Vegetation managers and their contract partners spend countless hours preparing for each treatment season. From resource management and strategic assessments to product selections and planned treatment cycles, this work sets the stage for a successful year. However, failing to adequately prepare spraying equipment for spring applications can present a variety of issues that quickly derail your plans for the months to come.
Taking the time to prepare application equipment for spring startup helps extend the life of your sprayers and mitigates the risk of operational issues that hinder productivity and program efficacy. In addition to preparing your spraying equipment for the year to come, completing the following steps can de-winterize your equipment to improve reliability, quality and safety for your vegetation management program:
- Reconnect and check batteries
Your equipment won’t start if the battery isn’t connected. But before reconnecting, check for corrosion at the connection points. You can use an approved battery cleaning spray to neutralize corrosion and remove it. Then, once you’ve used an approved battery cleaning spray to neutralize and scrub the corrosion away, rinse the battery and let it dry before reconnecting. If the corrosion is severe, it may be time for a replacement.
- Inspect belts and booms
When inspecting your equipment’s belts, look for cracks, missing fragments or signs of glazing. If you notice that the belt is starting to fray or crack, replace it immediately. The same goes for any booms displaying wear and tear. Taking additional time to properly calibrate booms prior to first use can ensure proper application rates, minimize spray drift and improve herbicide performance.
- Remove rodent bait stations
Placing rodent bait stations inside of your equipment can prevent critters from damaging internal components throughout the winter. However, these stations are not compatible with equipment operation. Be sure to remove them all before your initial spring startup.
- Check tire pressure as well as oil and coolant levels
Before checking tire pressure, refer to the owner’s manual to confirm the proper PSI. Thereafter, remove each tire’s air valve cap and apply an air pressure gauge for the PSI reading. Add or release air as necessary.
Coolant keeps your engine from overheating, and oil helps ensure it operates smoothly. After allowing the engine to run for 10 to 15 minutes, stop the engine and check the coolant and oil levels to ensure they align with owner’s manual specifications. Then smear a bit of oil from the dipstick between your fingers. If it feels gritty, there may be a larger issue at hand — take your equipment in to a service center for an engine inspection.
- Replace electronic equipment (if necessary)
Electronic equipment featured on herbicide application equipment will vary from one sprayer to the next. A variety of sensors can enhance everything from application rates to canopy detection, so ensuring the proper operation of these components is essential. Be sure to test their functionality well before your first application of the year and replace any components that fail to operate properly.
- Remove antifreeze from the spraying system
The final step in de-winterizing your spraying equipment is to fill the sprayer with enough clean water to run the pump for 10 to 15 minutes. This process will flush out any antifreeze added before winter storage. As the pump runs, check for leaks on nozzle bodies, plastic fittings, hoses, clamps or tanks. Make note of leak points and replace parts as needed.
While many antifreeze products are nontoxic, water used to flush the system out of a spray tank may contain residue from previously used chemistries. To avoid contaminating water sources near your maintenance site, collect and dispose as much of the flushed solution as possible. You can take it to a local service station or recycling center for safe disposal.
Each sprayer you own or manage should come with an owner’s manual. Be sure to check this resource for nuances specific to each piece of equipment. Recording technical details in a maintenance journal can ensure you’re prepared to reorder parts when necessary — be sure to keep separate journals for each sprayer you use or maintain. Lastly, prepare a maintenance schedule. Knowing when to replace, fix or replace different components can keep you one step ahead of maintenance requirements that arise in the future.
Maintaining Backpack Sprayers
If your vegetation management program includes selective herbicide applications, there’s a good chance you or your licensed applicators use a backpack sprayer. While this equipment may not be engine-powered, how you maintain it can have a significant impact on the sprayer’s life and performance.
It’s not uncommon for debris and/or chemicals to build up in the tank, pump, hoses or tips over time. To ensure your sprayer is application-ready, complete these three easy maintenance tasks:
- Clean all tips with a soft-bristled brush and mild dish soap. Any tips that are too worn for use should be replaced.
- Check the filter and clean it if necessary (you should also do this before each use).
- Clean out the tank and flush the sprayer with clean water before applying your first treatments of the year.
Don’t get stuck in the garage when you should be out on the land you manage. Properly maintaining your sprayer equipment today can help prevent breakdowns or critical replacement needs. The safe and effective use of herbicide applications could make this year the best one yet for your vegetation management program. However, the level of care provided to your equipment can determine whether or not things start out on the right foot.
For more information regarding product use, industry-leading strategies and application best practices, visit VegetationMgmt.com.