Maintaining aerators

May 14, 2019 -  By
Man aerating (Photo: Exmark)

Time to train Making sure crew members are trained on aerators can help prevent accidental damage to the machine. (Photo: Exmark)

Spring and early fall are busy times for aerators. Proper maintenance is important to ensure aerators are ready during these short windows of time.

“For most lawn care operators (LCOs), aerators do not run every day — they sit stationary waiting for their season to start and quickly end,” says Brandon King, an engineer for Billy Goat Industries. “The season is very demanding. There’s little to no time for a machine to go down.”

Three experts discuss how to keep aerators in tiptop shape.

The engine

Jonathan Guarneri, product manager for Exmark, says preventive engine maintenance is especially important and suggests LCOs stay on top of oil and air filter changes. King adds that prompt service of spark plugs is crucial. Additionally, LCOs should check engine cooling fans and use compressed air to blow out debris.

“Remove any debris around the engine or drive system immediately, as its presence will increase component wear and may cause overheating of the engine,” Guarneri says.

King suggests adding a fuel stabilizer to the machine in the offseason.

Belts and chains

King says the belt and chain systems require appropriate tension to transmit power effectively without causing excessive wear due to heat generation. If an aerator is experiencing improper tension, belts will make screaming, squealing or chirping noises and look glossy or shiny when excessive heat is present, King says. Chains will make ratcheting or clicking noises and may have markings from contacting surfaces they should not have.

Guarneri says it’s worth the time to make sure chains are properly adjusted and lubed and recommends using a wax-based lube. He also says bearings should be greased regularly.

“An extra chain or belt in the toolbox on the truck saves a trip back to the shop in the middle of a job,” King adds.

Joints

Most aerators have joints near the tining group, around the wheels or on certain pivoting mechanisms. King says joints should be greased at least every other day when in production. If the joints are tapered or ball bearing, LCOs should be sure not to overgrease them, which can cause damage to the seal and allow contaminants into the bearing.

Tines and hardware

Spoon-type tines have the ability to get folded over if they strike a hard obstacle and can rip the ground if not replaced. The two halves of the spoon also can separate over time. Many spoon-type tines are held on with bolts and nuts, so King suggests checking for loose hardware.

“Aerator tines can bend, deform and simply wear out, much like a mower blade,” Guarneri says. “Since aerator performance depends on tines being able to cleanly pull and eject plugs, it’s important to replace any that are bent or excessively worn.”

Preventive care

Scott Kinkead, executive vice president of Turfco Manufacturing, stresses the importance of preventive daily and weekly maintenance and suggests LCOs implement checklists to ensure the tasks are completed. Turfco’s checklist also includes the required tools and space for the signature of the technician who performed the maintenance. Kinkead says LCOs also should be sure to properly train their technicians on how to operate and maintain aerators.

“Operators just aren’t using these machines as often,” he says. “Downtime is a killer during the aeration season. (Training) helps make sure LCOs are as productive and profitable as possible.”

About the Author:

Emily Schappacher is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.

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