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.
In The Shop: When Colors Don't Match
Apr 10, 2011
It's safe to say most equipment dealership mechanics cringe at least a little when they have to hook a Brand X tractor to a piece of Brand Y equipment. Doesn't matter if it's tractor/planter, sprayer/spray controller, or combine/yield monitor. "Colors" will blend, but sometimes it takes considerable tweaking to get the color combination as you want it.
Tillage equipment is the easiest, especially if it's straightforward tillage without any automatic height/depth control systems on the tillage tool that have to be integrated with the tractor's hydraulic system. With sprayers and spray rate controllers, it's a matter of getting sensors, flowmeters and other gadgets plumbed into the correct places in the sprayer's "wet" system. Installing yield monitors and yield mapping systems in combines is complicated only by the time and effort it takes due to the number of components required (mass flow sensor, moisture meter, GPS receiver, display console, etc.) and the challenge of routing wiring harnesses correctly between all those components. (Props to the manufacturers of the major aftermarket yield monitor systems--they do a spectacular job of supplying easy-to-follow instructions and components that generally bolt easily into place on combines.)
Planters and tractors are probably the biggest challenges. It's already complicated connecting together a planter and tractor of the same color because of the complexities of modern electrical and hydraulic systems. A 24-row planter with vacuum seed delivery and a single big seed hopper has all sorts of hydraulic motor-return and motor case drain hydraulic hoses that have to be plugged into specific hydraulic ports that may require special couplers, separate lines to oil coolers and all sorts of complications. Add the complexities of matching up to four electrical harnesses between the cab and planter that may or may not need special adapter harnesses, and simply connecting the same brand of tractor to the same brand of planter can turn into a full-day's job the first time a planter is connected to a tractor. Subsequent connections each spring are straight-forward, because all the hoses and electrical connections are in-place and matched--it's just a matter of remembering which ones go where.
Which brings us back to the challenge of connecting for the first time a tractor of one color to a planter of another color. It can be done. It WILL be done. It just takes extra time, extra patience, a lot of time studying owner's manuals, at least several phone calls to the disparate equipment dealers, and a minimum of one trip to get special adapters to make Tractor X's electrics and hydraulics connect to Planter Y's electrics and hydraulics. In a way, it's a fun challenge and an opportunity to see how the "Other Guy" wires, plumbs and designs their equipment.
As long as the tractor/planter's owner isn't pacing in the background asking if he'll be able to plant after lunch.