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Sprayer Prep

April 30, 2011
By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal Columnist

One Day of Preparation Will Produce Days of Productivity

Machine-shed gremlins love to mess with self-propelled sprayers. Experts say a day of preventive maintenance and preparation before heading to the field can thwart gremlin damage and improve sprayer performance.

Self-propelled sprayers, like any machine coming out of storage, benefit from basic mechanical maintenance.

"We sometimes get complaints about machines lacking power when they come out of storage," says Craig Parr, ag service manager at Nebraska Machinery Company, an Ag-Chem dealer in Doniphan, Neb. "New fuel filters are often the cure."

Most modern self-propelled sprayers are hydraulically driven, making hydraulic/hydrostatic maintenance critical. Parr recommends following owner’s manual guidelines that may require annually changing hydraulic filters and final drive hub oil.

"Commercial applicators need to change hydraulic oil and filters annually," he says. "Farmers put fewer hours on a sprayer and may be able to just change the filters. Either way, be sure to use the recommended type of oil in the hydraulic system."

Once the engine and propulsion systems are field-ready, systematically check the spray system.

"The big thing to check, pre-season, is strainers," says Todd Brazelton, aftermarket manager at Barker Implement, a John Deere dealer in Winterset, Iowa. "Sometimes when farmers winterize a sprayer [before storage], they don’t get the spray system completely flushed out. Residue sits in the strainers, cakes up and then restricts flow when put to use the next year."

sprayer check



Residue can also affect flowmeter performance. If sprayers have trouble reaching target rates during pre-season testing, contamination in screens and flowmeters is a prime suspect.

Once screens and flowmeters are guaranteed clean, remove all spray tips, put at least 200 gal. of water in the tank and use the sprayer’s pump to flush the entire system. Open and close valves, jiggle boom hoses, raise and lower booms—anything to jostle loose residue that might have collected in low points in hoses and components.

Once the spray system is flushed, dead-head the spray pump to test its capacity. Turn off all boom sections so the spray pump is working against a "closed" system and push to full engine revolutions per minute.

"Dead-headed spray pumps should generate at least 80 to 100 psi," Brazelton says. "Dead-heading pumps at full pressure is also a good way to identify leaks in boom control valves, flow-meters and elsewhere in the system."

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Late Spring 2011
RELATED TOPICS: Machinery, Weed Warrior

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