Things to check before the first day of harvest.
As you prep your combine for this year’s harvest:
-Find the owner’s manual. It’s not a sin if you forget various aspects of combine operation and adjustment from year to year; no one needs to know you had to look in the manual to remember how to do something. If the manual is so dog-eared and ragged it’s difficult to read, replacement manuals can be ordered through your local dealership. New manuals for older combines start at around $80; manuals for late model combines can cost hundreds of dollars. But that’s cheaper than a couple hours of a mechanic’s time fixing or adjusting something that’s in the manual and you could have done yourself.
-Update software. Modern combines can have more than 30 separate computers on board. Just like with smart phones, laptops and home computers, software updates improve performance and reduce “buggy” behavior. Contact your machine’s local dealership to determine what software is available for download.
-Update/configure GPS-related programming. Software related to auto-steer, yield monitors and other GPS-based systems requires separate attention. Licenses must be renewed. Calibrations and parameters must be updated or confirmed—especially if the display screen in the combine cab was used for planting or spraying earlier in the year. It’s necessary to meticulously switch every setting and value, from machine dimensions to type of crop and operation, so they are relevant to harvest operations.
-Check for free movement of all adjustable components, especially if they are adjusted from the cab. Clean out last year’s crop debris and make sure the chaffer, sieve, concave and cleaning fan actuators move freely through their full range of motion.
-Calibrate all components that are cab-adjustable. Once it’s confirmed that the chaffer, sieve, concave, etc. move fully and freely, follow calibration procedures in the owner’s manual for each system to ensure that those systems are “closed” when the display shows “0” and opened appropriately when “15,” “20” or other numbers show on the display.
-Check the stuff your grandpa never heard of. Modern combines have “accelerator beaters,” “discharge beaters,” “cob doors” and other components often overlooked when adjusting newer combines. Make certain those systems not only work, but be sure to alter their speed, position or setting to match whatever crop you’re harvesting.
-Calibrate the corn head or small grain platform’s automatic header height control system to the combine. Check to see if the header automatically raises, lowers, tilts and does all its other tricks to help it follow the ground’s surface. Combines are supposed to “remember” header calibrations from year to year, but it’s good insurance to recalibrate each unit to the combine before harvest.
-Once heads are calibrated to the combine, find a large, open grassy area and literally drive the machine around with separator and header running to make sure everything “floats” as designed.
-Check autosteer operation. If nothing else, take the machine out on the gravel road, set an “A-B” line, and see if the machine will follow that line.
-If you traded corn heads or small grain platforms since last year, experiment with loading those heads on your head trailer. Switching from a conventional platform to a draper-style head, or switching to a “chopping” corn head, may require major adjustments or complete replacement of head trailers.
-Check the condition of fire extinguishers. Make sure all powder-filled extinguishers have a full charge. Make sure water-filled fire extinguishers are filled with water and properly pressurized with air. (You DID drain those water-filled extinguishers before freezing weather last winter, didn’t you?)