Functional, well-maintained equipment can make the difference between farming success and enormously costly misses, breakdowns and losses. In the more than 35 years I’ve spent in the equipment business, I’ve found most farmers do a decent job of prepping their planters, harvesters and other equipment for winter storage, and of greasing, tuning and maintaining their machines prior to use the next season. However, don’t pat yourself on the back just yet. I’ve also found far too many farmers – I’d argue the vast majority – fall short on the regular in-field maintenance their equipment needs and deserves. To keep your planter at its best this season and – hopefully – long into the future, here are my top tips for daily planter maintenance.
Before starting the machine up, do a walk-around checking for anything abnormal: hydraulic leaks, loose hardware, bent or broken pieces, missing parts. Next, grease the power take-off and any bearings which require daily greasing. (Newer planters’ grease manifolds make this step a whole lot easier.) Then, check tire pressure, taking a moment to inspect lug nuts for tightness and hubs to ensure they aren’t damaged or dragging debris.
Machines that still use kingpins should be greased first thing in the a.m. and again halfway through the day. This onerous maintenance will soon be a thing of the past, today’s newest machines are shifting from kingpins to ball-joints. Ball-joints not only come lubed for life, they also offer easier steering, enhanced stability, less tire tread wear, and better alignment of the tow and caster.
Once the externally visible components are checked, it’s time to lift the planter. While few farmers do an adequate external check, even fewer check underneath, despite the fact that components which come in contact with the ground have the highest likelihood of wear/breakage. Inspect to ensure nothing is loose or hanging, the bearings on disks don’t wobble, the plastic tuber holders on individual rows aren’t broken, and the chains and sprockets are all adequately tight. Have an extra look at all the moving components of the roll unit — bearing issues here are a very common issue.
Finally, it’s time to turn your planter on. Take a moment to listen — air leaks, rubbing sounds, squeals, etc. should never be ignored or put off. With the machine running, do another check for hydraulic leaks, at the same time inspecting for hydraulic hose bubbles or wear spots. Double inspecting may seem tedious but it’s a whole lot better than missed plantings, unnecessary wear on your machine, and leaked hydraulic fluid in the field.
And then… get planting. Best of luck this season!