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Tractor Care and Maintenance – Fresh Dirt from the Farmer Mentor Jim Leap

Beginning Farmer Asks:
Our new Kubota tractor is arriving tomorrow. I'll be doing a walk-through with the dealers then getting started on mowing. I'm going to make a daily checklist form for checking the tractor before every use. I'm mostly concerned about using it under heavier loads such as chiseling and discing with our big heavy off-set disc. I've done this before but want to hear from an expert about exactly what gears to work in. Also, when mowing or doing other lighter work should I only be in 2WD?

Farmer Mentor Answers:
With your new tractor the main things to check daily are water and engine oil levels. If you are mowing it is a really good idea to check the buildup of flower petals and other small light bits of crop residue (including insects) on the screens protecting the radiator. It is always a good idea to constantly monitor the water temp when you are either mowing or working the tractor hard pulling discs and chisels. Water temp is always your best guide to let you know if you are either over working the tractor or if the radiator is plugging up. The newer Kubotas have a little air cleaner vacuum sensor right on the air filter canister that will change color if the filter starts to plug but I doubt you will have any problems at all with the air cleaner. You have to be in really dusty conditions for the filter to plug. There is also a little dirt collector that you can squeeze on the end of the air cleaner canister to dump out accumulated dirt. The dealer will probably show you that air cleaner stuff.

As far as gearing and ground speed you want to work the tractor at the higher RPM for maximum torque, engine performance and fuel efficiency. The newer Kubotas typically run around 2,500 rpm at maximum torque. When mowing you want to run at a ground speed that is just slow enough for the mower to do a good job of cutting up weed or cover crop residue but fast enough to get the job done in a timely manner - probably around 3 MPH. One of the best indicators of "over working" a diesel engine is the appearance of black exhaust. When everything is right you should at 2,500 RPM and not be able to see any black coloration in the exhaust. I have heard that it is a good idea to set your ground speed and gearing and RPM so that you have a little power "left over". In other words you aren't just right on the edge of what the tractor is capable of. This is especially true when breaking in a new engine. Discs are made to run fairly fast for good performance so you should probably be moving along at about 4 MPH assuming that the tractor has the traction and torque necessary for the size of the disc. There is no need to be in 4X4 when mowing. The only time you need 4X4 is when you need traction when pulling discs or chisels.

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