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Self-Propelled Analysis

March 24, 2012
By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal Columnist
pC6 Self Propelled Analysis 1
From the door and window seals to the high-tech options, Pat, left, and Dustin Ritter of Granger, Iowa, spent the winter months inspecting used sprayers on the market.  

Define what you need, then know what to look for

Iowa farmers Dustin Ritter and his father, Pat, faced a decision this past winter: buy another tractor or replace their pull-type sprayer with a self-propelled sprayer.

"We always seem to end up needing to spray corn when we’re still planting beans, and our planter tractor was also the sprayer tractor," Dustin says. "We decided we had enough acres and did enough custom spraying to justify a self-propelled sprayer rather than buy another tractor that we really didn’t need except in the spring."

After using the Internet to research, the Ritters devised a list of must-have options, such as auto-steer and automatic boom height control, and settled on a price range.

"There are different levels of self-propelled sprayers, designed for different parts of the market," says Jason Pavlu, a salesman with Simpson Farm Enterprises in Ransom, Kan. "The key is to match the capabilities and price range to your needs."

Establishing concrete goals helps buyers stay focused in the often confusing used sprayer market. Options range from tricycle-type sprayers with 300-gal. tanks and 60' booms to mega-sprayers that tote 1,200 gal. per load, with booms that span 120'.

Visual and technical check. The visual appearance of used sprayers should carry a lot of weight, agree Pavlu and the Ritters.

"The hour meter doesn’t tell the story on sprayers like it does on tractors," Pavlu says. "Sprayers tend to have relatively low engine hours. It’s how the sprayer was operated during those hours that makes a difference. Sprayers run at higher groundspeeds, so they bounce around more. The booms are wide and get bent on trees and fence posts, and chemicals get spilled and damage the paint and start corrosion. Booms and overall condition concern me more than engine hours," he adds.

When shopping, the Ritters learned to look for damaged booms, rough paint and other indications of hard use and little attention to maintenance.

"We got to the point where we’d walk up to a sprayer, look at the booms and know if it was worth checking closer," Pat says. "I can accept the breakaways on the ends of the boom being a little bent and welded, but welds and patches on the main booms usually meant the rest of the

machine was rough, too. If the booms looked good, I’d keep looking around at the mechanical parts of the sprayer while Dustin jumped in the cab and checked out the high-tech stuff."

The younger Ritter says the control consoles in the cab offer insights into the condition of the technology components.

"I’d look at the diagnostics pages to see if there were any warning codes, look at the total acres sprayed and see how the systems were set up," Dustin says. "We knew we wanted auto-steer, swath control, automatic boom height control and other specific options, so I’d check to see if those were inte-grated into the machine or if they were add-ons. I think integrated systems work more smoothly than add-ons, and they definitely reduce the amount of clutter from harnesses and consoles in the cab."

Nitty-gritty inspection. If the initial visual and technical inspection of a sprayer is promising, the Ritters say, it’s time to "get picky." The challenge is to know what to look for and where to look for it.

The key points to inspect on a RoGator differ from the key points on a SpraCoupe, which differ from the key points on a Hagie. But there are generic areas involving all used self-propelled sprayers that deserve specific attention:

  • Inspect all aspects of mechani-cal/chain drives on nonhydrostatic machines. Excess free play in drivetrain couplers, U-joints and drive chains merits closer analysis.
  • Pull the drain plugs on all final drive hubs. Rank-smelling, discolored gear oil justifies further investigation, perhaps with a flexible magnet to see how much metallic contamination is in the bottom of the gearcase.
  • Many driveshafts, from engines to differentials and hydrostatic drive units, are buried beneath cabs or spray tanks, making them difficult to grease. They’re even more difficult to replace if a "dry" U-joint fails.
  • Check the inside of wheel rims for oil from leaky wheel motors or hose fittings on hydrostatically driven machines. Shine a flashlight underneath spray tanks, cabs and mainframes to identify hydraulic leaks.

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    FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Early Spring 2012
    RELATED TOPICS: Machinery, How To, Sprayers



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