Farm duty motors operate heavy machinery around the clock in harsh environments, where corrosion, wear, and overheating are constant dangers. Regular maintenance is required to keep your workhorse motors operating consistently at peak performance and reduce the risk of downtime for your farm business.
Let’s take a look at the most effective things you can do to prevent small motor issues from developing into big, costly problems. These tips will be useful whether your farm duty motor is being used daily or only put to seasonal use.
Fundamental Motor Maintenance
There are fundamental maintenance protocols for all motors that are especially important in farm environments' harsh conditions. Doing these things will enable you to identify and proactively deal with problems before they hold up critical operations.
Bearings take the brunt of wear and tear on an electric motor, being subject to heavy loads, friction, and vibration, all of which create continual stress. Adequate lubrication and protection from foreign matter help minimize the risk of bearing failure that puts your motor out of service.
Most farm duty motors use sealed bearings that don’t require replacement of lubrication. If it’s necessary to regrease a bearing, make sure to follow manufacturer recommendations closely. Take care not to over-fill the bearing as this will cause it to leak, attracting dirt and dust to the motor's shaft and ultimately into the bearing housing.
If the motor is operated outdoors or is exposed to dust and moisture, consider using accessories such as a lip seal or a shaft slinger on your motor to protect the bearings.
Heat is a killer of electric motors. It is estimated that for each additional 10°C operating temperature, a motor's service life is halved, especially in remote locations, where equipment replacement can cause a considerable impact on your business. Doing everything you can to keep your motor cool is essential.
Regularly examine the body of your motor, ensuring that ventilation ports are clear and fins are clean. When operated in dusty environments, a layer of dirt can build up on the motor and create an insulating effect that increases the motor windings' temperature. Keep your motor and the surrounding environment as clean as possible at all times.
During a normal operation cycle, check that the motor is not experiencing excessive heat at any point. If the motor is started regularly under load, consider using a soft starter to prevent current in rush from spiking the motor’s temperature. Ensure that the voltage at the motor terminals never becomes too high or low, both of which cause heat stress in the windings. Finally, check that the duty cycle is never more than the motor is designed for and monitor the load to ensure that it never exceeds the motor limits.
Farm duty motors are often exposed to the weather or other humid conditions. For this reason, most farm duty motors are totally enclosed types and coated in a heavy-duty finish to prevent corrosion. Keep motors under shelter or covered whenever possible, and use gasket seals for conduit box covers and entry ports to prolong the life of vital components. If you require a motor that can be washed down, make sure the motor is rated for washdown duty, or moisture will quickly get inside and corrode the bearings and windings.
Farms can cover huge areas and often have long cable runs between electrical boxes and machinery. Wiring that’s in poor condition can not only create potentially deadly situations due to grounding issues, but also voltage drops that affect all the equipment connected to the system. Under or over-voltage situations impair motor performance and increase heat in the windings, reducing service life. Take the time to do proper wiring for all your permanent equipment, and regularly inspect and maintain your vital electrical systems.
Storing a Motor
Farm operations are often seasonal, with equipment and machinery stored away after the harvest or used intermittently. If storage conditions are poor, you may find your farm operations held up by motors that have deteriorated unnoticed over weeks or months.
If possible, it is recommended to operate a motor regularly for a short time when it is not being used for farm work to keep the bearings and the rest of the motor in good condition.
Store spare motors in a clean, dry, and climate-controlled environment, free from moisture and dust. Vibration is especially important to avoid during motor storage; even small amounts of vibration can rattle the shaft and windings. Over long periods this can significantly damage the bearings and other motor components. Storage spaces should be far from other heavy machinery that will be operating in the meantime, and rotors on larger motors should be locked if possible.
When a motor is not being used, bearing maintenance is especially important to ensure that the motor is capable of peak performance once it is started up again. Remove belts from belt-driven motors to prevent the load from deforming stationary bearings over time. Pack bearings with grease and periodically rotate the shaft to distribute the lubrication and prevent pooling at the bottom of the bearing.
Taking A Motor Out Of Storage
When taking a farm duty motor out of storage, clean it and examine it for signs of corrosion and deterioration. Make sure the motor runs well, and monitor it for temperature, vibration, and noise issues. Check that all safety switches and guards are properly fitted before putting the motor back into operation.
Regular maintenance of your farm duty motor during normal operation and storage will prevent corrosion, wear, and heat from reducing its service life and impacting your farm and livelihood.
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