When Preparing For Winter, Start Early On Farm Machines

Winter waits for no one, and preparing for winter is a task best started early, especially when it comes to the farm machines you use in wintry conditions.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Farm projects almost always take longer than we expect. Moving a pile of rocks in “20 minutes” takes an hour. Painting the porch in “an hour” takes half a day. Cleaning up a brush pile in “an afternoon” takes closer to a week. But winter weather waits for no one. And preparing farm machines for winter is a task best started early.

This is especially true when it comes to preparing important farm machines you’ll use in winter conditions. You don’t want to be hit by a 6-inch snowfall when your tractors, snow blowers, etc. aren’t ready.

Getting Attached

Let me give you an example. This year, I added to my equipment arsenal a lawn tractor equipped with a 4-foot snow blower attachment. My hope is that the tractor-powered snow blower will make quick and effective work of clearing the driveway and primary farm trails during winter, reducing the accumulation of compacted snow and ice that stubbornly refuses to melt in late winter.

I purchased the tractor and snow blower used, so the assembly of the snow blower was already complete. And the tractor was set up to handle its installation. The tractor arrived with its mower deck installed rather than the snow blower, but I didn’t expect switching the two attachments to take especially long.

It would just be a little work across part of an afternoon.

Well, it turns out “a little work” was more like “a lot of work.” Not that it went badly. To the contrary, it went smoothly. It was just a more complicated and time-consuming process than I anticipated.

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Read more: Snow plow? Snow blower? Both?

Off to a Good Start

It started with removing the mower deck. That’s not a hard job, but I had trouble removing a couple of the attachments pins (I’m still not sure why) and lost some time there.

Then there was the tricky process of installing the snow blower mount on the front of the tractor and connecting the mount to the tractor’s hydraulic lifts via a pair of curved metal rods. I spent some time puzzling over a plastic guard installed around the tractor’s PTO. It was evidently designed to protect the PTO and mower drive belt from debris while mowing, but it interfered with the installation of the snow blower (and wasn’t shown in the instruction manual). So I had to stop and remove it.

Then it was time to turn my attention to the snow blower. The instruction manual indicated two separate gear oil reservoirs in need of checking. The first was filled to a suitable level, but the other (containing oil for the auger) was low. Fortunately, I had the correct type of gear oil on hand.

Otherwise, the project would have been slowed even more.

Read more: Keep your farm machinery instruction manuals!

Expect the Unexpected

Only after the gear oil situation had been addressed could I actually mount the snow blower to the tractor. This was arguably the simplest part of the process. It locked into position readily, and connecting the drive belt to the PTO wasn’t complicated.

But upon raising the snow blower with the hydraulics, I found it wasn’t rising as high as the instruction manual recommended. This meant I had to adjust the length of the connectors between the snow blower mount and the hydraulic lifts.

Of course, the tractor itself required maintenance, too. A little more hydraulic fluid, an oil change, more air in the tires, the installation of rear ballast weights, etc.

In the end, mounting the snow blower and performing the related maintenance tasks took a good many hours spread out over several days. And I still need to install tire chains on the tractor’s rear wheels.

Fortunately, I started the project well in advance of anticipated snowfall. I wasn’t in a hectic rush to get the tractor and snow blower prepared before an epic winter storm. That’s why it’s important to get an early start on winter preparations—seemingly simple tasks can have many fiddly and time-consuming steps.

It pays to allot more time than you think you’ll need when getting farm machines ready for winter.

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