This year’s weather has been, well, interesting so far. And now late fall has stumbled over a bit of early winter weather, with Mother Nature throwing down snow and colder temps around the first of November.

Usually, I’m just beginning to think about winterizing mowers, hand-held outdoor power equipment, or a compact utility tractor and a motorcycle. With this early reminder of oncoming winter, I’m a bit behind with my usual winterizing chores.

Based on continued harvesting and tillage activities in the fields around our place, farmers also are going to be behind getting tractors, combines and other machinery ready for the winter’s sleep.

Phil Lauer, product manager at John Deere, offers some quick points to remember about equipment winterization, and fluids in particular.

“The first thing to look at in a self-propelled machine is the fluids,” says Lauer. “You’ll want to change the oil, putting the equipment away with clean oil in it. Let’s get all the contaminants out of the engine, so when we put the equipment away, the engine is clean and coated with clean oil, sitting through the winter and ready for spring. That way, you also don’t have to do that project in the spring.

“For some people who aren’t hitting high hour intervals through the year and do annual maintenance, say on an auger tractor, I’d do the oil change in the fall.”

Paying attention to the fuel tanks is important, as well.

“With diesel, it’s always good to top it off so you don’t get condensation,” notes Lauer. “The other thing with today’s fuel is that you’ll want to put some kind of fuel treatment in it.

“We’ve been seeing issues with some of the biofuels, in particular, with poorer quality fuels. Of course we love biofuels because they’re made from our producers’ products. But we still need to treat those fuels so we don’t have engine issues.”

Some of the more popular diesel fuel additives, besides those offered by original equipment manufacturers, include REV-X, Howes, STANADYNE, Hot Shot, DieselPower and Archoil products.

Lauer says adding a fuel treatment should include bulk fuel tanks.

“You should be adding a fuel treatment to the bulk tank all year long,” he says. “John Deere has both a warm weather formula and a colder weather formula. For us in the Midwest, we need to make sure we’re using the right additive formulations at the right time of the year.

“Some fuel companies will treat their deliveries. But to make sure that’s not an issue, I’d want to treat the fuel as well. If you’re treating all year long, it’s really a non-issue for those of us in the northern climates.

“It’s all the same theory on the gas side. You should use a fuel treatment for ATVs, lawn mowers and even motorcycles. Every time you fill that gas can, you should be adding a fuel treatment. If you’re using a fuel treatment, you don’t have to drain the tank. You don’t have to worry about dealing with contaminated fuel come spring.

“This is especially important with today’s gas ethanol blends. Even if you drain the tank, all those rubber hoses and gaskets will dry out. Most manufacturers today will tell you to put gas-powered equipment away with treated fuel in it. In fact, you need to be treating it as you go.”

If you’re using a tractor over the winter to feed animals, blow snow or handle other winter chores, you may still find that moisture in diesel fuel lines can freeze, requiring a quick fix.

“We now have a product that can treat for this — John Deere Emergency Thaw,” Lauer says.

According to the company, you need to remove the fuel filter from the vehicle, then add John Deere Emergency Thaw — kept at room temperature — directly to the filter canister. Allow the canister to stand at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes. Also add Emergency Thaw to the fuel tank at a treat level of 32 ounces per 400 gallons of diesel fuel.

Reinstall the filter on the machine and allow 30 to 60 minutes for the additive to take effect before attempting to start the engine. Let the engine idle for 30 to 45 minutes to adequately warm the vehicle’s fuel system for proper operation.

Another fluid to consider on newer diesel-powered equipment is Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF). While there’s no DEF additive for winterization, Lauer suggests you pay attention to how much DEF is in the tank.

Changing oil, topping off fuels and adding fuel treatments — three of the most important things you can do to winterize equipment and get it ready for spring work. And here’s hoping for that early spring!


Michael Gustafson has written for and about farm equipment companies, their products and dealerships for more than 40 years, including 25 years with John Deere. He lives on a small acreage in Dennison, Ill.

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