“Knowing how to change your vehicles’ oil can help you save money especially if you have multiple vehicles to service throughout the year.” -Greg McAfee

Many fleet owners can save time and money by performing routine maintenance on vehicles themselves. Whether you’re working on a personal truck or a fleet vehicle, changing oil is a common task that can be completed in your own shop.

If you are unfamiliar with the mechanics of changing a vehicle’s oil, the best way to learn is from another person, so find someone who can help you out the first time. Otherwise, there are a variety of resources online. For example a step-by-step guide on edmunds.com can help you learn the basics of this relatively simple process.

After familiarizing yourself with how to perform an oil change, use the following list of tips and tricks to make the most of this money-saving endeavor.

• Choose the oil that is right for your vehicle. Check the owner’s manual for advice on which oil is recommended for a particular engine. Consider using a Maxtron® synthetic oil to keep your engine running its best. See my blog post, The Synthetic Oil Advantage, for more details.

• Record the mileage and date you change the oil to help determine when the next oil change will be needed.

• Use precaution when jacking up your vehicle. Park on level ground, use jack stands, and securely chock the wheels to keep the vehicle from rolling and/or crushing you. If you’ve never jacked up your vehicle to work beneath it, consult the owner’s manual, the Internet or a professional mechanic for advice first.

• Top off vehicle fluids when you perform an oil change. Check the engine coolant, transmission and brake fluids, as well as the windshield washer and power steering fluid levels.

• Be cautious to add the correct amount of oil when filling the crankcase. Under filling the oil sump could lead to engine failure due to lubricant starvation and overfilling can result in mechanical agitation of the oil, creating a froth that is debilitating to the engine and costly to repair.

• Properly dispose of used oil and other leftover materials such as engine coolant, brake or transmission fluid, and dirty rags with engine oil residue at a local recycling center that accepts this form of waste. Never dump used materials in the trash, sewer, street, gutter or on the ground.

Knowing how to change your vehicles’ oil can help you save money especially if you have multiple vehicles to service throughout the year. You will also become better acquainted with the quirks of each vehicle in your fleet. Check the Cenex lubricants page for more information on all things lubricant, including gear oils, transmission fluids and, of course, engine oils.

- Greg McAfee, CHS Director of Marketing, Lubricants

 

“When possible, prepare burgers and brats ahead of time and just heat them up on the grill.” -Bryan Lewis

Football season has officially arrived, and with it comes the American tradition of gathering in parking lots to fire up the grill, barbecue foods and throw around the old pigskin. That’s right, it’s time for tailgating.

As you’re claiming your turf and getting ready for kickoff, remember to play it safe – especially when it comes to the grill. Accidents do happen, so be ready with this quick refresher and don’t let a careless mistake ruin your pre-game fun.

Use insulated coolers and plenty of ice to keep food cold. Cold foods should be kept at temperatures below 40°F for safe consumption. Fill extra cooler space with reusable ice packs for optimum cooling.

Fill up with propane before you leave. Make sure you’re ready to grill by filling up your propane cylinder. Use caution, and secure propane cylinders in the upright position when transporting them. See more propane tips on cenex.com.

Take your time when lighting the grill. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for operating the grill and routinely check the propane hose for leaks. See the grill safety blog post I wrote last summer for more details.

Thoroughly cook all meat. When possible, prepare burgers and brats ahead of time and just heat them up on the grill. This will reduce the risk of spreading unwanted bacteria and help ensure that meats are cooked all the way through.

Protect your food. Use lids and covers to protect food from insects and other pests, and don’t let food sit out too long after it’s been served.

Watch where you throw the pigskin. There are sure to be other groups gathered for tailgating; be courteous and look before you throw the ball. Also, be cautious of how close you get to the grill when you’re playing. Children should remain at least three feet from the grill at all times.

So take it from me and plan ahead for safe, fun tailgating this fall. It’s time to settle into the season, break out your favorite jersey and celebrate good times with family and friends.

