PHOTO: Daniel Johnson
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May 14, 2019

Every spring, when it’s time to fire up the farm tractors for another season, I faithfully follow a spring tune-up checklist, checking fluid levels (oil, transmission fluid, coolant and so on) and adding more or changing them as needed. I clean tractor air filters, replace oil and fuel filters if it’s necessary and check tire pressure levels, and before long the tractors are ready to go.

But you should address another related and simple task every spring, and that is the basic cleaning of the entire machine. Just last week, I was tuning up a lawn mower for the year and decided to take the time to remove the dirt and dust and clean out dried grass from the mower deck.

Let’s face it—our tractors work hard. We put them through a lot of challenging (and frequently dirty) tasks. Lawn mowers trim the grass and get covered with debris. Larger tractors push dirt and manure around. These machines can accumulate a lot of dirt, dust and grime over the course of a year. Eventually, this can hurt performance and even cause premature damage to parts.

So why not add a good cleaning to your list of annual tractor tune-up tasks? You don’t necessarily have to get fancy. For my lawn mower, I grabbed an old paint brush to whisk away dust and dirt from all exterior surfaces, and I put on gloves to clean dried grass and leaves from the top of the mower deck where debris had gathered around the drive belts. In just a few minutes, the lawn mower looked clean, shiny and ready for service.

That was a quick job, but if you want, you can certainly invest more time and effort to achieve even better results. Some people use a pressure washer or a garden hose (with a little soap) to remove dirt and grime from their tractors, though use caution, particularly if your tractor has lots of exposed engine parts. This is aimed at removing dirt and grime from the exterior surfaces and tires, not the engine; you don’t want water to work its way into the hydraulics or fuel system, and the starter is another delicate area. It doesn’t hurt to disconnect and remove the battery to avoid electrical short circuits.

A more time-consuming, but safer (and more thorough), alternative is to use wet rags on specific areas that need cleaning. You can use degreasers and other cleaning solvents around the engine to help remove buildup. Use brushes, screwdrivers and similar tools to remove debris from hard-to-reach areas (of which you’ll find plenty in the engine). There’s really no replacement for taking your time cleaning delicate areas by hand.

Once you have your tractor looking spiffy, you can even go a step further and apply a coat of wax. Practically speaking, it doesn’t enhance performance, but if you’re proud of your hard-working tractor and want to keep it looking its best, this final step can improve appearance substantially. Not only will a coating of wax make your tractor shine, it will also help protect the paint from fading or scratching.

Have fun with your spring cleaning! Don’t you love a good excuse to spend more time with your tractor?

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