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.
More Oil, More Juice
May 12, 2010
Bigger planters and sprayers are hydraulic and electrical hogs. Each spring, we get calls from farmers with planters and sprayers that perform intermittently or have some functions that won't perform at all. Diagnosis reveals the problem is inadequate hydraulic or electrical capacity.
An example: A customer called complaining the wings were drooping on his new 16-row vacuum-type planter with hydraulically driven variable-rate drive. His description of the problem over the phone made no sense, but once I got to his farm and saw the planter hooked to a 30-year-old tractor, the problem was evident -- not enough hydraulic capacity. The tractor didn't have a big enough hydraulic pump to power the orbital motors, the vacuum fans, the variable-rate drive motors and still have enough oil volume and pressure to fully raise and lower the planter.
I ran into a similar scenario when a customer with an older self-propelled sprayer installed an automatic boom leveling system on his sprayer. Long story short, we eventually determined the constant hydraulic adjustment of boom height by the automatic boom leveling system overloaded the machine's hydraulic system.
Electrical systems on modern equipment are also running at full capacity. Older tractors pulling 16- or 24-row planters at night -- with all the lights on, the radio on, the cab fan on -- may not have the electrical "oomph" to also power any electrical clutches to shut off the planter units on the wings when planting on point rows. This is especially true if customers add electrically powered row shutoff systems that turn on or off multiple rows at a time. When they pull onto end rows and all 16 or 24 rows "fire" at one time, it puts a tremendous load on the tractor's electrical system.
Bottom line: More than ever, farm equipment must be viewed as a "system," from the front of the tractor to the back of the planter, sprayer or other implement. The hydraulic and electrical capacity of tractors and self-propelled units must be matched to the implements they pull. Most dealership salesmen have grown wise to the importance of matching equipment, but if a farmer buys equipment over the Internet, through classified ads or at a farm sale, the burden is on the buyer to make certain his machinery has enough oil and juice to do the job.