Winter takes a tough toll on tractors and compact equipment. Even a tractor that runs like a champ in the spring and summer can end up suffering after exposure to cold winter weather.

Performing a few simple maintenance tasks can be the difference between a stalled out machine and a ready-to-run tractor when you need it most. Caring for your tractor through the winter is simple when you follow these easy guidelines.

1. Antifreeze and corrosion proofing

Antifreeze is a chemical additive that lowers the freezing point of water-based liquids. As the temperature gets colder and reaches temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, make sure your antifreeze is up to the necessary rating for your area. Many people prepare for the average low temperature they experience throughout the season, but the best way to stay protected is to prepare for the lowest expected temperature plus 10 degrees lower.

Antifreeze also inhibits corrosion. Antifreeze keeps everything in the cooling system of your equipment from rusting. Refresh your antifreeze in your equipment every three years to keep your protection strong.

PHOTO: JOHN DEERE

2. Battery care

Disconnect your tractor’s battery and store the battery in a clean, dry environment. A charged battery is less susceptible to damage from cold weather, so be sure it is fully charged before storing. It’s also a good idea to run the engine once a month throughout the winter to avoid any issues when starting up your tractor or compact equipment again in the spring.

3. Cover it up

Winter brings snow, frost, harsh temperatures and other weather that can harm tractors both internally and externally. Keep your tractor covered if you do not have a protected area to store it. Storing it in a shed or placing a simple cover on top provides protection from chipping paint, cracked seats and damage to wires, hoses and other important parts. Covering your tractor can even be helpful in the summer months to provide protection from direct sun exposure.

PHOTO: JOHN DEERE

4. Drain fuel

Fuel left in your tractor’s tank all winter will turn stale and create an unpleasant odor when restarting. Also, any fuel left untreated in the system may gel or attract moisture and create unwanted fuel characteristics that could damage vital fuel system components.

For diesel tractors, it’s best to treat your fuel with a conditioner including anti-gel to prevent moisture build-up and gelling in extreme conditions. It’s smart to run your diesel engine at least once a month to keep things in working order.

5. Vital engine care

Engine care means ensuring proper engine oil, coolant, fuel and hydraulic fluid levels. However, this is a “sometimes” step for winter care, because it only applies to tractors that will regularly be used during the winter. Check the operator’s manual for instructions on winter conditions to determine the proper level of these fluids. Use low temperature grease for lubrication. Beyond correct fluid levels, use the proper type of fuel. For example, because No. 2 diesel fuel has a tendency to gel at low temperatures, consider using a cold-weather-rated No.1 diesel fuel. Again, don’t forget to top off your antifreeze.

PHOTO: JOHN DEERE

6. Tires and lubrication

Tire pressure decreases over time. This is especially true when temperatures fluctuate, common in the winter. Properly inflating your tires is key to yearlong maintenance and more so during the winter. Storing your tractor through the winter with tires under low inflation could lead to tire cracking and deterioration. Also, lubricate and grease all points on your tractor, loader, etc. before storage to help ensure that moisture does not penetrate into vital areas. Too much moisture can lead to rust and costly, unwanted repair issues down the road. Furthermore, locking your clutch pedal and setting the brakes will separate the disc from the metal friction points and help prevent rusting and freezing issues by reducing condensation inside the tractor.

Maintaining your expensive work equipment through winter (as well as year-round) will reduce equipment failures and repairs. Proper maintenance extends the life of your equipment and improves operation when you begin using it again when winter is over.

Joel Hicks is product support service team manager for Kioti. Reach him at 877-GO-KIOTI or via www.kioti.com.