The author is a managing partner in Elite Ag LLC, Leesburg, Ga. He also is active in the family farm in Rutledge.

Warmer days have arrived, and the beasts that have been hibernating in our equipment sheds are ready to be awakened. If you have yet to prepare your chopper for the 2019 season, here’s a quick checklist for “do-it-yourselfers.”

An easy place to start is the spot where you spend most of your time . . . the cab. Check the console for any noticeable wire damage or loose connections. Also be sure to inspect the wire harnesses; rodent damage is a common occurrence that most often takes place during winter storage. While at your console, also inspect all of the switches and knobs. You would be amazed how many times you can catch one of these before it fails, usually in the middle of a large job.

While in the cab, clear out all of last year’s field and customer information from the monitor. This is not something you’re going to want to fool with on the first day of chopping. Also, if you are familiar enough with your monitor to run a sensor test, this is an easy way to diagnosis a problem before it starts.

Most newer machines have a place where you can look at the sensors on your cutter and see if they have electrical current and if they are reading properly. If one looks out of line, you can see which sensor it is and inspect it yourself. It could be as simple as a corroded plug. Don’t forget to check all of your lights and recharge your fire extinguisher. Be sure to check the cab’s air filters, and if you can take off a roof door, inspect the evaporator and make sure it’s not clogged.

Move to the front

Once the cab is clean and in order, dismount and find your way to where the business takes place on the chopper — at the front. The feed rolls can cause you as much headache as any unit on the harvester. Starting with the rolls and bearings, look for play and if any oil is leaking from gearboxes. Inspect the metal and rock-detect wires to make sure everything is intact. Sometimes checking the oil in all the gearboxes can be a headache. In some machines, you need to move the feed-roll cabinet up and down to achieve the proper level to check the oil. Don’t skip this step, as it will save time once in the field.

Inspect all of your central lube blocks and lines. If you can manually grease them, do so. Once you remove the cabinet, inspect the driveline for any wear in the crosses and take a good look at the smooth roll scraper. A worn-out smooth roll scraper can make for an unhappy operator when the crop won’t feed. Ensure that you don’t need to replace any knives or the shearbar. New or used, the knives need to be properly adjusted up to the shearbar for a proper cutting length.

Grease and inspect all shearbar adjustment linkages. The motors and linkage always seem to fail one of our customers every year. Check the cutting drum bearings, locks, and the drum itself for wear. While inspecting the drum, a thorough cleaning is probably in order for the grinding stone carrier. Closely inspect the threads, stops, rubbers, and the stone. Finally, check the main drive pulley and belt for worn spots or buildup in the pulley grooves.

Check the spout

If installing a grass chute, make sure the wear liner is in good shape. Next, move on to the blower and check the gap to the backing plate, making sure it is set to manufacturer recommendations. Look over the blower paddles and bearing to ensure they all spin freely and do not seem fatigued. On the spout, be sure to check the sensors and stop limiters. Check the ring and central lube points on the spout hinge. If you have a moisture sensor for corn silage, most manufacturers recommend that you remove it for grass, as dirt and rocks can damage the lens. Finish your spout inspection by checking the functionality of the flipper.

It’s always best to start off the year with new fluids. Take a close look at your radiator and inspect for cleanliness and fluid level. Check the main drive gearbox and main belt tension pulley.

Don’t forget the drive motors as well. The off-season is the best time to change wheel motor and gearbox oil. The steering system and suspension often get over looked, but rolling around the shop floor on your creeper sure beats crawling around in the field — this is especially true if you coexist with fire ants. If the tires, central lube system, parking brakes, and lights all look in order, you are close to “go time.”

The only thing left that I encourage is to stock up on high-use parts before the season starts. The time spent inspecting your chopper at your shop and ordering high-use parts will most certainly lead to more up time in the field and make it easier to diagnosis future problems with your machine.

This article appeared in the April/May 2019 issue of Hay & Forage Grower on page 19.

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