With the first chill in the air, you should be thinking about the demands on your acreage’s equipment. We reached out to two experts for their timely advice.
For truckers, farmers, municipalities, public utilities, landscapers and others involved in outdoor work and snow removal, there is always plenty of annual winter preparation.
One thing that may be overlooked is the proper management of Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) used in many diesel-powered trucks and some tractors. Handling and storing DEF can be challenging in wintertime for drivers filling up on the road and for shops.
Made from a mixture of pure urea and purified water, DEF freezes at 11° F. and needs to be properly maintained and dispensed to preserve its quality.
Like water, DEF will expand up to seven percent when frozen and can damage the storage tank if it is full or nearly full when it freezes.
If DEF freezes in the vehicle, do not put any additives in the tank to help it melt. DEF needs to remain pure for it to work correctly. Your vehicle will start without a problem and the DEF tank has a heating element that can quickly thaw the DEF. On-spec DEF is specifically formulated to allow the fluid to thaw at the proper concentration.
In addition to cold, there are other things to consider when purchasing, storing, and handling DEF.
Look at the expiration date on the bottle and be sure to use it before this date as the product has a limited shelf life. If a date is not present, ask for the most recently delivered DEF products.
Look for the API certification mark on the bottle as well. Many diesel engine manufacturers recommend that drivers use API-licensed DEF.
Storage conditions have an impact on quality. DEF can be expected to have a minimum shelf life of 12 months or even longer in optimum conditions. Check the label for recommended storage temperatures.
Don’t store DEF for too long in your truck once you purchase it, especially if the vehicle is routinely exposed to extreme heat or sunlight.
Most people will soon be putting their equipment away until spring. It’s critical to drain water out of sprayers and circulate some RV antifreeze through the pumps and nozzles. (Do not use regular antifreeze, which is not safe to dump in the ground and could kill your dog.)
Also, fill the tractor fuel tank up nearly to the top and add a fuel stabilizer to keep the diesel from going bad and gelling up over the winter. When it’s 8° F. and the tractor won’t start because the diesel has turned to gelatin, it’s too late to do anything.
Also, if there’s anything wrong with the tractor and/or implements, now is the time to have them repaired.
Dealer’s shops tend to be slow this time of year and if you are not in a hurry to get your equipment back, see if they’ll order replacement parts on a “stock” order—which usually comes in freight-free—and pass the savings on to you. This system works so much better if equipment is put away ready to go to the field versus trying to get it repaired in the spring rush when everyone else is broken down.
Grease everything and blow all debris out of the radiator.
Finally, put that owner’s manual by the bed and read it every night before you nod off. I’ve very seldom ever read an owner’s manual that I didn’t learn something I didn’t know from it.