A little regular maintenance will keep your tractor running reliably and performing at its best. If you have a basic mechanical aptitude, the following guide is a useful starting point for general maintenance procedures. It is important that you consult your tractor manual for specific information relating to your tractor. If you feel out of your depth after reading this information, have your tractor serviced by a professional.
Safety and Preparation
Some aspects of tractor maintenance involve working with hot parts and getting under the tractor. Always wear suitable clothing, gloves and eyewear to protect against burns. Never work on the tractor with engine running. Always park the tractor in a safe position on flat ground with park brake on, ignition off, keys removed and implements fully down. Follow all relevant safety warnings, instructions and regulations and use common sense.
Various servicing tasks need to be performed at different intervals. This is generally based on hours of operation or time elapsed. Check your tractor manual for service intervals. Your manual will also tell you about the replacement items you need. It will cover filter types and fluids such as oil and coolant. Take note of the volumes required.
Engine Oil Change
Regular oil changes will protect the life of your engine. It is particularly important when the tractor is new because many fine fragments of metal will come off the moving parts in the engine when it is first used. These metal fragments immersed in the oil are normal, but if they are left in there they will wear the engine out.
To change the oil, first warm it up by running the engine for a few minutes. This makes the oil runnier and easier to drain. Undo the drain plug and allow the oil to run into a container large enough to collect all the oil. Allow a few hours for the oil to drain completely. The drain plug is often magnetised and traps many of the metal fragments described above. Wipe the metal fragments away with a rag.
Replace the engine oil filter element when replacing the oil. Unscrew the filter using a filter wrench. Wipe some grease around the gasket on a new filter and screw it in by hand until the gasket just seats. Then tighten up the filter approximately ½ a turn by hand.
Put some suitable thread sealant on the drain plug and screw it back in. Measure out the prescribed amount of new oil and pour it into the oil filter. Allow a few minutes for the oil to settle, then use the dipstick to ensure the correct oil level has been achieved.
Gearbox and hydraulics oil / filter needs to be replaced also. Repeat the procedure as per above.
4WD tractors have a front diff and also require oil changes. Repeat the procedure as per above.
Some tractors have a separate power steering reservoir. These systems do not have a drain plug. In these cases fluid needs to be removed by sucking it from the reservoir. This can be done with a large syringe. It is difficult to get the last bit of fluid out of the system. A trick you can use is to partially fill the system with fresh fluid and then suck it out again. Once you have completed this exercise, fill the system with fresh fluid to the appropriate level.
A clean air filter is another essential for maintaining engine life. It prevents dirt and other foreign matter from being sucked into the engine and causing premature wear. Open the air filter housing. Wipe away dust from inside the housing with a damp cloth. Remove the air filter element and replace it with a new one. Ensure that the element and housing cap are correctly fitted to ensure dust can’t get past the filter and into the engine.
Close the fuel filter tap. Unscrew and remove the fuel filter. Before installing the new filter, apply a small amount of grease on the gasket. Also fill the filter with diesel to minimise the amount of air being introduced into the fuel line. It will be still necessary to bleed air from the fuel system. Refer to your tractor manual for the correct procedure.
Radiator / Engine Coolant
There is a screen mounted in front of the radiator to minimise debris such as grass seeds and dust clogging up the radiator core. This screen must be cleaned periodically to prevent overheating. This can be cleared with a gentle jet of compressed air or water. The radiator core should be cleaned at the same time using air or water. It is important that you do not use too much pressure or the radiator fins can be easily damaged.
The cooling system should be flushed and replaced periodically. Warning – This must be done with engine cold to prevent the risk of being burnt with steam or hot water. Remove the radiator cap and open the drain cock to drain the fluid from the system. Place a hose in the radiator cap inlet and use water to flush the system out. Close the drain cock and add new coolant. Coolants contain rust inhibitors and anti-freeze to protect the engine and must be mixed with water according to the suppliers directions.
Use a grease gun to lubricate all grease nipples on the tractor. Most tractors have many of them. Look carefully and refer to the manual for locations. When using the grease gun, pump it in until you see some grease coming out. If it is not coming out then you haven’t completely filled it yet or the grease isn’t getting in.
Brakes and Clutch
If the brakes or clutch are not performing at their optimum, adjustments such as rod or cable tensioning may be required. Consult your manual for adjustment procedures. If you are not confident of the outcome this is an area best left to professionals.
Some batteries are sealed and maintenance free. Other batteries require attention. If your battery has access caps open them up and check that the fluid is covering the battery cells. Add distilled water if required. Warning – the battery contains acid – wear gloves and eye protection. If you use your tractor infrequently it can be handy to use a trickle charger to prevent your battery losing charge.
Inspect the machine for leaks and replace seals as required. Pay particularly attention to hydraulic and cooling system hoses and fittings for signs of wear or cuts as a break in these systems can cause hot fluid to be expelled under high pressure causing serious personal injury.
Check all nuts, bolts and other fasteners to ensure they are tight – pay particular attention to wheel nuts. Check tyres for suitable pressures and for signs of wear or damage.
Safety is always the highest priority. Always use a tractor that complies with Australian Standards, including Roll Over Protective Structure, seat belt and protective covers. Only take on tasks within the capability of the machine and operator. Follow all relevant safety warnings, instructions and regulations. Wear appropriate safety equipment and use common sense.