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Mechanics Corner: Seize the day with preseason maintenance

Josh Vrieze for Progressive Forage Published on 29 March 2017

“Make hay while the sun shines.” This phrase is the hay producer’s version of “carpe diem” or “seize the day,” but without proper preseason maintenance, the opportunity to seize a hay day can be cut short without notice. We want every hay producer to enter the field with confidence, so our team of experts have come together to create a guide for your preseason maintenance needs.

Take a look at our tips to set your operation up for success this season.

Customize your dealer tuneup

Even if you typically take a do-it-yourself approach to equipment maintenance, your hay equipment dealer is still on hand to provide expert service and support when you need it. Just like you visit the doctor, dentist and optometrist to keep your health in check, your equipment needs to visit the dealership too.

It’s good to schedule a tuneup before the season is in full swing, but we also advise you to invite your dealer to your field for a more customized service trip.

By watching the forage equipment work, your dealer can better tackle issues like bale appearance and offer suggestions on operating adjustments and techniques to help improve performance.

When calling your dealer for preseason maintenance or to address a potential issue, make sure to have the following information handy. Doing so will enable your dealer to provide quicker, more efficient service.

  • Model
  • VIN number
  • Number of acres or bales
  • Description of issue
  • Course of actions to date

Self-educate

Take the time to read your operators and maintenance manuals for each machine. A lot of knowledge can be gained and time saved by reviewing these manuals. Even the most experienced operators can do a knowledge brushup before the season begins. Within the manual, you should find your lubrication and scheduled maintenance calendars.

The manual is also very helpful for troubleshooting and inspection suggestions, plus it will list the types of lubricants to use and provide more in-depth how-to details.

Stock up on supplies

Be sure to take inventory of your twine and netwrap supply before the season is in full swing. It’s always better to order extra bale packaging materials and a few common replacement parts to have on hand. It’s a decision that will pay off in the long run, as you never know when it will be needed. But when you do need it, you’ll be glad you have it.

Check for critter damage

While your equipment is hibernating for the winter, it’s at risk of becoming a nesting spot for small rodents. Mice and squirrels just love to nestle into the nooks and chew up wires. Be sure to inspect all electrical connections and hoses in your equipment to see if there are signs of chew marks or nesting materials. Replace any damaged wires or hoses and clear out any nesting debris.

Be sure to clean all equipment as often as you can with an air compressor and broom to get rid of any excess hay material. We also recommend the “pencil method” – take a No. 2 pencil and explore areas within your equipment. If that pencil can fit in the gap, it’s large enough for a mouse to squeeze in. Fill these holes with putty or silicone/foam filler to eliminate that problem.

Hay equipment maintenance checklist:

  • Check oil levels and make sure equipment has had a comprehensive lube (follow the machine maintenance manual schedule). Make sure you grease wheel bearings too.

  • If you can, check all bearings for wear (preferably with an infrared temperature gun, after running the baler for roughly 30 minutes).

  • Check tires for optimum fill – underinflated tires negatively impact performance in the field.

  • Check the hydraulics fluids for contamination or condensation. Inspect cylinders for leaks and hoses for scrapes or cracking.

  • Make sure all shields, guards, reflectors and lights are in place and working, as well as slow moving vehicle signs and decals.

Specific recommendations for balers:

  • Check out components that tend to be higher-wear items, including: scrapers, rollers, cam track bearings, pickup teeth, belts and lacings, roller chains and sprockets.

  • Adjust or replace drive and roller chains as needed.

  • Make sure belt tension settings are in line with recommendations to prevent slippage.

Specific recommendations for mowers/mower-conditioners:

  • Check wear on the discs. If you see a wear pattern starting to develop on one side, rotate them. If they’re damaged, replace them.

  • Check the cutting blades for wear. Rotate them if necessary.

  • Since the discs must be removed to check the oil and grease, this is the best time to eliminate buildup on and under the cutter bar.

The hay season is nearly upon us. Now is a good time to maintain your hay equipment in order to prevent costly downtime later. Once you’ve completed a thorough maintenance check and preparations, you’ll be set up for a strong and productive hay season.  end mark

Josh Vrieze is a Product Manager with Vermeer.

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