-Bryan Lewis, Manger of Propane Risk Management at CHS

“Make sure all machinery headlights and taillights are clean and bright for night driving” -Neil Hoff

With harvest kicking off, more farmers will be driving machinery on the roads and using equipment they may not have needed since spring or last fall. Since 1944, the third week in September has been recognized as National Farm Safety and Health Week and has been proclaimed as such by each sitting U.S. President since Franklin D. Roosevelt. This year, National Farm Safety and Health Week is September 16–22.

Use this basic farm safety checklist as a starting point for ensuring your operation runs efficiently and safely, now and throughout harvest.

Keep your workshop stocked and tidy

• Properly store and label all chemicals and fertilizers.

• Buy lubricants and fuel in bulk to be prepared throughout harvest.

• Store flammable substances in a safe area.

Prepare for emergencies

• Confirm that fire extinguishers and other fire safety equipment are operational and easy to locate.

• Post emergency numbers clearly next to phones.

Be seen after dark

• Make sure all machinery headlights and taillights are clean and bright for night driving.

• Equip all tractors and slow-moving vehicles with an SMV emblem.

Light the way

• Properly light outdoor areas to ensure safety and security on the farm.

• Keep indoor work spaces well lit to avoid injury.

Tie down cargo

• Make sure every load is properly attached to avoid losing cargo and avoid accidents or injuries.

Farming is among the most dangerous professions in the world. While farmers are extremely cautious as a rule, accidents still happen. This harvest season, slow down and make sure everyone working on your operation is properly trained and prepared to handle emergencies.

-Neil Hoff, CHS Manager of Product Marketing for Refined Fuels

“It may be tempting to jump into harvest full steam ahead, but remember to take a moment and refresh your knowledge of equipment hazards and other operational dangers.” -Jim Rossbach

An early start to the growing season has some fields ready for harvest four to five weeks ahead of schedule. So believe it or not, it’s time to start getting your equipment ready for the quickly approaching fall harvest.

Because fall is a busy time for everyone, each piece of machinery must function efficiently in order to keep harvest on track. As you begin planning your fall harvest, keep the following checklist in mind.

Adjust moving parts. With heavy drought conditions throughout much of the U.S., crops such as corn are likely to be drier or more rubbery and smaller than usual. You may need to adjust combine parts such as corn head deck plates to reflect the smaller ears and stalks and check that stripper bars on corn heads are appropriately adjusted for ear size. You should also calibrate reel speed and position for soybeans.

Check components. To keep your harvest running smoothly, be sure all threshing components, such as rasp bars, concaves and threshing lobes, are in good functioning order and are properly spaced before beginning. Keep cutterbar sections sharp and aligned with guards.

Remember the tires. Tires experience added stress during harvest due to heavy loads, fluctuating driving conditions and extended use. Check your tires before harvest and determine if they need to be replaced now when a lost day is not critical.

Keep machines in top condition. Follow a regular maintenance schedule for your combines and tractors. Inspect belts closely and replace them when they are worn. Check fuel, air and oil filters regularly and replace as necessary. Refer to the owner’s manual to ensure fluids such as oil and coolant are properly maintained. Lubricate machinery, change the oil as needed, and replace all shields and guards after equipment maintenance. Cenex offers a great line of lubricants and greases to keep your machines running smoothly throughout harvest.

Brush up on safety. An average of 700 deaths can be attributed to farm work injuries each year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. It may be tempting to jump into harvest full steam ahead, but remember to take a moment and refresh your knowledge of equipment hazards and other operational dangers. For instance, now is the best time to add a fire extinguisher to all equipment, tractors, trucks and trailers that you will be operating during the high fire risk fall harvest season.

Harvesting takes planning. Keeping in mind all the unpredictable circumstances and weather you can’t control, taking care of your machinery now is the best way to keep it running its best all season long.

- Jim Rossbach, CHS Director of Technical Services and Quality.

