There are a million things to do once crops are planted, but a rainy day spent doing preventive maintenance to your planter can save time and money next spring. Here’s a to-do checklist before you park your planter:
- Clean seed from all seed hoppers and seed meters. Use compressed air to remove seed treatment deposits that can attract moisture during storage.
- On finger-style seed meters, remove the plastic finger assembly cover and blow that area clean. Inspect for loose or damaged fingers. Check the finger backing plate for wear, then rotate the unit by hand to inspect all paddles on the rubber seed delivery belt.
- Relieve tension from down-pressure and closing wheel frame springs. Coil springs can lose tension if kept under constant pressure. With spring tension relieved, check for excess free play in mounting brackets and repair as needed.
- Inspect rotating components and soil contacting components for wear, including marker arm disks, row unit disk openers, gauge wheel tires and bearings, and closing wheels. Don’t overlook wear on the bead area of closing wheel rims—they can eventually "throw" their rubber tire.
- Check plastic seed firmer wands for wear and/or reduced elasticity. With the planter in planting position, lift each wand several inches and release it. It should smack down against the ground with authority. Wands with their lower edges worn to a "V" don’t do a good job of firming seeds into the bottom of the seed furrow.
- On vacuum planters, remove seed disks from seed meters to relieve pressure against rubber door seals during storage. Check seed disks for wear—grooves where seals rub against the disk. Replace disks grooved more than 1⁄16".
- When removing seed disks, mark and match them to their individual seed meter, especially if the meters have been calibrated on a seed meter test stand.
- On planters with air-controlled seed meter clutches, follow manufacturer’s instructions to remove fittings or screws and lubricate the clutch’s internal components with silicone spray lubricant. Do not use silicone lubricant on the air cylinder that activates each clutch—only use non-detergent hydraulic oil approved by the clutch manufacturer.
- If drive chains are shiny and not corroded, coat sideplates and rollers with aerosol chain lube. Turn drive tires and driveshafts to ensure every link and roller is lubed. If chains show minor corrosion, lube with WD-40, turn chains several revolutions, then relubricate with aerosol chain lube.
- After the planter is parked in the shed, but before unhooking the tractor, lower the planter onto its transport safety stops. If hydraulic cylinders or valves leak internally during storage, oil can get on the "wrong side" of cylinder rams or control valves, hydraulically locking the system and making it difficult to raise or lower the planter next spring. Removing pressure from the system reduces the chances of problems from internal leaks.
- Remove touch-screen or liquid crystal display screens for seed monitors, GPS guidance or rate controllers. Store them away from temperature extremes and high humidity.
- Before disconnecting hydraulic hoses, mark hoses so they can be properly reconnected next spring.
- Make notes in your owner’s manual, computer or smartphone of air pressure settings, vacuum settings, calibration values and guidance offsets for all systems on the planter, such as GPS, automatic row shutoffs and tractor hydraulic control valve settings. The first day of planting next spring will go smoother if you don’t have to guess at all the numbers you calibrated this year.
Be sure to visit Dan’s "In The Shop" blog at www.FarmJournal.com, where he’ll share more tips and insights. Send comments and story suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scrubbing action eventually wears the outer edge of planter closing wheel rims where the rims clamp on the rubber tire, allowing the tire to derail from the rim.
Use a straightedge to check seed disks for warpage or wear.