In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
Cool Stuff For Combines
Aug 16, 2009
Each fall I see more and more accessories and options bolted, welded or zip-tied to combines. Here's a list of cool stuff I've seen on combines:
-TV cameras and display screens. I initially thought this was technological overkill, until I drove a camera-equipped combine around our dealership and found out how handy it is to be able to see behind the machine when backing up or turning sharply in a tight space. A system with a display screen in the cab and a single camera mounted on the back sells for around $350. That's less than the insurance deductible for repairing sheet metal damage if you back the combine into a fence post or grain cart tractor. Some of our customers move the system from their combine to their planter or other large farm equipment to get year-round use out of their investment.
-Leaf blowers. I'm talking about those annoyingly loud, gas-powered blowers suburbanites use to clear leaves and lawn debris from their yards. Some of our customers keep a leaf blower on their combine and blow dust and debris off their machine as part of daily maintenance. Not only does that reduce the potential for fires, but the act of going around and blowing off the machine often helps identify cracked belts, failing bearings and other potential breakdowns before they occur.
-Bluetooth/wireless telephone headsets. Running a combine takes two hands (most of the time. See the next item for exceptions). A wireless headset, or even a corded headset plugged into a cell phone, allows you to keep both hands on steering wheel and control levers. It's almost a safety issue--I've seen scary things happen when a combine operator was scrabbling to find and answer his cell phone when driving a combine with a 35-foot small grain platform and only 2 or 3 feet of clearance between the end of the platform and the tires of the tractor pulling the grain cart.
-Autosteer. Whether harvesting small grain with a GPS-guided unit, or doing corn with a "feeler"-guided system, auto steer is the way to go. I know, I know--I'm from the old school, too, and used to think that it was a waste of money to pay so a machine could steer itself, but it only took a couple rounds behind the steering wheel of a auto-steer-equipped combine to change my mind. Auto steer allows the operator to concentrate on watching for rocks, adjusting crop flow, adjusting the machine---basically, making sure the machine is working at optimum performance. I've never had a customer who DIDN'T feel they got their money's worth out of an autosteer system.
-Dry-Erase Markers. All those things you write down in the notebook you keep in the armrest? All those yield, moisture and acreage numbers you scribble on the back of your hand with an ink pen? Write them on the glass of the right cab window with a Dry Erase Marker. I've got a customer that literally fills that window with cell phone numbers, test plot yields, machine settings and all the things he thinks about while combining. Everybody laughs when they get into his cab and see the window covered with numbers and notes, but....every year, more and more combines come into the shop with Dry Erase scribblings on the windows.
There are dozens of other gadgets and accessories that help make combining easier, more efficient or more comfortable. You've probably got something you added to your harvest equipment to make it easier to operate, more comfortable or more efficient---what's the extra gizmo that you
can't go to the field without?