Combines are large and complex machines, so it is critical to do maintenance and checks before heading to the field.
Louis Melanson, a combine specialist at Case IH has 43 years of experience and currently gives nearly 40 combine maintenance clinics a year, mostly in Saskatchewan but also in Ontario. He was recently conducting clinics in Ontario.
“I’m the only guy who’s ever read the entire header and combine manual,” he said. “It is a very good practice to always refer to the operator manual for proper adjustments.”
Why it matters: Conducting proper machinery checks ahead of time helps ensure smooth operations.
First, Melanson recommends that farmers take a look at the header, making sure the automatic head control is correct. Then, he said, farmers should check for broken sections and guards on the cutter bars.
Next, check that the ledger plates aren’t too worn, and that the cutter bar knife will cut properly.
Farmers should then make sure the angle of approach of the header face plate is proper — about a degree and a half pointing downward to a level surface.
If the guard is at the wrong angle, it will not properly cut the stem and will tend to pull the stem out of the ground and plug the cutter bar. In that case, Melanson said, the machine will ingest rocks and dirt.
Next, he said farmers should check the feeder chain and front drum position.
“It seems strange, but sometimes people forget to check that.
“It should obviously be in the lower position for wheat and then moved to the middle position for soybeans and all the way up for corn. And with the feeder chain itself, make sure there are no damaged slats. Bent slats will cause the feeder chain to break prematurely.”
In the threshing area, concaves should be checked for levelness, and the pinch point (wedge) must be at the proper position, according to the operator’s manual.
Producers should also check rasp bars for wear and look to see if the head of the bolt is starting to wear. If it is, replace the rasp bar.
With the chopper, check the blade’s leading edge for wear.
Looking at the cleaning system, check the top and bottom sieve. Melanson said he tells farmers to remove them both and clean them, because if you just take a quick look and don’t remove them, you may miss a loose louvre.
Farmers can then calibrate the sieve if it’s electric adjustable, and check that the opening of the sieve is the same on the right side as on the left. Then inspect the grain and return elevator for missing paddles.
Once this is done, farmers can calibrate the screen and all other components needing it.
A little lubrication warning
Melanson said he cautions farmers not to over-grease.
“One or two shots will do it in most locations. No one believes that will do you for 600 hours, but it’s true. High-speed bearings do not like to be over-greased. They will heat up and fail. With bushings, it’s the more grease the better, but not with bearings. It will cost you money.”
Jeremy Noble, combine product specialist for Ontario at HJV Equipment (Claas-Lexion combines), agreed. “This is why we offer auto-greasing as an option,” he said. “They grease parts more frequently with the right volumes instead of less-often (with) higher volumes, which farmers tend to do.”
Regarding grain loss in the combine, Melanson strives for less than one per cent loss.
Noble said farmers should verify what their monitor is telling them. “You have to put a number to the visuals in the cab,” he said. “When you look at the monitor and four bars are coming up, you have to know what that means. I use two pans for checking, both one-by-four feet, but you can use two-by-two or three-by-three.”
A fresh check must be done for each new wheat variety and of course, between crops.
Doing it yourself?
While many farmers conduct their own yearly combine inspections, many others turn to dealers, said Noble.
He said farmers who have been checking their machines for years may do good jobs, but with a new combine, they may miss things, such as a bearing that has a grease fitting that they don’t know about.
“You might think the wear on the head is OK and it’s not and you’ll break down,” he added. “Getting an expert to do it doesn’t cost that much money and if it prevents a breakdown, it’s well worth it. You can watch or learn or you can go do other things. And the majority of new combines do come with three annual inspections.”