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Equipment Tips for Harvest Season

It worked last year, why is it not working now? That is a question no one wants to ask this time of year. For some, harvest season is here, and for others it is just around the corner. Regardless, there are things to do to ensure equipment is ready to perform to expectations, and data collection is accurate.

Chris Altman, owner of C-Tech Repair, has over 20 years of experience getting equipment ready to go to the field. His advice is to start with the basics and work up from there. “Sometimes the most important tool you have is the owners/service manual for your combine or any equipment. It will list all the points to check and service intervals to follow,” Altman said.

Using a grease gun prevents many breakdowns. With so many moving parts on a combine, keeping everything greased and lubricated at the proper service intervals is a good start.

After that make sure the filters are clean, or replaced at the correct intervals. This includes oil filters, hydraulic filters, fuel filters, engine air filter, cab air filter — there should be a complete list in the manual. Dusty harvest conditions can quickly clog an air filter. Start each day blowing them out according to the directions, Altman said.

Start from the ground up. Check the tires. Know what the desired air pressure is to get the correct footprint based on the manufacturer specifications. It is also good to check for cracks or wear. “Soybean stubble and corn stalks can become embedded in the rubber and if it hits just right, punch a hole,” Altman said.

A visual inspection of all belts and hoses, as well as hose connections is the next thing to do.

Look for fluid dripping at connections. Check for worn spots or rub marks on the belt or hose, or contact points with pulleys or guides.

When working from the bottom-up, check the clean-out doors. Open them to make sure everything is cleaned out, but then be sure they are all closed again before you go to the field. “More than one guy has left a trail of grain during his first pass around the field because a clean-out door was left open,” Altman said.

Altman also says to work from the front to the back of the machine. Begin with the header.

Header adjustments typically need to be made in the field due to changing crop and ground

conditions. You can use last year’s settings as a starting point. Field and crop conditions and the header settings may change by the day. Next, check to be sure all the seals are being made. A good deal of attention is given to header loss at the front of the head as the grain is gathered, but sometimes the loss occurs between the header and the rest of the machine.

“I have already seen cases where rats or mice have chewed holes in seals and a trail of grain was left behind the combine around the entire field,” Altman said. “There are also places on the combine that experience a lot of wear, and small holes can develop as the metal gets thin and wears through, especially on older machines.”

Electrical connections are another area that can cause problems. Altman recommends starting with the battery and making sure the terminals are clean and the connections are good. If there is an electrical component that is not working right, it is often due to a bad connection. There may also be a situation where a wire rubbed or was pinched, or even mice or rats chewed through it.

“Mice and rats can wreak havoc on a piece of farm equipment,” he said. Technology is the next area to check. Make sure any technology has the latest software or firmware updates loaded. “Be sure all the connections are good, the same as with the electrical system. Then calibrate,” Altman said. He recommends a minimum of calibrating at least once for each crop each season. “The better your calibration, the better your records will be after harvest,” he said.

Last but certainly not least, Altman reminds everyone to check the lights and flashers and

reflectors. “Safety starts before you head to the field. It is important to see and be seen,” he said. He also points out the importance of washing the windshield regularly. The dust on the glass and glare from the sun can make it difficult to operate. A quick wipe down of the windows a couple times a day goes a long way, especially if harvest conditions are really dirty. A charged fire extinguisher or water extinguisher is also good to have on every piece of equipment and in every truck.

“I really like the water extinguisher because you can easily refill them and they can also be used to clean something off or cool something down,” Altman said.

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Field Leader

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