Post-Harvest Tips for Combines

By John Fulton Ohio State Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering

As the harvest season comes to a close, now is a good time to clean and look over you combine before parking for the winter.  A good post-harvest combine maintenance program can provide significant savings and make sure you are prepared for 2015. Many times, proper inspection and maintenance after fall harvest will reduce time and resources required at a later date to fix the combine and headers.  The basics of winterizing a combine involves cleaning it followed by changing the oil and filters, checking the cooling system, cleaning and possibly changing the air filters, filling with fuel and adding a fuel stabilizer, and finally greasing and lubricating before putting in the shed.  Plan on at least a good half day for conducting post-harvest maintenance and repairs.

The initial starting point for combine maintenance should be reviewing the operator’s manual.  Regardless of the manufacturer, the operator’s manual will contain the necessary checklist of maintenance points and needs.  Second, develop a to-do and replacement list based on harvest notes and performing a quick look over of the combine.  The next step should include giving the combine a good cleaning before performing any maintenance.  Cleaning should start with blowing all debris and dust plus cleaning out augers, conveyors and the cab.  Washing the exterior can also be beneficial but keep water away from bearings and bushings.  Once this step is complete, inspect the combine inside and out noting needed repairs and maintenance.  The final steps involve repairing, greasing and lubricating.  A suggested checklist and order of priority is provided at the end of this article.

In the end, you should have your combine ready for the next time you take it to the field.  Performing these steps today better protects the combine during the winter and reduces any corrosion.  You might also take the time now to develop a 5 to 10 point checklist to look over other farm equipment this winter.  Farm machinery requires maintenance both on and off the field to keep it running smoothly year after year. Caring for equipment is one way to ensure efficient fieldwork and less downtime.

Check list for Post-harvest Combine Maintenance
  1. Consult operators manual for post-harvest maintenance and check point
  2. Conduct a quick look over of the machine and develop a to-do list
  3. Blow off dirt and debris both on the outside and inside. Do not forget, harvest debris can attract rodents that can chew on wires and other electrical components.
    • Make sure to blow out radiator and other heat exchangers
    • Give the inside of the cab a good cleaning looking over door weather stripping, seats and other in-cab parts.  Consider placing something to deter rodents in the cab.
  4. Only wash the outside trying to keep water off bearings and other moving parts.
  5. Might take time to touch up scratches and worn areas with paint.
  6. Open inspection plates and look over components
  7. Open concaves and sieves and look over for any issues
  8. Check bearings for any corrosion, spun on a shaft, or they are loose. Replace all questionable bearings.
  9. Change oil and filters while lubricating all grease fittings.
  10. Check all lights and make sure they are functioning properly
  11. Check cooling system protection level for your climate, replacing coolant if needed. Also, to protect against corrosion, check supplemental coolant additive (SCA) level and add if necessary for your model.
  12. Check all augers and conveyors for wear and damage.  Suggest quickly replacing needed components as soon as possible.
    • Check walkers and their bearings for damage, cracks or wear.
    • The same goes for the rotors while also evaluating alignment and bearings.
    • Check over the straw chopper and ensure it is balanced properly without excessive vibration.
  13. Check and tighten all belts while inspecting for any cracks and dry rot symptoms.
  14. Check feeder house chains and elevator chains for proper tightness and wear.
  15. Look over the feeder house paneling especially the floor for excessive wear.
  16. Check fountain and unloading augers for damage and any wear.
  17. Finally, grease all fittings and lubricate chains and other maintenance points outlined in the operator’s manual.
  18. Fill with fuel and consider adding a fuel stabilizer for winter storage.

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