Starting Tractor In Cold Weather: Problems & Solutions

Starting Tractor In Cold Weather

Tractors usually don’t get along well with the cold months of winter. So if you attempt to start your stubborn farm engine when the temperature is below freezing, I have collected some tips and tricks on starting tractor in cold weather.

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Tractor Cold Start Problems

Tractors are easily affected when operating in bad weather conditions. Below are some common starting problems with tractors in cold weather.

The Engine

The standard temperature range for a diesel engine to run is 80-85oC. Below this temperature, your tractor might find it challenging to warm up. This starting problem results in damages to the machinery or lowers your tractor’s performance.

Mahindra Tractor Engines

The Diesel

Unlike water or hydrocarbons, biodiesel or petrol diesel doesn’t turn solid when it gets to its freezing point. Instead, it thickens and turns into a waxy substance when the outer temperature is below -12oC. This process is called ‘gelling.’

A problem of winter diesel is that the fuel flow to the injectors becomes slower or difficult, thus resulting in cut out in tractors.

Water Gets Into The Fuel

Winter diesel is another cold weather starting problem. Diesel becomes frozen at – 8.1oC, while the freezing temperature of the water is 0oC. So, water will turn into ices before diesel and get stuck in the water bowl, preventing diesel fuel from getting into the injectors.

Thus, your tractor will fail to start or cut out in the middle of working.

The Batteries

best battery for tractor reviews

There are many issues with tractor batteries in cold weather. The battery capacity will drop in the cold and lessen your tractor’s operation runtime. In the middle of your working day, you might have to stop for a few hours to get your batteries recharged.

Some people purchase rechargeable power packs, but it’s too expensive (around $350-470). Moreover, choosing the inappropriate battery power can lead to overpowering the engine’s electrical system.

Tips For Easy Starting A Tractor In Cold Weather

When your tractor meets one of these above problems, it might not start, diminish its performance, or even get damaged while working.

To prevent those annoyances, you should check these tips for a painless starting tractor in cold weather.

Keep The Battery Charged

Almost all tractors, even a rugged John Deere tractor with high-capacity batteries, can experience several problems with batteries in the cold. The golden key for safe and efficient working days during the wintertime is always to keep your tractor battery in good condition.

But what’s called “good condition”?

First, you should fully charge your tractor battery before starting your lawn jobs. You can buy a secondary battery with the same amp hours as the original one for jump-starting or replacement.

Second, remember to check the battery’s health conditions before winter comes. Check if battery terminals are all clean and well-connected. Remove all fading batteries with new ones to prevent any possible breakdowns.

Good Fuel

Besides batteries, a good diesel fuel supply makes your lawn tractor run smoothly under the cold with less hassle.

When ordering fuel during the winter months (from October to March), make sure you choose a winter-grade diesel, like off-road fuel (the red fuel).

Since the lack of winter-grade diesel additives corrupts your farm vehicle over time, you should add supplements to your tractor’s fuel tank, like anti-waxing agents or Winter Power by Primrose. These supplements help prevent gelling, icing, disperse moisture or any common cold starting problems.

You can get these supplements at any fuel supply store for an affordable price. A 235ml bottle of supplement only costs $7 and can treat 125 liters of diesel fuel.

tractor’s fuel tank

Warm The Engine Up

Just like an athlete, your tractor’s engine needs to warm up to maximize its performance and reduce possible damages. So always remember to spend around 5 minutes to warm up the engine, whether in winter or not.

The preheating process will heat the tractor’s internal combustion chamber, in which the fuel/air mix is burned. Next, diesel fuel will ignite and start the combustion process. Almost all newest Kubota tractors have an automatic timer to indicate when the glow plugs are finishing heat-up.

Not only in the initial starting point, but you also need to spare a few minutes to tick over before turning off the key, especially when it’s turbo-charged. This cool-down period allows the whole engine to cool down. It also allows the turbocharger to slow down before shutdown.

Notice: don’t warm up by open flame

For your safety, you should never put an open flame or a burning charcoal grill under the engine to warm up your tractors.

Because your tractor contains flammable or combustible parts, this old method seems very dangerous and not recommended for any causes. It can lead to severe damages or burning for your tractor or your property.

Let The Tractor’s Engine Idle

After starting your tractor, you should let it idle for approximately 10 to 20 minutes. This idling time allows the heat to spread from the engine to the transmission, case, and gear drive of your tractor.

Besides, make sure that the lubricating oil is heated up, less thick, and greases the gearbox and transmission well.

Fit A Water Filter

You should prevent water from getting into your fuel tank by fitting it with a filter. You should also use sinking filters to absorb water from the bottom of the storage tank.

And don’t forget to regularly drain water from the water bowl of the fuel filter to prevent ice forming.

On rainy or snowy days, you can keep the filter insulated from the air and the engine’s cooling fan by covering it with cardboard or a piece of plastic. When the filter is frozen, use hot water to unfreeze it and pour diesel up to the injector pump. Keeping the storage tank as full as possible also can help to prevent the diesel gelling effect and water from forming inside.

To lessen the discomforts of starting your tractors in cold weather due to fuel problems, you should choose a proper place for the fuel storage tank. The tank floor should be sloped and placed away from the main tap.

Thus, dirt and small objects will be kept away from the main tap, where fuel is poured into your tractor’s tank.

Utilize The Engine Block Heater

Engine Block Heater

You can also use an engine block heater to make engine heating faster in cold weather. Electrical heaters vary in design. They can be placed on the oil pan or dipstick to warm up the oil.

Almost all block heaters are easy to assemble and efficient, provided that you park your tractor near an electrical outlet.

How To Start A Tractor In Cold Weather?

After you have checked all the criteria for a smooth start, including free-flowing diesel fuel, heat at combustion point, free-flowing oil, and a strong battery, it’s time to start your tractor as follows.

  • Turn “ON position” for the ignition key.
  • Wait for 10 seconds to let all gauges reset (including the glow plug or pre-heater timer) and the dashboard lights turn off.
  • Turn the key for 15 seconds until the engine starts.
  • If the tractor engine doesn’t work after 15 seconds, remove the key, wait for 2 minutes, and start the method again.

Other Tips When The Tractor Is Not In Use 

Remove The Battery

When not in use, you should take the tractor batteries out and put them in the charger or somewhere that you can instantly reach when you need them.

Park It In A Heated Garage

If possible, you can park your tractor indoors in a warm place (for example, in an empty warm garage) during cold months. Even at a temperature of 50oF, your tractor will start quickly and perform like in the summer months. So you don’t have to find complicated solutions to start your tractor in cold weather.

Let The Tractor Face The Morning Sun

A simple, inexpensive, and effective way to warm up your tractor in cold weather is to park it outside facing East. By doing this, your vehicle’s engine will directly face the rising sun and get an initial warm start in the morning.

Cover It Up

It’s best to warm your tractor from inside and outside. While installing a block heater inside, why not use a cover to insulate your tractor from harsh weather conditions? You can use a tarp or horse blanket to prevent the cold air from contacting the vehicle.

Final Words 

Since tractors are valuable investments, they need regular maintenance and care to maximize their performance and lessen possible damages. After knowing how to start a tractor in cold weather, you can use your tractor to do your daily farm work in winter with no interruptions, no long waiting time, or extra costs for fixing your vehicle.

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