Putting lower-cost, lower-quality tractor hydraulic fluids (THFs) into your tractor is a lot like painting your barn with interior paint: You might not notice the difference right away, but very soon, the paint starts rapidly chipping away, and you’ve wasted a lot of time, money and effort for a poor result.
With THF, the faster degradation of lower-quality products is not always as obvious as chipped paint because farmers use their tractors so often that they might not notice the onset of fluid breakdown. Signs include vibration and squawking when braking; chatter in the transmission upon backing up; and less accurate hydraulic performance felt through steering. Maneuvering also becomes more difficult, which means less precision when moving around obstacles, stopping, parking, etc.
The bottom line for busy farmers is that they are less productive, which can more than offset the upfront cost-savings lure of lower-quality THFs. Higher-quality fluids are more durable and thus preserve peak equipment performance for longer.
It’s also important for farmers to know that the THF market is not very well policed, with a lot of low-quality producers selling fluids. Often these will appear genuine, as they put OEM credentials on their bottles even though these aren’t met. Also, some are marked with obsolete specifications: The current spec might be J20C, but they may be marked with John Deere J20A, which was obsoleted 20 years ago. This gives the impression it meets John Deere requirements. Watch this video and learn how to identify high quality fluids, meeting OEM specifications.
THF is a valuable component in any farmer’s strategy to keep equipment operating at peak performance, and so tractorlife.com/dev is providing information and tools to help farmers understand how to choose the right tractor fluids based on OEM credentials. The newest tool is a fun, interactive game called the tractorlife.com/dev Hay Baler, which is appearing at farm shows this season. (Those who visit the tractorlife.com/dev booth and drive the simulator will receive a free baseball cap, while supplies last.)
The Farm Tractor Simulator has more in common with Hollywood and computer game arcades than tractor-training tools. Participants clamber aboard a real John Deere 1023e tractor – albeit one with the engine removed – and sit in a real tractor seat to operate genuine tractor controls. Mounted on the front of the engine cover ahead of the driver is a widescreen display giving a view of the ranch or farmyard where the game is played.
The principal task of the game is to drive around the virtual ranch picking up a series of randomly placed hay bales under two different scenarios: one that mimics a tractor running on high-quality THF and one running on lower-quality THF. Adding realism to the game is the need to maneuver accurately between the various obstacles in the farmyard and park precisely without overshooting or stopping short. These tasks really highlight the differences between good and bad fluids, with the tractor much harder to operate with precision when the fluid is degraded, and the controls become rough and jerky.
The farm itself incorporates various types of terrain, and the idea of the target line has been introduced to provide a bonus for players who can handle the tractor with greater precision.
So, how realistic are the sometimes-dramatic effects the players are likely to experience? The vibration modes are derived from data gleaned from laboratory tests on a range of fluids, and the simulated deterioration in tractor performance on the cheap fluids is genuine, though of course accelerated in order to provide a memorable impression for show-goers taking the ride.
Farmers and tractor operators might not be as well versed in fluid technology as engineers, but they know a lot about using tractors and, with a keen head for numbers and crop yields, will easily understand through the simulation how higher-quality THFs maximize productivity to boost their financial returns.
As concrete proof of the success of the simulator idea, it already has a packed itinerary taking in a variety of trade shows beginning with the Sun Belt Expo in Georgia in October. If you plan on attending this trade show, please be sure to stop by to drive the tractorlife.com/dev Hay Baler and win a free baseball cap (while supplies last!)
Later, it will travel further afield to territories such as Asia, where the game will be adapted to suit local conditions and languages.