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Tips to make sure your aerators operate at peak performance

September 27, 2022 -  By
Experts say simple preventative maintenance can help avoid many aerator operating hurdles. (Photo: SiteOne Landscape Supply)

Experts say simple preventative maintenance can help avoid many aerator operating hurdles. (Photo: SiteOne Landscape Supply)

To keep aerators running their best, experts suggest lawn care operators (LCOs) clean equipment before storage and practice basic preventive maintenance to make sure they are good to go in the fall. George Kinkead, president of Turfco; Vincent Ianne, senior category manager, SiteOne Landscape Supply; and Norm Kleber, corporate turf specialist with Balanced Environments of Old Mill Creek, Ill., share their best practices to keep aerators at their peak.

Kinkead says operators often put away machines with dirty tines, a mistake that can be the first domino in a negative chain of events. A few simple steps in the fall can make a big difference, he says.

“Inspect the tines to make sure they’re in good working order,” he says. “If they’re getting to the edge of needing to be replaced and you’re going to be running aeration for six weeks, more than one-and-a-half inches of wear is going to hurt. It helps to compare one new tine to one of the used tines.”

Kinkead adds that in certain parts of the country, cleaning aerators properly is critical as clogged tines impact aerator performance and could cause rusting.

“In Georgia, the turf can be really gummy, and the dirt won’t just fall out of the tines,” he says. “A tine is designed so the next core knocks the last core out. At the end of a job, there’s the potential for cores that haven’t fallen out of the tines.”

Fall maintenance tips

When bringing equipment out for fall aeration, experts encourage LCOs to use fresh fuel, inspect oil filters and spark plugs, check the engine gear reduction case found on most walk-behind models, lubricate control cables or chains and ensure weight drums are leak free.

“It’s good to take aerators apart in June to make sure they’re 100 percent for the fall,” says Kleber. “Then, in late August, they’re ready to go out the door from now until mid-October. If you don’t have a plan to get them ready, you’re already behind the eight ball.”

Balanced Environments, a Billy Goat aerator user, provides services including aeration, landscape maintenance and snow removal for a predominantly commercial customer base.

Aerator use comes with a broad array of common operator mistakes, many of which can stem from a lack of planning, Kleber says.

“A big (mistake) is not talking to the work site ahead of time and not marking irrigation heads,” he says. “They don’t mark or check to see if there’s low-voltage wiring. They don’t ask ahead of time if below-ground cable TV is there, especially in a HOA area. If it’s an aerator you can pull behind a tractor with a drum, if they drive too fast, it just rips the turf up.”

Staying ahead of supply chain delays

Ianne points out that pros should consider ongoing shipment delays when planning a fall aerator maintenance regimen. He advises setting up a buffer of at least one month to ensure the dealer or manufacturer has a turn-around time in place for aerator parts.

“If the next oil or filter changes are due in 20 hours, complete it during the preseason check to eliminate these tasks popping up during peak use,” Ianne says. “Based on experience, if you commonly wear out or damage tines or other parts, preorder and keep some on hand for urgent repairs. With the current supply chain situation impacting parts heavily, you may experience lack of dealer inventory.”

Further, Ianne recommends cleaning tines, topping off fluids and making other quick maintenance checks at the end of each workday to keep aerators ready for their next job.

“Ensure tines are always in transport position, up, during loading or unloading and traveling across road or sidewalks,” he says. “Be aware of rocks, underground sprinkler heads, valves, anchors, drains or electric fence wires that could cause property and aerator damage.”

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