Our normally peaceful and cohesive workshop resonates suddenly with some colourful language. The office staff glance at me as we roll our eyes and prepare for an onslaught from a harassed-looking head mechanic. He is clutching an air filter, which he deposits on my desk; the air filter and canister are full of dust.
Dust is the sworn enemy of engines – and our head mechanic is turning the air around him blue because what should have been a routine service has just become an expensive repair.
A front end loader is our most popular implement request, here at SOTA Tractors. AGMAX 4-in-1 loaders are versatile units and a must-have for small acreage. However, utilising the bucket to move soil, shale and other dusty material can readily overwhelm the air intake filter to the engine. All SOTA Kubotas utilise a dry element filter. Please don’t confuse these with the oil type air cleaners…never put oil on a dry element filter!
The cover for the air cleaner contains a dust cup. All dry element air filters would have a similar setup. This cup is designed to catch the heavier particles of dust centrifugally, whereas the fine dust and vegetative matter is trapped in the filter cartridge itself. The danger is that this system has a threshold, whereby if the dust accumulates beyond the inner baffle of the cartridge, the engine will suck a gutful of dust and grit into the intake manifold. From here it gets into the liners, where it becomes suspended in the oil – it is here that the damage is done. The oil changes from being a lubricant to an abrasive and it will very quickly act like emery cloth and wear the piston rings away. Power loss will be noticeable and other essential parts of the engine that require lubrication, like the main bearings, will also prematurely wear. We are talking an engine rebuild here, folks, very expensive. It doesn’t take long to do serious damage.
It is imperative that those new to tractor ownership understand that tractors are not turnkey propositions. Whilst all engines need regular servicing, ignore checking your filters and fluid levels at your wallet’s peril. Furthermore, there is no warranty anywhere in the entire tractor world that will cover failure to check filters.
In A Nutshell
- Empty the dust cup at least every week, or every day if you are using the front end loader.
- Be sure to remove vegetative matter from the filter.
- It is essential that the unit is well sealed by ensuring that all nuts and retaining clips are tight.
- Double check that everything is reinstalled correctly as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
A handy idea that I would recommend to anyone is to purchase a small air compressor. In recent years they have become incredibly cheap. Use it to blow the fine dust out of the air filter every 50 hours. Always use compressed air on the inside of the element. Blow it out at 30 psi and keeping a reasonable distance between the nozzle and the element. Replace filter after 6 cleanings or 12 months, as they will break down eventually.
SOTA Kubotas are true stalwarts of small acreage. We regularly hear tales of these plucky little fellows, boxing well above their weight. Kubotas rightly deserve their reputation for longevity and by keeping on top of basic maintenance, like your air filter, it’ll possibly outlast you.