Richard L. Parish | 12/22/2005 11:07:34 PM
Although manufacturers are doing their part to reduce corrosion of lawn and garden equipment, how well you maintain your tools will determine their useful life.
Dr. Dick Parish, an engineer with the LSU AgCenter, offers some tips to prevent rust on outdoor equipment.
First, Parish says, is clean your equipment after each use.
"Dirt, dust and plant residue can be corrosive when mixed with grease and oil on equipment," he says. "Rain also can be damaging."
Parish recommends washing equipment after each use.
"For example, with a rotary mower, grass can build up and the deck can rust very fast," Parish says. "Putting a machine away clean goes a long way in preserving it."
Parish also says storing machinery indoors will help keep it clean and dry. If you can’t get it indoors, avoid parking on dirt.
"Tillage implements in particular should be parked on concrete, gravel or blocks of wood to keep the metal parts that dig into the blades off the ground," Parish says. "They will hold up a lot better if they’re not in contact with grass or soil."
The engineer says corrosive chemicals such as fertilizer and pesticides should be washed off equipment as soon as possible.
"Pressure washing with hot soapy water and then rinsing is ideal," Parish says. "However, simply rinsing thoroughly with cold water will also help."
Parish says one trick to keeping tillage tools clean and shiny is to apply what is called plow-bottom paint. This flat black paint, sold at implement dealers, can be sprayed or brushed directly on the metal parts that dig into the soil. The paint stays on in storage but peels off when it hits the soil and leaves a shiny surface again.
Parish also suggests applying a good quality automotive wax or protectant to major surfaces such as tractor hoods and fenders every year for additional protection and using touch-up paint.
"Scratches and paint chips can be repainted to help prevent rust in those areas," he says.
Parish says another area where corrosion is a problem is hydraulic fittings on larger lawn and garden equipment.
"When unhooking hydraulic hoses from the tractor, some folks drop them on the ground," he says. "Then the connections get rusty and don’t fit well the next time you try to hook them up."
He says hoses should be hung up on the machine once they are unhooked to keep the tips off the ground.
Along with the connections, Parish says hydraulic cylinder rods on implements are subject to pit corrosion, or pits in the metal, if they’re left extended and stored outside.
"Pit corrosion can tear out the seals on the cylinders the next time you use the implement," he warns. "You should retract the cylinders or coat the rods with heavy grease to protect them."