By Josh Boyd
The cultivation of food plots, hinge cutting of trees, and digging of ponds are all undoubtedly of value in any sound habitat management practice. But as any land manager knows, fields don’t disk themselves, trees don’t fall into quality bedding cover on their own accord, and flat ground doesn’t hold water without manipulation by man.
Even the most eager of land managers will seldom get far with no more than the progress hand tools will allow. This is where properly operating equipment becomes an invaluable resource. Equipment is the means to an end for nearly any ambitious land management project.
Tractors disk food plots, chainsaws hinge cut trees, and skid steers or excavation equipment lay the groundwork for nearly any man-made waterway.
However, even a barn or outbuilding full of equipment will be of little use if the correct machinery for the job is ill prepared mechanically for use.
The truth is, many of our land management projects are directly dependent upon suitable weather for their completion. As anyone who has ever set foot outdoors is fully aware, the weather seldom cooperates as we would hope, for any length of time.
This creates weather windows that we must work around to successfully complete projects within the time frame necessary. These already trying circumstances are further exacerbated when it becomes necessary to get food plot seed in the ground in a timely manner to establish root systems before summer drought or to beat traditional fall frost dates.
With all that goes into efficiently timing our habitat improvement projects, the last situation that anyone wants to face is watching what is perhaps your last viable weather window of the season close while you tend to neglected items of equipment maintenance.
Instead of being left with their backs against the wall when the spring green-up proceeds to take place, proactive habitat managers see to matters of equipment repair and maintenance during their winter downtime. The following are five items of business pertaining to winter equipment maintenance that will save you costly breakdowns and idle periods in the year ahead.
Take Care of Oil Changes Now
It happens every year. Equipment owners repeatedly neglect to service their equipment time and time again, citing a lack of available opportunity to handle the task at hand. The problem is that a chore of this nature is all too easy to push off from one month to the next, year to year until eventually, the effects of sustained neglect have already taken place.
Changing the oil and oil filter on nearly any piece of equipment can be easily done in less than thirty minutes. For a chore of such small magnitude, it is troubling to see the sheer number of engines that have seized or had bearings scored due to an outright refusal to set aside the time to complete such a task.
An engine’s motor oil is the lifeblood of its operation. Without proper adherence to outlined service intervals, oil breakdown eventually takes place and internal engine damage is imminent. The price of oil and a filter is minuscule compared to that of what would be required for an engine overhaul.
Grease All Fittings
A grease gun is an equipment operator’s best friend. Grease fittings can be located on almost any piece of equipment, and are often found on any component that experiences continual motion. When properly greased, a grease fitting, or alemite, will provide lubricating grease directly to the point of movement for the component that it services.
This grease prevents premature wear of any pivoting or revolving surfaces that contact one another. In doing so, this prevents the binding of machined surfaces and extends component life. Supplying grease to these surfaces requires little more than a few pumps of a grease gun into the fitting.
Check Bearing Play
Most any rotary surface contains bearings. Bearings facilitate the revolving movement within a hub or spindle to a fixed casting component. When in a proper state of health, bearings allow smooth and concise movement within these components. When wear or damage has taken place, a bearing will begin to experience friction or allow excessive place within its housing.
It is important to check for these excessive wear conditions during the winter months. This can be done by carefully spinning wheels or other components that utilize bearings, such as gearboxes driven accessories, in order to check for rough operation.
Components that ride on bearings should also be checked for free play in the form of excessive lateral or vertical movement. If any deficiencies are found, repairs should be made to prevent complete mechanical failure in the field.
Perform Thorough Inspections
The winter months are a wonderful time to conduct end-to-end inspections on all of equipment that you own. From chainsaws to heavy equipment such as tractors, all equipment should be periodically inspected for any signs of damage or conditions that warrant repair. By taking a flashlight and slowly looking over all equipment systems, you can discern which, if any, deficiencies exist.
Fluid leaks, worn or chafed hoses, frayed wiring, loose chains/belts, and broken welds are all items that can be found during regular inspections. The value of conducting these annual inspections during the winter months is twofold. Many issues can be remedied before they lead to costly and time-consuming breakdowns. Additionally, if problems become evident during the winter months, you are allowed an extended window of time for repair.
It is also of value to include your truck in these regular maintenance checks as well. Becoming stranded on the way back from town is no better than having farm equipment in an inoperable state.
Check All Safety Devices
The most important of all winter equipment maintenance tasks is the verification of all safety device functionality. Not only will these checks save you from potential issues in the future, but they could also possibly save your life as well.
All emergency stops and safety guards should be checked for proper placement, mounting, and functionality. If any issues are discovered, equipment use should be discontinued until suitable repairs have been made. Never bypass any safety switches or devices. What might seem convenient at the time, can cost you your life at a later date.
Make The Most Of The Winter Months
By making the most out of what is commonly considered habitat management’s slow season, you can put yourself on the path to a spring void of untimely and costly breakdowns. Throw procrastination to the wind, and make your equipment pay dividends during the year ahead.