En­gine Man’s HP. In­spec­tion Point­ers

Successful Farming - - MACHINERY INSIDERª - By Ray Bo­hacz

When in the mar­ket for pre-owned trac­tors, be­gin by speak­ing with the seller so you can glean as much of the his­tory as pos­si­ble. Ask if there are any main­te­nance records you can ref­er­ence.

Next, in­spect the trac­tor by look­ing for signs of fluid leaks on the en­gine and other ar­eas. On larger diesels, check the crank­case ven­ti­la­tion tube and the area around it for ex­ces­sive oil fumes. This is a strong in­di­ca­tor of worn pis­ton rings and a glazed cylin­der wall.

Re­move the air fil­ter and check what it looks like and the brand used. If it is ex­tremely dirty or is an off-brand, that is not a good sign. Pull all dip­sticks and in­spect and smell the flu­ids. Re­move the en­gine oil fill cap to check for sludge (lack of oil changes or use of cheap oil). If any white sub­stance is present, there is ei­ther a coolant leak into the oil or a non­func­tion­ing crank­case breather. Not a good sign, ei­ther way.

Start the en­gine and lis­ten for any sounds, how it runs cold, and if it goes into gear with a hy­dro­static or au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. Check the ex­haust for ex­ces­sive smoke and note the color. Op­er­ate all sys­tems, if ap­pli­ca­ble, such as hy­draulics, PTO, etc. Be sure to drive the trac­tor around, which can re­veal, for ex­am­ple, how smoothly it shifts or if the en­gine hes­i­tates when ac­cel­er­ated.

If you are sat­is­fied to this point, then make an in­vest­ment in fluid test­ing. Us­ing an ex­trac­tion pump, pull sam­ples from the ra­di­a­tor, en­gine oil, trans­mis­sion, and hy­draulic sys­tem. Hope­fully, you can glean when the last ser­vice was per­formed by the records sup­plied to you or no­ta­tions on the ma­chine.

If the seller won’t let you pull sam­ples and have them checked, walk away. On a diesel with wet cylin­der lin­ers, the coolant test is ex­tremely im­por­tant. The lab­o­ra­tory will in­clude el­e­men­tal anal­y­sis. If a good deal of iron is found in the coolant, that in­di­cates cylin­der liner cav­i­ta­tion ero­sion or, less likely, elec­trol­y­sis. In ei­ther case, the en­gine is on the way out, and you need to know that.

in­vest in fluid anal­y­sis to ver­ify

Do not be averse to spend­ing the $100 for the fluid anal­y­sis for a prospec­tive pur­chase that has passed muster to that point. Would you buy a farm field with­out a soil test? Then why do so many buy a piece of pre-owned equip­ment, no mat­ter how low the hours, with­out fluid test­ing? You would be sur­prised what some peo­ple can do to an en­gine or trans­mis­sion in a few hun­dred hours.

Fi­nally, check the tire pres­sures, an­other tell­tale sign of the owner’s thought process. A fas­tid­i­ous owner will main­tain the proper tire pres­sure for wear and to limit soil com­paction.

The same logic and pro­ce­dures for in­spect­ing a po­ten­tial pur­chase can be em­ployed not only to farm equip­ment, but also to trucks, cars, UTVs, and more.

When you are sell­ing or trad­ing in, you want to get the most for the unit. Though price cer­tainly comes into play dur­ing the pur­chase of a late-model pre-owned ma­chine, the more dom­i­nant con­cern is the qual­ity and the hope of re­li­able ser­vice. When you are in­vest­ing in pre-owned, re­mem­ber what Pres­i­dent Rea­gan used to say: “Trust but ver­ify.” The mar­kets and weather hold enough un­cer­tain­ties; you don’t need to buy any more sur­prises.

Ray Bo­hacz, The SF En­gine Man Ray Bo­hacz has en­gine grease and field dirt un­der his fin­ger­nails from a life spent re­pair­ing ve­hi­cles and run­ning a farm in New Jersey with his wife, Char­lotte. His how-to ar­ti­cles also ap­pear inand mag­a­zines. Con­tact Bo­hacz via email at SFEngine­[email protected] Agri­cul­ture.com.

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