Farm Equipment Checklist

Pre-season preparation helps harvest go more smoothly

If you’re a farmer, every season has particular challenges, but autumn might be the most challenging. Whether your farm operation sees a profit or runs a loss could depend on the prep work you do now to get your machinery and yourself ready for the harvest onslaught.

This means preparing the equipment you’ll be using to gather, store, and deliver your crops, and to prepare for next year’s spring planting. Inspecting your tractors, trailers, augers, and other machinery now and making indicated repairs or adjustments, will ensure that once you get into the fields, you'll be able to stay there until the work is done.

It will also significantly extend your equipment’s life and reduce your costs over the time each machine is in service. This is no small thing: for instance, one study indicated that a two-wheel-drive tractor is likely to rack up $50,000 in upkeep costs over its 15-year life cycle. Regular maintenance is the key to avoiding unnecessary — and expensive — repairs.


You’ve made an enormous investment in your farm equipment, and if you’ve been on your game, you’ve kept scrupulous service records. You should consult these now and gear up to do any teardowns or replacements that are indicated. There are apps that can make this important chore much less onerous by tracking your fleet’s maintenance schedules.

You’ve probably also accumulated a sizable library of service manuals for all your tools and machines, so before you pick up a wrench, make sure you can find them. If you’ve misplaced one, you can generally find a replacement online for download or purchase.


Of course, farming can be dirty work, and it’s not much fun to complete a pre-harvest checklist while trying to peer through last season’s grime. Grease accumulates on various machine parts, including engines, wheels, and undercarriages, sometimes making it difficult to operate your machines safely. Starting out by cleaning them. Cleaning makes inspecting them easier, and it reduces fire hazards.

Here are a few tips to make this part of your harvest prep work easier:

  • Protect vulnerable systems. Cover systems like electrical buses and sensors plastic or wrap them in cloth.before you start. 
  • Give it a brush. Remove loose dirt and debris with a stiff-bristle brush. You can also use compressed air to clean out hard-to-reach nooks and crannies.
  • Use a degreaser. There are lots of effective products on the market that will cut stubborn, baked-on grime.
  • Apply some pressure. A pressure-washer will blast a lot of the stubborn dirt off your machines’ surfaces.
  • Use an industrial steam gun. This is a viable option if you want to avoid harsh cleaning agents and pressure washing alone isn’t doing the job. Not only can a shot of steam loosen stubborn, caked-on grease, it can also be a safer way to do this.
  • Make sure you’re protected. Whatever cleaning method you choose, always wear proper eye protection and outerwear, including gloves, particularly when you’re handling chemicals. Even eco-friendly degreasing compounds can be hazardous to your skin and eyes.
  • Check your fluids. Gas, engine and transmission oil, hydraulic fluid oil, coolant level, and any other fluid need a once over, particularly if a machine has been idle for a while. Make sure they’re in the places and at the volumes your manufacturer specifies, and check for leaks. Stock up on fluids for future maintenance.
  • Watch for rodent nests. These may have accumulated on the combine and other machines during storage.
  • Make a list. While you're scruitinizing everything, keep track of the needed repairs that your cleaning and inspection will inevitably turn up.


Before you head out to the field, double-check to be sure machinery is turned off and in park or neutral with the parking brake engaged before getting down to work.

  • Nuts and bolts: Time spent tightening what needs to be tightened will pay dividends in smooth operations. You don’t want to be sidelined by something as basic as a loose cotter pin or missing nut.
  • Tires: Check pressure and tread wear for each wheel. Tighten lug nuts.
  • Blades: Sharpen and replace as needed.
  • Cutter bars, grain platform, and skid plates: Always check cutter bars for flexibility and movement. Check the grain platform for knife sharpness. For skid plates under the grain platform, identify any wear and tear and replace appropriately.
  • Mirrors: Climb in the seat and identify any driver blind spots. Will you be able to see people, fences, buildings, or other equipment in your path? Adjust the mirrors for visibility. You might also think about installing after-market cameras and monitors to increase the territory you can keep in view while you’re underway.
  • Engine and steering: Making sure the area is clear, start the engine and run it at a fast idle for at least 3 minutes. Check to see if any fuel, air, or oil filters need replacement. Also, ensure steering and exhaust systems are in working order.
  • Hitches: Make sure you have the proper hitch pins and safety clips for what you plan to pull.
  • Brakes: Adjust brakes, drives, and clutches according to the manual.
  • Hoses, belts, chains, and plastic parts: Check all belts, rubber hoses, and plastic parts like fans for cracks. Make sure that belts are properly tightened and that chains are properly adjusted. Replace any items that look worn.
  • Hydraulic lines: The best way to test hydraulic systems is to pressurize them and look for leaks. However, be aware that not every leak will create a telltale puddle.
  • Batteries: Does the battery hold a charge?
  • Safety equipment: Make sure all shields and guards are in place and in good working order.
  • Yield monitors, GPS, and gauges: Adjust and calibrate these tools to ensure they are providing accurate information.


Are your slow-moving-vehicle signs still reflective and visible from the rear of the equipment? Also, are your headlights, taillights, and turn signals working? Testing them now gives you the opportunity to make a quick repair. The last thing you need as you start field work is to get pulled over for a broken taillight or missing sign before you even reach your field.

Sources: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach;;;

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