5 Ways To Improve The Fuel Economy Of Farm Machines

It costs money to operate farm machines, so whether fuel prices are high or low, these five tips can help you get the most mileage for your dollar.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: J. Keeler Johnson

It goes without saying it costs money to operate farm machines. Let’s say a gallon of gas costs $4 where you live, and you need 2 gallons to mow your farmyard. If you mow the farmyard once per week, after 30 weeks you’ve spent $240 on gas. And that’s just one project.

Fortunately, there are ways farmers can improve fuel economy and reduce costs when operating farm equipment. Here are a few suggestions to save you dollars.

1. Lower the Throttle When Able

Some tasks, like lawn mowing, are best performed with the engine operating at full throttle. But farm chores don’t require the full strength (and fuel consumption) of an engine.

Driving a yard cart full of tools to the back of a pasture can be done at a lower throttle setting, potentially leading to significant fuel savings. My brother has told me of a seven-speed lawn mower he used to drive in the highest gear and at low throttle, and it would run for ages without need of refueling.

The goal is to keep the engine RPMs (revolutions per minute) down as low as they will go without stalling or unnecessarily straining the engine. If your engine has an RPM gauge, you can generally figure the lower the number, the less fuel you’re consuming.

Read more: Throttle down your farm machine for fuel savings and noise reduction.

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2. Shut off Machines When Not in Use

It happens all the time. You’re operating a tractor, or using a handheld string trimmer, or blowing leaves from around your porch … and you encounter some obstacle that needs to be addressed before you can complete the project.

Maybe there are broken tree branches where you’re mowing, or some rocks need to be moved out of the way. Perhaps some leaves are stuck in the grass and need to be raked out before you can blow them away.

It’s tempting to let your tractor, string trimmer, leaf blower, etc. idle while you “just take a second to fix that that obstacle.” But often these quick fixes wind up taking several minutes. All the while your machine is burning fuel.

If you want to save fuel, go ahead and shut off the engine, then you can take all the time you need for your farm task. And if you’re thinking, “but then I’ll have to get my machine going again,” just remember even engines started by finicky pull cords tend to fire right back up if you were using them a few minutes prior.

3. Inflate Tires to the Correct PSI

Did you know underinflated tires can reduce fuel efficiency? There’s no reason not to ensure your vehicle tires are inflated to the correct PSI (pounds per square inch). Make a habit of checking them often and refilling as needed.

Remember, the onset of cold weather can cause tire pressure to drop. So take special care during the transition from autumn to winter.

Read more: Keep your tires properly inflated in the name of efficiency.

4. Use Radial Tires, Not Bias Tires

The type of tire you use can also affect fuel consumption. Modern radial tires offer better traction with the ground than older bias tires. This improves fuel economy.

Farmers tackling acres of fieldwork on a regular basis can save on fuel with radial tires.

5. Go With a Four-Wheel Drive Tractor

This isn’t something you can change on a whim. But if you’re shopping for a new tractor and find yourself debating between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive models, keep in mind you’ll generally get better fuel economy from four-wheel drive.

A four-wheel drive tractor offers better traction and less wheel slippage when performing hard work and tackling tricky terrain. And this adds up to fuel savings.

Whether gas prices are high or low, these five tips can help you get the most mileage for your dollar.

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