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Main Content

Fuel Savings

Reduce farm machinery’s diesel fuel costs with proper upkeep

By Jim Wills

When diesel fuel prices rise, it means higher operating costs for farm tractors, combines, cotton pickers, forage harvesters, and other self-propelled farm machinery. But with proper maintenance and operation of farm equipment, fuel costs can be tempered to some degree.

Dirty fuel injectors can cause inefficient combustion of fuel and some loss of power. Clean the injectors if you see black smoke coming from the exhaust. Minor cleaning can be accomplished by using fuel injector additive in the fuel, but make sure you use a type recommended for diesel engines. If you’re in doubt, contact your machinery dealer for information on acceptable types of additive.

More severe cleaning needs may require removal of injectors and service by a trained technician. Again, machinery dealers can make recommendations on cleaning and service.

Dirty air cleaners restrict the flow of air required for the combustion process, which results in less engine power but higher fuel consumption. Look for black exhaust smoke or check the air flow indicator found on most air cleaners. Service the air cleaner or replace the filter if needed.

Use the proper viscosity of oil in the engine to maximize engine efficiency. Oils that are too thick decrease power and lubrication and increase fuel consumption.

Change the oil on a recommended schedule to remove contaminants that can reduce lubrication and increase friction between moving parts. Contaminants change the viscosity of the oil and can cause corrosion of engine parts if left in the engine too long.

Check drive tires for excessive wear. Worn tires can cause wheel slip from poor traction and increased fuel consumption.

Inspect the inflation pressure in drive tires and inflate according to the manufacturer’s recommendations based on your loads and traction needs. Increasing inflation pressure by one or two pounds can improve fuel efficiency significantly from reduced rolling resistance.

Operating tractors in lower gears at high engine revolutions increases fuel consumption and greatly increases wear on the drive train components. Whenever possible, operate in higher speed gears and lower throttle settings to conserve fuel and drive train wear. Cutting engine speed by about 300 RPMs can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 10 percent.

Match tractor size to implement size. Never use a large, high-horsepower tractor to pull small or light loads when a smaller tractor capable of handling the load is available.

Shut off diesel engines rather than idling for long periods. Studies show that significant fuel savings can be realized by not idling diesel engines for more than 10 minutes.

Service tractors each day prior to starting work. Small maintenance items can be noticed and corrected without a trip back to the service area from the field. Fill fuel tanks, as well, to save refueling trips — and fuel — back to the fuel storage tank from working areas. Over an entire farming season, it adds up.