Before You Park It

October 3, 2008 07:00 PM

By the time harvest is complete, farmers are sick and tired of being around combines. But a few hours spent prepping equip- ment prior to storage minimizes time and expense when harvest rolls around again next year.

First, empty the stone trap and clean out all elevator boots and auger sumps. Then, use a long-reach high-pressure air nozzle to blow crop residues off the entire machine. Crop residue anywhere on the machine attract vermin—not only wire-gnawing rodents but also raccoons and other mega-feces-depositing critters. Rat poison and mothballs are effective, but if there is no grain or residue left in or on the machine then there is no attraction for the wildlife in the first place.

Even if critters aren't a concern, remove crop residues to reduce damage to paint and metalwork. As water leaches through crop debris, decomposition creates weak acids that discolor paint and corrode bare metals.

Cleaning combines with high-pressure washers leaves them shiny and clean but can force water into places that cause problems during storage. If combines are pressure-washed, rather than cleaned with high-pressure air, run the machine at high idle for 10 to 20 minutes after washing to warm, dry and drive water from bearings, chains and other water-sensitive components.

In a perfect world, tension would be removed from all drive belts during storage. Belts kept tensioned during storage are prone to develop stress cracks where they stretch in tight,
reverse bends over idler pulleys.

An alternative to detensioning belts is to run the machine for a few minutes every couple of months while it's in storage to keep belts from cracking. Running the machine at regular intervals also keeps batteries charged and circulates lubricants.

Blow it clean. Don't overlook small grain platforms and corn heads after harvest. On platforms, use high-
pressure air to remove dirt on top of skid shoes, around the cutterbar gearcase and from automatic header height-control linkages and sensors. Reduce pressure on reel lift and reel fore-and-aft hydraulic systems by resting them against their safety stops.

On corn heads, lift the snouts and blow out debris packed around gathering chain tensioners and idlers. Clean beneath the row units, especially around any linkages or assemblies associated with hydraulic or automatic deck-plate adjusters.

If the corn head will be stored outside, lube the gathering and auger drive chains. Paint deck plates and other bare metal to prevent corrosion. Corn heads stored indoors are less prone to chain corrosion but still benefit from lubing chains.

On corn heads, platforms and combines, lube all zerks before storage, especially if the machine was pressurewashed. Then, run the machine for 10 to 20 minutes to warm and distribute the fresh grease throughout the bearings and bushings.

If possible, change the engine oil before storage. In the past, sulfur additives in engine oils sometimes combined with trace amounts of water in engine crankcases to create enough sulfuric acid to etch and damage engine parts. Modern, low-sulfur engine oils are less prone to acid formation, but an end-of-season oil change minimizes the risk of problems.

Finally, fill fuel tanks before parking combines for the year. Empty tanks are prone to water condensation due to temperature and humidity changes. The boundary layer between any water and fuel is where the infamous "black sludge” bacteria develops. Fuel systems with fresh filters and clean water traps reduce the chance that the first day in the field next harvest will be spent draining, rinsing and refilling to remove black slime from the fuel system, rather than harvesting crops.

You can e-mail Dan Anderson at

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