Old Tractors at Gatzke Farmer's Market
Every year manufacturers hope this is the year a consumer will update and buy the newest model.
If you’re looking at updating your tractor, or any other specialized equipment that runs on diesel and puts out more than 40 HP, the next few years are going to bring big changes.
The story starts in California, which among other things is renowned for having the strictest controls on air pollution on the continent. California’s emission standards are set by CARB (California Air Resources Board) and it isn’t just strict – it sets the standard.
A few years ago the Canadian government announced that it would, over time, harmonize our emission standards with the California standards.
Since 2008 diesel engines have been Tier 3 compliant, but manufacturers will be selling Tier 4 as of January 2013. The government gave some flexibility in that every diesel engine sold does not have to be Tier 4 compliant until January 1, 2014, so Tier 3 engines already shipped or on sales room floors can still be sold, but new dealer orders will be for Tier 4 engines only.
As of 2014 non-Tier 4 sales won’t be allowed.
According to Ed Machial, owner of South Okanagan Equipment in Oliver, the changes are going to be profound. “Most guys don’t know what’s coming.”
Tier 4 aims to reduce diesel particulate from exhaust pipes. There are two methods currently used to do this. One uses DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid), which is urea. Urea is an inexpensive additive, but requires an extra tank for the additive to be mixed in with the fuel. This becomes a problem when the engine is in a small housing with no extra room, but isn’t a problem for large field tractors. New Holland is one company that has adapted this methodology for its engines.
The second option is known as DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter). The filter doesn’t take as much room, but requires the collected particulate to be burned, which only occurs when the engine is at high revs for a certain length of time.
If the engine is not operating at full load often enough, the user will need to run it at high revs periodically to get the engine to temperature.
The filter itself will also require occasional cleaning. In the case of Kubota tractors, says Adam Haney, senior marketing specialist for Kubota Canada, that will need to be done about every 3,000 hours of engine use.
Machial says these changes are going to require a change in how farmers work. “The biggest impact will be the maintenance; these engines will be a lot fussier about maintenance.”
He explains, “The guys are going to have to realize that they aren’t going to be able to fix it with a bit of wire and a crescent wrench.”
That is because, like cars, this fuel system is a precision delivery method and will largely be controlled by computer chips. Only computers will be able to diagnose the problem. Says Machial, “When these things stop in the field you won’t be able to start them again. They’ll have to get another machine to take them out until they can be looked at with the proper equipment.”
There will be long term consequences, says Machial. “Stuff will become obsolete sooner.”
Manufacturers and dealers are required to have parts for maintenance on equipment for a decade after it is sold, but as these new systems evolve (Tier 4 standards will get stricter every year until 2018 so a 2018 Tier 4 engine will put out less particulate than a 2013 Tier 4 engine), it could be difficult to get parts for a unit more than a decade old. The more specialized the equipment is the more likely this is to be true.
Anyone contemplating a 1970s style solution when many people disconnected the catalytic converters on their cars to cut fuel costs will be in for a shock. Machial says any tractor that has the diesel cleaning system disconnected will immediately become a very large and heavy lawn ornament. ■