Over 1,500 community members attended the first ever Tanks of Thanks Community Celebration, which offered free food, music and activities for all ages.

Throughout the year, the Tanks of Thanks program has been giving free fuel to people who do good deeds for their community. But it’s not only Cenex customers who are going above and beyond to help out their neighbors, family, friends and complete strangers. Cenex retailers are active in their communities and keep their customers at the heart of everything they do.

That’s why CHS and the Cenex brand decided to host a Tanks of Thanks Community Celebration – to recognize retailers that do their part to make their community just a little bit better.

For the past year, CHS sales representatives have been nominating Cenex retailers and dealers from across the country for making selfless contributions to their communities. We reviewed numerous inspiring nominations, but there was one story in particular that stuck out.

This fall will be the fourth consecutive year that the Cenex Ampride in Mission, S.D.—owned by Country Pride Cooperative—will host a community dinner event, serving hundreds of holiday meals to customers and residents in the surrounding area. The entire Cenex Ampride staff and senior management at Country Pride Cooperative are involved with preparing and serving the meals.

The Cenex Ampride in Mission truly embodies the spirit of the Tanks of Thanks program, and that is why last week we celebrated with the Cenex Ampride staff, Country Pride cooperative leadership and the city of Mission, S.D.

Over 1,500 community members attended the first ever Tanks of Thanks Community Celebration, which offered free food, music and activities for all ages. Attendees could cool off with waterslides and snow cones or take photos with their friends and family in the free photo booth. People also participated in the raffle to win Cenex water bottles, backpacks, t-shirts and even $50 Tanks of Thanks gift cards.

Thank you to Country Pride Cooperative, Cenex Ampride and the city of Mission for welcoming us into your community. To see pictures from the event, view our event album on the Cenex Facebook page.

“Combines will be moving in the fields much earlier this year. Consider using an automated fuel delivery system to make sure you don’t waste any time on a fuel run that could be spent out in the field.” -Neil Hoff

Warmer spring weather gave many farmers an early start to the growing season, which means combines will be moving in the fields much earlier this year. Some people already have seen growers harvesting corn fields in southern Missouri.

In order to make sure you don’t waste any time on a fuel run that could be spent out in the field, you should consider using an automated fuel delivery system. This will give you one less thing to worry about because you will always have enough fuel on hand to run your equipment during the busy harvest season.

How does it work?

A fuel sensor and monitoring system will be installed in your current bulk fuel tank. Then you determine a level that you don’t want your fuel to drop below. When it reaches this level, the monitor will notify your fuel distribution center and a truck will be dispatched to refill your tank. This will all happen without you having to give it a passing thought. However, if you are curious about how much fuel you have consumed, you can monitor your fuel use and delivery on a secure website that has been set up exclusively for you.

What products can be delivered?

You can set up automated fuel delivery for your business, farm or home. Cenex will deliver the following products:

• Ruby Fieldmaster® Premium Diesel

• Roadmaster XL® Premium Diesel

• Cenex Bio Diesels

• Cenex Gasolines (unleaded)

• #1 and #2 Seasonal Diesel Fuels

• Home Heating Fuel

To find out if this program is available in your area, you can contact us at lmsupport@chsinc.com or talk to your local Cenex® distributor.

-Neil Hoff, CHS Manager of Product Marketing for Refined Fuels

“With time at a premium, you don’t want to interrupt harvest by waiting on a propane run, especially when demand is high in the fall.” -Bryan Lewis

It seems summer has just started, but it’s already time to begin thinking about your propane needs for fall and winter. Whether you use propane to dry crops or to heat your home and farm buildings, summer is the perfect time to lock in a propane price for the cold weather to come.

Propane for Growers

If you are a crop producer and are unsure whether or not it’s too early to think about propane for your crop dryers, take a walk through your fields and assess crop maturity. You may decide crops are ahead of schedule. Most areas of the country had an early planting season this year, which means harvest is also likely to be early, speeding up the need for propane.

