periodically for water, sediment and other foreign matter which can be removed with a suitable pump. There also are programs such as KleenSweep, a tank cleaning service offered by Cenex Harvest States and Farmland member cooperatives, that will take care of the tanks for you.

* HOSES: Be sure you are using the correct hose for the application. Here are three common fuel tank hoses.

Black electrical farm hose-This softwall hose is designed with an abrasion resistant cover and has resistance to gasoline, cuts, sun and weather. Use it on farm electric pumps where UL is required, and where static spark may be present.

Curb pump hose - This hose, designed for service station use, has a slightly heavier construction and grade of rubber. This enables it to wear longer under any stress. This hose also has a static wire and is UL approved.

Black and red farm tank hose - Designed for dispensing gasoline and kerosene from farm and barrel-type gravity flow systems, these hoses should not be used with electric pumps or where a static wire is necessary.

Farm Pump Maintenance Fuel tank pumps are an often-overlooked piece of equipment on the farm. However, like any piece of equipment, proper winterizing and maintenance is crucial to prolong the life of the pump and ensure trouble-free use and operation in the spring.

Here are maintenance steps to ensure trouble-free use.

Hand Operated Pumps Remove the check valve in the pump and drain the pump of product.

Remove the hose and nozzle.

Using an oilcan, put some motor oil in the hose discharge opening so it will drain down in to the rotor and vanes.

Give the pump a couple of cranks to lubricate the pump block.

Replace the check valve.

Electric Pumps Remove the check valve in the pump and drain the pump of product.

Loosen, but do not remove the pump cover.

Using an oilcan, put some motor oil in the pump cover.

Tighten the pump cover.

Turn the pump on and off quickly to lubricate the rotor and vanes.

Replace the check valve.