Farm-fueled pickups

Buyers of new pickups this year have the option to purchase an alternative-fuel vehicle. General Motors announced this winter that its 2002 Chevrolet Silverado and S10 models and GMC Sonoma and Sierra models are available in the flexible fuel E85 option. Cost for the upgrade on a 1500 series Silverado pickup, for example, is $285. The E85 option may be ordered from any GM dealer.

E85 is a fuel mixture of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. Because ethanol has no sulfur and is derived from renewable sources, it is considered environmentally friendly. Many gas stations throughout the Midwest offer E85 fuel, including 60 stations in Minnesota, 14 in Illinois and nine in Iowa.

To learn more about the alternative-fuel vehicles, go to GM's Web site www.gmaltfuels.com.

Biodiesel gets nod from Deere

Operators of John Deere equipment should be confident about using biodiesel. Deere announced this winter that it supports the use of biodiesel in its equipment. “The quality of biodiesel as a fuel source has improved tremendously in recent years,” reports Ted Breidenbach, Deere's manager of worldwide engine engineering.

For best results, the company offers these recommendations:

  • Check with local fuel suppliers to be sure the biodiesel fuel meets the ASTM PS 121-99 or DIN 51606 fuel specifications.

  • Biodiesel by definition is biodegradable. Therefore, the higher the concentration of biodiesel in a fuel blend, the more susceptible the fuel is to degradation and water absorption.

  • Keep storage and vehicle tanks as full as possible to prevent moisture. Protect storage tanks from extreme temperatures. Avoid extended storage of biodiesel. Routinely monitor the fuel's water content.

Biodiesel may be used in older model tractors and engines.

Check definition of “soy diesel”

The terms “soy diesel” and “biodiesel” are sometimes confused and thus misinterpreted, according to Penn State University ag engineering professor Dennis Buffington. He reports that biodiesel is safe to use straight or blended with conventional diesel fuel in diesel engines. Made from vegetable, animal or spent cooking oil, biodiesel meets ASTM Fuel Grade Standards PS-121.

Interpretation problems arise in how the term “soy diesel” is used. In some parts of the country, “soy diesel” means biodiesel that is derived from soybean oil. Buffington says, in this case, the use of soy diesel, either straight or blended with diesel fuel is perfectly safe, because it meets the ASTM standards.

But in parts of the country where “soy diesel” refers to raw soybean oil that is blended with diesel fuel along with an additive, consumers should beware. This mixture does not meet ASTM standards, Buffington says. Engines will run a short time on the mixture, but damage may result. The professor suggests asking a certified fuel supplier about the fuel and also checking the operator's manual for each vehicle to determine its proper fuel.

Equipment tune-up tips

Spring is near, making it time to tidy up your farmstead. But before you fire up your outdoor power equipment for the first time this year, follow these six steps to extend your equipment's life:

  • Refer to your operator's manual for proper tune-up instructions for your specific equipment.

  • Change the spark plug if necessary.

  • Clean or replace the air filter.

  • Check safety devices to ensure they are attached and working.

  • Change the engine oil.

  • Fill the gas tank carefully to avoid spilling.

If you are not comfortable doing your own tune-ups, contact your nearest outdoor power equipment servicing dealer.

For a full checklist of tune-up information specific to different types of outdoor equipment, contact the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute Inc., Dept. FIN, 341 S. Patrick St., Old Town Alexandria, VA 22314, 703/549-7600, opei.mow.org or circle 185.

Pumped-up mid-size ATVs

After unveiling its largest ATV, the Prairie 650, last spring, Kawasaki turns to the mid-size ATV market with a new Prairie 360. This model uses much of the same technology found on the 650-cc model, but is geared to an ATV buyer needing less power. With a 362-cc engine displacement, the 360 model provides maneuverability with its lighter weight and more torque than the 300 model. An air-cooled, single-cylinder, 4-stroke engine powers the new ATV. Technology from the 650 also has trickled down to the automatic transmission and running gear. Kawasaki's engine braking system helps the ATV crawl over rocks or down steep grades. The ATV will be available this spring. Prices will be competitive with current 300-cc and 400-cc ATV models.

Kawasaki also has boosted the power of its most popular model, the Bayou 220, to create the Bayou 250. The new ATV is still designed for farming and outdoor recreation, but with more power. The five-speed, semiautomatic model features semi-independent rear suspension for a smooth ride. The Bayou 250 should be available this winter at Kawasaki dealers. Contact your local Kawasaki dealer, visit www.buykawasaki.com or circle 184.

Muffler adds torque to ATVs

Increase your ATV's pulling power with a new slip-on muffler from SuperTrapp Industries. A 4.5-in. stainless steel muffler, the IDSX delivers increased torque at the low end of the power band for added pulling power. It features the company's internal disc system that allows the exhaust to be tuned for greater power and sound. The muffler fits Honda TRX 400 and 450, the Honda Rubicon, the Yamaha 600 and 660 Grizzly, Suzuski 500 Quadmaster and Kawasaki Prairie 650. The company plans to make it available for other models and types. In production now, the mufflers will be available this spring and cost $250 to $300. Contact SuperTrapp Industries Inc., Dept. FIN, 4540 W. 160th St., Cleveland, OH 44135, 216/265-8400, www.supertrapp.com or circle 183.

Blowout warning

The new Accu-pressure safety caps will let you know at a glance if your vehicle's tires are properly inflated. The caps go over the tire valve stem and display green when the tire pressure is adequate, yellow if the tires are 4 lbs. underinflated, and red when they are 10 lbs. underinflated. A set of four caps costs $9.99. Contact Accu-Pressure Caps, Dept. FIN, 2200 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33306, 800/914-5003, www.accu-pressure.com or circle 182.

Smart sump pump

A new sump pump with self-diagnosing capabilities provides top security against flooding. The SmartPump prevents flooding in the event of power failure by operating off either home electrical power or a reserve battery, pumping more than 10,000 gal. of water on a single battery charge. If water rises faster than the pump can keep up with in normal mode, it will automatically kick in to turbo mode until the sump is back at a lower water level. Retail price: $994. Contact Wayne Water Systems, Dept. FIN, 100 Production Dr., Harrison, OH 45030, 888/299-2963, www.waynepumps.com or circle 181.