Pre-Harvest Combine Prep

‘High-pitched or grinding sounds are not a good thing.’

By Leslie Stewart

With harvest around the corner, it’s important to have your combine in peak condition. We spoke with Jim Franceschetti, product marketing manager for New Holland Parts & Service, to bring you some best practices that will keep you working smoothly in your combine all season long with minimal downtime.

Franceschetti urges Prairie operators to check on machinery as soon as possible.

“It’s never too early to start thinking about your equipment and getting preparation underway,” he says. “When seeding wraps up, it’s time to start thinking about harvest. The more time you give yourself the better.”

Look back to last year

“The best place to start is thinking about last year’s harvest and how things went. Put yourself in that frame of mind and remember. At the end of the day, you’re looking to maximize your yield. Understand how your combine performs and understand you’re doing everything to maximize efficiency,” Franceschetti explains.

Combining in Field Harvesting
    Tracy MIller photo

Your overall yield and grain loss indicates how your machine is functioning. You may need to replace parts or recalibrate to make the most out of your 2023 crop. Reflect on how the machine was performing and whether there were any necessary repairs that weren’t completed before putting the combine away.

“Producers are busy and might be tired at the end of the season. They may have forgotten to replace something that was worn or broken. Take this time to think ‘Oh yeah, I forgot to replace the chains or cutting knives.’ Hopefully they’ve made a mental note to replace these things.”

Overwintering worries

Your combine may have been in the shed since winter, and while it wasn’t rolling, a few things may have changed since you put it away. Damage from the cold and nesting rodents may affect your upcoming harvest.

“Who knows what might have made its way into the combine and thought it would be a good home. Rodent infestations are always possible,” he explains.

“Hydraulic fluids could freeze over a hard winter. A small leak might have caused your tank to empty, and you could be out of lubricant or that oil.”

Check front-to-back

Do a front-to-back walk-through of your machine from the feeder house to the residue management system. Turn the combine on and listen to how it sounds.

“High-pitched or grinding sounds are not a good thing. Listen for chains rattling. Anything out of the ordinary is a sign that something might be loose, worn, broken, or needs grease or lubrication.”

Franceschetti cautions operators about neglecting those “out of sight, out of mind” parts of their machines.

“It’s often that certain functions of the combine may be overlooked. The feeder house at the front of the combine, for one. It’s common to focus on threshing and the sieves, but there are other parts to check.

“Make sure the residue management system is operating effectively. If it’s not, it can use a lot of HP and gas and make the machine a lot less efficient. This will drain your money.

“Another common issue is worn rasp bars on the concave. Rasp bars are a pretty simple part, but they’re often overlooked. If they’re worn, it has an impact on your rotor.

“Keeping those in the best shape possible has a significant impact on your yield.”

If your machine was used with a different crop, field, or operator, it’s possible that your settings may have changed from what’s optimal for the task at hand.

“If there was a different operator in the machine, they may have changed a setting or something that doesn’t apply to what you’re doing. How was the combine set previously? Should it be the same setting?”

Ensure you’ve made the appropriate adjustments before getting started.

Get precise with precision tech

With all the precision technology at our fingertips, it’s important to ensure that your combine is set up appropriately for your crop type and field conditions.

“If you’re putting everything into the soil and crop, you should put the same effort into the combine to ensure you’re making the most out of your harvest,” Franceschetti says. “Lots of this can be done from the cab. Make sure you’re matching the speeds of different combine functions.”

When in doubt, enlist the help of an expert. A trained professional from your local dealership can be crucial to matching your settings up with your harvest conditions.

“Remember that your service technician sees a lot of different crop conditions and combines. They’re the experts on tightening up and homing in on settings to improve your yield.”

Lean on your dealer

Don’t forget to lean on your local dealership as a resource. The trained professionals in your area are standing by and ready to help you get ready for the season, or to repair your machines if worse comes to worst.

“The dealer’s phone number is important to have on-hand or on your speed dial,” Franceschetti says.

“They’re the experts. Talking to the parts technician or service person is a great line of defence.”

Farm Equipment Mechanic looking at Manual
    Talking to a service person is a great line of defence. -Leslie Stewart photo

Your local dealership may also run a ‘Combine Clinic’ – an event that allows you to chat with the experts and learn more about optimizing your machines.

“Dealers know the equipment very well. They see so many machines and can troubleshoot and spot things that a regular operator may not be aware of.”

Stock up

Keep some parts and lubricants on-hand to minimize your downtime.

“Make sure you’re stocked up on those wear items to ensure you can keep rolling,” Franceschetti says. “Think about parts that are commonly broken in the field: Headers and combine knives that chip, break, or become dull; fingers and tines; and rasp bars that can dull and have a significant impact on your yield quality. And don’t forget fluids, lubricants, and oil.”

Time to buy?

While they’re manufactured to weather the elements and last for many years, there may come a time when it’s time to replace your current combine.

“If you’re harvesting more acres, it might be time for a larger machine,” Franceschetti explains. “If you’ve run through the operator’s manual, talked to the dealer, calibrated, and you’re still not getting the results you expect, it’s time to invest.

“They’re built for thousands of hours, but we have to do our due diligence to keep them running efficiently.

“Producers and operators are very busy people, but everyone understands how important it is that your combine is in good running shape.” BF

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