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Keep an Eye on Your Fluids

Man checking oil on a Deere machine

John Deere skidders feature best-in-class axles that deliver exceptional reliability if properly maintained. Following these helpful tips will help ensure you get maximum uptime out of your axles and machine.

 

Use the right fluid

Sounds like common sense. But a surprising number of skidder owners use the wrong fluids, such as AW46 hydraulic fluid – one of the easiest ways to destroy an axle. AW46 won't give you the protection against extreme pressure and metal-to-metal contact required for proper gear operation. All Deere skidders – except our largest machine, the 848H – require John Deere Hy-Gard Hydraulic and Transmission Oil for their axles. This J20C-specification, low-density hydraulic fluid is designed to provide the best performance and wear protection for Deere hydraulic and transmission systems, including those with wet brakes and clutches. The 848H uses GL5-class gear oil.

 

Don't leave your skidder dead in the water

Most of our skidders have differential locks, which allow them to work in very swampy conditions with minimal maintenance. But if you use a skidder in wet areas, there's always a chance you'll get water in the axles over time, so it's important to check for water content. Gear oils and axle lubricants like Hy-Gard do not tolerate water at all, and if contaminated offer no protection. Muddy water contains a lot of silicon and aluminum, two contaminants that can damage bearings. If they are detected, the system needs to be flushed and filled with fresh oil.

 

Safety in numbers

Hauling large loads at high speeds can cause high temperatures, which impacts the fluid life. Therefore, you need to measure oxidation or, if not available, the acid number of the fluids. The acid number should never exceed 5 for hydraulic oils or 3 for gear oils. A high acid number means very acidic concentration, which can cause corrosion. If these limits are exceeded, the oil should be replaced immediately.

 

The lowdown on low viscosity

If you work in extremely low temperatures, use low-viscosity Hy-Gard 32 to lubricate brakes and gears.

 

Other considerations for axle health

Chains give you better traction but can increase the load and therefore fluid temperature. Proper tire pressure – not too low, not too extreme – prolongs tire life and protects them from punctures, while keeping the front and rear axles in sync so they don’t work against each other. Finally, if you are configuring a dual-tire setup, use heavy-duty axles designed to handle it.