No time is a good time for equipment breakdowns, but harvest is one of the worst times for this to happen, argues Dennis Bollig, Iowa farmer and Dragotec USA president.
A seeming paradox complicates the issue, he adds. Today’s combines are well-built, but they are also put through a lot of wear and tear. That puts pressure on operators to understand when maintenance and repairs should occur to avoid larger problems.
“Inspecting a combine often requires taking a guess on whether specific components are going to make it through the season or not,” Bollig says. “Is it 25% or 50% worn out? What are the chances of having to replace that part?”
Start by turning on the machine and have one person sit in the cab and another do a “multisensory walk-around,” Bollig suggests – it may be possible to see, hear or smell potential maintenance issues right away. In particular, pay attention to these four items before you send your combines rolling.
1. Electronics. A lot of the latest electronics and sensor technologies require a trained eye, Iowa State University Extension ag engineer Mark Hanna notes – but not all. At the least, check for chewed wires and other signs of rodent damage – especially for equipment that may have sat idle for the past 10 or 11 months.
For additional electronics maintenance, Hanna suggests a yearly inspection from your dealer.
“That doesn’t mean he has to do all the work, but you want to get a professional eye to look at it,” he says. “The same goes for diagnostics. It starts with taking it to an expert to hook it up to a computer and test those sensors and diagnostic electronics.”
2. Fluids. “Any liquid is important to check and replace if necessary,” Hanna says. “It’s important the coolant and radiator are cleaned up. If you’re going to get the best heat rejection out of that radiator system, you need to make sure it’s in good shape. It’s also especially important to make sure whatever fuel is in the engine is okay, particularly with biodiesel.”
Bollig adds that all gearboxes and bearings should be at their oil or grease capacity.
3. Chains and friction points. Anywhere there’s repeated friction, there’s a chance for wear and premature part failure, Bollig says.
“When a chain continues to run past its prime, it’s stretching quicker, and if somebody’s not maintaining the proper tension, chains are known to start to jump the teeth on the gear driving them,” he says. “That effect sends a shudder through the whole machine, and you can see it affecting bearings and anything in the vicinity gets the impact of that shudder.”
Wet conditions or tough stalks could accelerate these issues, Bollig adds.
4. Threshing and auger components. Hanna says even the smallest amount of damage in a concave section or rasp bar can considerably influence your harvest efficiency and even create potential yield loss.
“Down in the threshing and separation area, people will take a close look at their rotor and concave,” he says. “You’re looking for damage that may be relatively minor. Maybe you have a small rock or something go through, so you need to replace a concave section. Down in the cleaning shoe area, check the condition of the sieve. If something’s gotten dinged or banged up, it needs attention. You’re looking for general wear.”
For more harvest news and updates, visit www.agweb.com/crops/harvest-news-and-updates/.