Although our weather has been so unpredictable and it has been a dry season so far, it’s possible we could see precipitation before or during harvest. Secure some of your energy costs by making sure your propane tanks are full when harvest starts. With time at a premium, you don’t want to interrupt harvest by waiting on a propane run, especially when demand is high in the fall.

Also, since you’ll have a technician fill your propane tank, late summer is a great time to have this person do a safety check on all your equipment. Locate fire extinguishers and other safety equipment and make sure they are operational before harvest season begins. If you’ll be on the road, check your equipment for functioning brake lights and turning signals. And have all personal safety equipment in repair and ready to go.

Propane for Consumers

If you use propane to heat your home or fireplace, you may not think about it until a chill is in the air. But what you may not realize is that summer is a great time to pre-buy propane.

Many people shy away from propane purchasing contracts because they prefer to buy propane as they need it in case the price drops. However, energy analysts are predicting propane costs nearing a five-year low, so this may be the year to buy propane in bulk.

Talk to your local Cenex® dealer to find out about many available programs that will help you make sure you have affordable propane on hand for whatever this winter has in store.

-Bryan Lewis, CHS propane risk management manager

 

“Every year since 1964, a new Princess Kay of the Milky Way is selected to promote Minnesota’s dairy industry. At the Minnesota State Fair, Princess Kay and the other finalists have their likeness carved out of a 90-pound block of butter.” -Andy Ernst

As we enter the second half of summer, many states are gearing up for their state fairs. From livestock exhibits and competitions to entertainment and unusual foods, there is always something to keep the family busy.

These statewide get-togethers are deeply rooted in agriculture. Today, many of them have grown into celebrations encompassing every walk of life, offering something for everyone.

Here are 10 fun facts to get you ready for the upcoming fair in your state.

• Both the Texas State Fair and the Minnesota State Fair claim to have invented the first corn dog. While we may never know the true inventor, this iconic fair food was first created sometime between 1938 and 1942.

• Established in 1849, the Michigan State Fair is the nation’s oldest official state fair.

• Life-size butter sculptures of cows have been found at the Iowa State Fair since 1911.

• Speaking of butter, every year at the Minnesota State Fair, a new Princess Kay of the Milky Way is selected to promote Minnesota’s dairy industry. Since 1964, Princess Kay and the other finalists have had their likeness carved out of a 90-pound block of butter.

• The Montana State Fair is famous for its five-night Big Sky ProRodeo Roundup. Each night has a theme and features all seven major rodeo events.

• In July of 1942, the Washington State Fair was cancelled because of World War II. Within three days of “Victory in Japan” (V-J Day), plans for a 1946 state fair began.

• From 1885 to 1904 the South Dakota State Fair floated between five of the largest towns in the state before permanently settling in Huron, S.D.

• North Dakota held four separate state fairs in the 30 years prior to 1966. Realizing they needed one central location, state legislators chose Minot, the most successful of the four, to be the offical home for the North Dakota State Fair.

• “Big Tex,” the symbol of the Texas State Fair, is a 52-foot-tall statue with a hinged jaw that “speaks,” providing fair announcements.

• If you have a taste for the unusual, the California State Fair offers python kebabs to fair-goers with a daring palate.

Whether it’s your first or 50th trip to the state fair, there’s always something new to see. Be sure to stop at your local Cenex station to fill up on your way there.

– Andy Ernst, Payment Solutions Consultant

“Synthetic engine oil is formulated to withstand extreme heat, plus it works efficiently at both low and high temperatures and tends to flow easier at engine start-up.” -Greg McAfee

The right oil is the lifeblood of a high-performance engine. It is essential for keeping a vehicle’s engine clean and corrosion-free. A well-chosen oil reduces friction and keeps the engine running at its best.

