With spring already here, that means summer is quickly approaching, and so is haying season. Now is the time to start thinking about pre-season maintenance and getting equipment out of winter storage.
Performing pre-season maintenance on your machines will not only help ensure proper mechanical operation but prevent costly downtime when the crop is ready to harvest.
A merger is essential for any high-speed, high-capacity operation. Mergers are gentle when handling crop. They pick the forage cleanly off the ground and create fluffy, uniform windrows – all while minimizing ash content in the crop. Here are some helpful tips to prepare your merger for the upcoming season.
Be sure to consult your operator’s manual to see what procedures you will need to follow. Remember each merger is different and some of the tips below may not apply.
Safety always comes first when working on or operating machines. Be sure to wear proper safety attire such as safety glasses, earplugs and gloves when working with any form of machinery. Make sure all safety shields are secured and in their proper positions before operating your merger.
Power take-offs must be covered. Test all lighting and replace the ones that are burnt out or broken.
Check the hydraulic system. Make sure the reservoir is properly filled. An underfilled hydraulic reservoir will not allow the oil to cool down to the designated temperature and may cause overheating. If the reservoir is low, it is possible to let air in and damage the system.
Check the reservoir level with the fill plug. Be sure to fill the reservoir on a level surface until oil just runs out the hole.
Inspect the hoses, valves, cylinders, solenoids and manifolds for leaks. If any are broken, repair them immediately. Caution: If the system is under pressure, do not inspect the hose with bare hands. A high-pressure spray of hydraulic oil could rupture skin, leading to serious injury.
Depending on previous machine hours, possible hydraulic system contamination and manufacturer recommendations, you may need to check or change the hydraulic filter. Without proper filtration, the hydraulic system is exposed to debris potentially clogging the tight tolerances.
Make sure to grease the drive line, wheel bearings/hubs and all pivot points (unless otherwise noted in the manual). Greasing helps to extend the life of moving parts by reducing friction and heat. Failure to apply proper amounts of grease at the correct intervals could cause premature wear on the machine.
Grease the zerks specified in the owner’s manual at the assigned intervals. Apply grease until you can see fresh grease ooze out. Make sure to clean up any excess to keep the machine clean. Exposed grease can attract dust and dirt to moving parts, causing premature wear on a machine.
Dirt and dust can hide damage, so be sure to clean your machine after use. Inspect the frame for cracks and rust, then repair where necessary. Proactive maintenance prolongs a machine’s life. While looking at the frame, notice the skid shoes to make sure they are smooth and do not have excessive wear.
Skid shoes with dents or gouges run the risk of “hooking” objects in the field and causing damage to the machine. When skid shoes are smooth, the machine moves freely across the ground without disturbance.
Check the torque of all wheel lugs and mainframe bolts too. Tighten loose bolts to the correct torque specified in the operator’s manual. Bolts on new machines may have loosened over the last year, so be sure to tighten them. Checking these points will help ensure the integrity of the frame to support field operation.
Inspect the cams, bearings, crop strippers, tine arms and tines for signs of excessive wear. If any of these items are broken, they should be repaired or replaced. It is imperative these parts run seamlessly. Worn-out tines leave crop in the field and reduce yields.
Damaged strippers will allow crop to be sucked into the cams and tine arms, causing damage. Worn-out bearings will cause damage to tine arms and the cam tract, leading to potential downtime of the machine.
Inspect the belt for any signs of damage and splices to make sure they are intact. Also, check the cleats to see if they are coming apart. Loose belts can damage themselves, providing uneven and under-capacity crop flow. Belts should be tightened according to the stated specifications.
Inspect the springs or cylinders of the suspension system for any signs of damage. Adjust the suspension to the proper setting for field use. The operator’s manual will have the best recommendations for proper suspension settings.
Correct suspension settings protect your machine, your crop and your field. Too low of ground pressure will not allow the pickup to gather the whole crop and decrease yields. Too high of ground pressure setting could cause the pickup to contact the ground, damaging the machine or tearing out the underlying crop.
This checklist is a broad overview for preseason merger maintenance. Please consult your machine’s owner’s manual or contact your local dealer, as each merger is different. Start thinking about preseason maintenance now to ensure peak performance without major downtime later.
With tractors rolling out in the fields for planting, time will soon be in short supply to perform preseason maintenance. Be sure to do it today while there is still time. PD
Adam Sills is a field support and training specialist with Kuhn North America.
PHOTO: Check over your merger’s pickup. These moving parts are what do the work of gathering the crop. Worn out or damaged parts on the pickup can reduce yields and lead to downtime. Photo by Adam Sills.