News flash: Farmers are not beach lifeguards. To begin with, there is a clear complexion comparison (the term “farmer’s tan” didn’t just appear in our lexicon out of nowhere). Another key difference is that once the busy season has passed and winter has arrived, farmers can’t take an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to their operation.

Since a farmer’s work is never done, they should take pains to make sure their combines are properly prepped to prevent possible polar pitfalls. Here are a few tips for farmers looking to have their combines weather the winter.

Start It Up & Let It Run

Start your combine and let it run while you do a complete 360º inspection. This will give you an idea of how the machine is running during harvesting. Look, listen and smell for anything that may be amiss with your machine.

If any components are damaged due to wear and tear, now is the time to replace them. If you don’t have the time or funds to complete the repairs right away, at least make a comprehensive list of items that need attention so nothing falls through the cracks in the future.

Clean the Machine

The first thing to do when cleaning your combine is to clear off all crop residue and debris. Your two best friends when cleaning your combine are a pressure washer and compressed air (a leaf blower will work in a pinch).

After you remove all the shields, use compressed air to blow out anything that shouldn’t be there. It’s best to get as much done with compressed air as you can before breaking out the pressure washer. When pressure washing, try to keep from spraying water directly into the electrical harnesses, connectors or into bearings and shaft seals.

Cleaning the machine can lessen the possibility of rodent damage. Once the machine itself is cleaned, move on to cleaning the headers.

Top Off the Fuel

Filling up your combine’s fuel tank prior to storage can save you a great deal of future hassle. Unfilled tanks have empty space in them and are at a greater risk for condensation forming when the weather changes. Water build-up in your combine’s fuel system could leave you with expensive repair costs just when you should be starting your season. Keeping your fuel tank full in the offseason will help you skirt this scenario.

Disconnect/Store the Battery

Combine upkeep before it gets really coldYou risk finding a dead battery in your combine in spring when you leave it connected in the cold for winter. You should first make sure that your current battery is fully charged, then disconnect it and find a dry, cool spot for its winter storage.

Change Fluids

Before putting the combine away for storage, do a thorough check and change fluids if they are close to the end of their service life. During use, oils will collect contaminants, and the protective additives in the oil tend to break down over time and with use. These two things can lead to corrosion if the oil sits static in the machine during storage, so it’s better to make the oil change prior to the coldest weather (which typically arrives in late January).

If you have added water to your radiator, remember to replace it with coolant.

Keep Critters at Bay

Rodents can wreak havoc when they nest in your machinery during winter, and there are a variety of methods to keep your combine clear of cold critters. Getting a farm cat is a great way to keep the mice away. (Some also swear that Jack Russell terriers are excellent rodent hunters.)

Electronic repellents that emit a high-pitched sound deter both mice and rats. Live traps are a practicable possibility, though emptying and resetting them can take more effort. Bait and poison setups are often an effective option, but keep in mind that you will be finding dead rodents in the unlikeliest of places for some time – and that doesn’t smell great.

Proactively putting mothballs in the cab has been shown to be capable of keeping mice away, but they won’t make rodents that have already set up house clear out. If you should attempt this, a number of farmers recommend opting for scented mothballs, as they produce a stronger smell in the cab.

Consult Your Manual

Don’t be afraid to break out the handbook. The documentation provided with your combine will contain storage recommendations as well as maintenance guidelines. Following these best practices will aid your combine’s long-term storage.

If you can’t locate your manual, don’t worry. Just about every manual you could possibly need has been scanned and exists out there in the ether of the internet – just search for it.

by Enrico Villamaino