Traditional engine oil works well and is a cost effective way to keep your vehicle running smoothly. But newer options, including synthetic engine oil and synthetic blends, offer benefits for engines powering everything from garden tractors and personal vehicles to heavy-duty equipment and fleet vehicles.

When choosing an engine oil, consider the following points.

Reduce sludge. Synthetic motor oil is more resilient than conventional motor oil and changes viscosity more slowly. It doesn’t contain the naturally occurring chemicals present in conventional motor oils that oxidize over time, creating sludge.

Run easier. Synthetic engine oil is formulated to withstand extreme heat, plus it works efficiently at both low and high temperatures and tends to flow easier at engine start-up. Conventional oil moves more slowly in cold temperatures and breaks down faster in hot temperatures, requiring more frequent oil changes.

Reduce oil changes. Synthetic oil can increase engine life, plus vehicles using synthetic oil generally need oil changes less frequently than engines using conventional oil.

If you regularly haul heavy loads, drive in extreme temperatures or just want to extend the life of the engines in your fleet, then a synthetic or a synthetic blend of oil may be the best option.

Cenex offers several synthetic engine oil blends and full synthetic engine oils that are specifically formulated to properly lubricate, protect and extend the life of a wide variety of engine types.

- Greg McAfee, CHS director of marketing, lubricants

“Fourth of July celebrations are typically marked by parades, water sports, good food, the company of family and friends, and, of course, fireworks.” -Bryan Lewis

Fourth of July celebrations are typically marked by parades, water sports, good food, the company of family and friends, and, of course, fireworks. Whatever your favorite tradition, make sure you are able to enjoy this Independence Day by following some simple safety tips.

Heat Safety

Many people will celebrate the upcoming holiday outdoors. Whether having a picnic or barbeque or playing yard games, it’s easy to ignore the signs that somebody might be suffering from heat-related illnesses such as sunburn, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

If you plan to spend time in the sun, make sure you have applied a good sunblock that blocks both UVA and UVB light. Also, take breaks in the shade or wear a hat to protect vulnerable areas such as ears, lips, scalp and eyes. And drink plenty of water. It’s important to keep your body hydrated, to prevent heat exhaustion, especially if you are drinking alcohol.

Water Safety

A day on the water is another popular way to celebrate Independence Day, but if you aren’t careful, a fun day can quickly turn dangerous. In 2011, there were more than 4,500 accidents, more than 750 deaths and over 3,000 injuries on U.S. waters. According to the United States Coast Guard, alcohol was the leading contributor in these fatal boating accidents last year.

In order to make sure this statistic doesn’t become your reality, make sure you have a designated driver if you plan to drink this holiday. Even if not operating the boat, your impaired judgment from drinking can put you at risk. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 46 percent of boating fatalities occurred when the boat was docked, anchored or drifting. You’ve heard it your whole life, but wearing a life jacket could save you. Of those people who drowned last year, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

Fireworks Safety

It’s always best to leave fireworks to the professionals, but many Americans are committed to shooting off their own fireworks, which led to an estimate 8,600 hospital visits in 2010. But, it’s not just your health that you are putting at risk when you set off your own firework show. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2010, fireworks accounted for 15,500 fires to structures, vehicles and land, and $36 million in property damage. Here are some things to consider before you start your backyard firework show this Fourth of July.

  • Do not let children play or light fireworks. The risk of injury is double for children ages 5 to 14.
  • Set off fireworks on a hard, level surface in an open area.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, and stand clear of them as they go off.
  • If a firework is a “dud,” do not try to relight it. Let it sit in water for 20 minutes.
  • Saturate used fireworks with water from a bucket or hose before discarding them.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the importance of good food for a successful Fourth of July. Before you start your backyard barbeque read this Cenexperts blog post on grilling safety that I wrote earlier this summer. And for any last minute snacks, sunscreen, water or other Fourth of July essentials, use our location finder to find your nearest Cenex branded retail location. Have a safe and fun Independence day.

-Bryan Lewis, CHS propane risk management manager