Sprayer maintenance — it’s the last thing you want to do after a demanding year of treatments, but it’s the first thing you’ll regret not doing when spring spraying season comes around. In addition to increasing the risk of avoidable repair expenses, neglecting winter maintenance can mean missing an early season application window and can put you behind at a time when you need to get a strong start on tough vegetation. So how can you make sure your fleet is ready to roll when spray windows start opening?
First and most importantly, your sprayer’s manufacturer almost certainly has winterizing and off-season maintenance recommendations. Those should be your north star, so get familiar with them before doing anything else. But a few common-sense guidelines will get you well down the road toward an easy rollout in the spring.
For self-propelled sprayers:
Clean the sprayer inside and out. Nobody wants to start the year climbing into a nasty cab or spend time scraping off last year’s mud and dirt when the weeds and vegetation are calling. Clean and vacuum the cabs. Give your sprayers a good wash, while following any recommendations from the manufacturer regarding components or areas to avoid with a power washer. Touch up any scratches or other areas of missing paint to prevent rust.
Grease all service points. Make sure to use the type of grease recommended by your sprayer’s manufacturer.
Remove batteries, clean the terminals and connect to chargers. A small amount of effort can help you avoid one of spring’s most frustrating failures. As always, follow any recommendations from your battery’s manufacturer for winter charging and storage.
Drain, flush and winterize the spray system. Your sprayer’s operating manual should have detailed instructions on how to properly winterize the spray system. Follow them to the letter and save yourself the hassle and expense of replacing ruptured hoses, cracked tanks or corroded fittings.
Perform any required engine, hydraulic or drive system maintenance or repairs. That leaky pump won’t fix itself over the winter, so do the work now and make sure you’re ready to go when the time comes. And don’t forget to inspect belts and hoses for damage or wear.
Place rodent bait stations. Mice and other rodents can chew through hoses and wiring, potentially making for an unpleasant — and costly — surprise in the spring. Bait stations are an easy, inexpensive insurance policy.
Store any removable displays in a warm area. Cold temperatures can damage sensitive displays, so store them in a warm room for the winter.
Fill the fuel tank to avoid condensation. Condensation can introduce water into the fuel system, creating the potential for freezing, damage to fuel pumps and lines, and downtime. Keep the fuel tanks as full as possible over the winter to minimize condensation, and if recommended by the manufacturer, consider using a fuel treatment.
Store sprayers indoors, if possible. If indoor storage isn’t feasible, check and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for preparing your sprayers for a winter spent outdoors.
For backpack sprayers, many of the same guidelines apply. Drain the tank and remove any remaining solution from the system with compressed air. Check nozzles, hoses and fittings for leaks or corrosion, and replace any faulty or damaged components. Lubricate any moving parts, and if possible, keep backpack sprayers out of the reach of mice or other rodents.
Spring is the worst time to realize you should have paid more attention to winterizing your spray equipment. Take time at the end of the season to give your sprayers the TLC they deserve, and you’ll be well on your way to a fast start in the spring. Learn more about using herbicides in your Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) programs at Utility.VegetationMgmt.com.
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