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Equipment Hub: Your forage harvester winter maintenance

Kevin Pokorny for Progressive Forage Published on 31 December 2019

After a long season in the cab of a forage harvester, the winter months are an ideal time to inspect your machine and identify any parts that need to be repaired or replaced.

Not only will proactive maintenance on your equipment save you time, money and a headache during next season’s harvest, but your machine will run more efficiently. When parts get worn out, the crop moves more slowly through the machine, requiring more horsepower to get the job done.

While formal inspections can last over the course of a few days, maintaining your forage harvester when it’s parked in the shop during the winter months doesn’t have to be complicated. Prior to inspection, ensure all safety measures are being followed. It is imperative never to clean, oil or perform maintenance on your forage harvester while it is running. Confirm the machine is turned off in order to avoid injury.

Wash it off

Performing maintenance on your forage harvester can be difficult when it’s covered in crop and dirt, so start with a thorough cleaning. Due to the wet and muddy 2019 season, equipment owners may notice an excess of mud packed between the wheels and shields. The longer the mud sits on the equipment, the harder it can be to remove. Additionally, dirt and debris attract mice, which can chew on wiring and cause electrical issues. A leaf blower can be helpful during this step, but you may also need to pull off mud and crop from your machinery using your hands.

Do a walk-around

Once the machine is clean, walk around your equipment for a visual inspection. During this step, it is recommended to take note of any missing or loose parts, the condition of the tires and any noticeable leaks. From here, equipment owners can create a list of action items to work on while their equipment is in storage.

Grease it up and check the oil

Once the equipment is clean, ensure all the barriers are full of grease; then, start checking oil levels. Always be sure to fill to the correct level. Too much oil tends to create heat and cause issues down the road. Additionally, ensure the oil and grease being used is of high quality. Discount oils and grease can cost equipment owners more money in the long run. A quality oil and grease will keep your machinery running longer.

Inspect the radiator

Spend some time cleaning the radiator using a pressure washer. Late in the season when temperatures decrease, many equipment owners forget about the hot days when coolant temperatures were high. Because of this, the radiator will need a thorough cleaning. Also, inspect the radiator hose to determine if it needs to be replaced. Radiator hoses should be replaced every two years. Losing a radiator (resulting in dumped coolant) is expensive. Check the hoses to ensure they’re in proper shape without cracks or bulges in them.

Spend time on the belts and pulleys

Equipment owners can run into problems with belts bailing on them. Damage may occur when belts are tensioned either too tight or too loose. Check the tension of the belts and ensure they’re at the proper tightness. Additionally, dirt can build up on the equipment’s pulleys and cause vibration. Now is a good time to clean the dirt off the pulleys.

Examine the wear liners

With the dirt and crop debris removed, take a look at the wear liners. A lot of times we can see a wear pattern – whether it’s in the center or at a specific location – so it’s important to do a thorough visual inspection to see how it’s wearing. If you’re changing the wear liners, ensure they’re seated correctly. To perform a quick test, with the machine off, run your hand where the liners meet to make sure they’re smooth and fit in place.

Think back on old problems

Before wrapping up your maintenance inspection, think about any issues you ran into during the season. Are there any areas that experienced leaks? Is there something that didn’t seem to work right? Write these notes down and take the right steps to ensure these problems do not reoccur in the next season. All the time I hear, “The gearbox was leaking, but then it stopped, so we thought it fixed itself.” It’s not long after that when they’re replacing their gearbox. Don’t ignore old problems.

Set aside some time to maintain your forage harvester, and get it done. These days, it doesn’t seem like there is as much spare time to perform maintenance on machines. It seems as if there used to be a time when you would finish harvesting and have time to relax away from the shop. Nowadays, there’s more and more equipment, but you have to get the maintenance done.

While forage harvesters are tough machines built for extreme conditions, failure to perform proper maintenance can cost you time and money next season. Proactive maintenance will be the difference between downtime and cutting time during harvest. For any questions on how to keep your forage harvester running strong, visit your local dealer.  end mark

Kevin Pokorny
  • Kevin Pokorny

  • Forage Harvester
  • Technical Specialist
  • Claas

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