The winter months are a great time to inspect your forage harvester and repair or replace any parts or systems that might cause unplanned downtime during the next use season.

By doing it now, you can take your time and get the job done right, saving valuable time later when you need to be chopping. The following overview will work with any brand or age of machine – and always follow specific instructions given in the machine’s owner’s manual (OM).

  • First up is a complete cleaning of the machine. This is best done as soon after fall harvest is complete as possible, even if the next steps are postponed until later on.

It is recommended to open all panels and shields and then use a blower or compressed air to remove all loose chaff and dust. Follow up the “dry” cleaning with a wet one by power washing areas that have accumulations of grease, gummy crop residue or mud.

Be careful when cleaning around bearings and electrical connections to prevent forced water entry.

  • Next is a general visual inspection of the machine, inside and out. Note access panel and shield alignment, door seal condition, function of all latches, missing or loose hardware, decal condition, areas needing paint touch-up and tire condition.

Also pay attention to the wiring harnesses and hydraulic lines and hoses for rubbing or damage. Correct anything that isn’t right.

  • Open or remove the front feedroll module and clean up any crop accumulations missed before.

  • Inspect all feedrolls/bearings for damage or wear; repair and replace as needed.

  • Inspect shearbar for chips and wear. Most shearbars can be flipped around or over to expose a new edge if this hasn’t been done before.

  • Inspect knives for chips and wear. Replace as needed if damaged or badly worn. Most manufacturers recommend replacing all knife hardware when new knives are installed. Always follow tightening sequence and torque settings given in the OM.

  • Adjust the drum bottom plate to the recommended clearance from the knives.

  • Adjust the smooth roll scraper to the specified clearance from the roll.

  • Inspect any crop guides and wear areas for erosion and repair or replace as necessary.

  • Inspect the sharpening stone and replace if worn.

  • Remove panels, shields or components to allow access to the transition area and the blower/accelerator.

  • Inspect liners and wear points for erosion and replace as necessary. Odd or excessive wear may be an indication of issues with crop flow through the machine. Ask your dealer for help if wear appears to be abnormal.

  • Adjust the distance between the blower or accelerator paddles and the blower band or wear plate. This may require new parts if wear is excessive.

  • Inspect spout and transition area liners and replace as needed.

  • Remove the crop processor (if equipped) and inspect the rolls for wear. Teeth should be sharp and the clearance between them the same across the width of the rolls. If the teeth are rounded or the center clearance is greater than on the sides, the rolls should be replaced or rebuilt.

Make sure that crop processor roll bearings are tight and roll smoothly, and that seals are intact. Check that the roll springs are not broken or weak.

  • Inspect the greasing system and lines for proper function by operating it and observing that grease is flowing through all the divider blocks and that there are no breaks in the lines to each bearing area. Repair any damaged lines or blocked fittings. Refill the greaser reservoir, if equipped.

  • Perform all oil/fluid checks and/or changes as recommended by the maintenance schedule in the OM or on machine decal. Include filter changes where applicable.

  • Change or clean air filters, including cab air filters.

  • Inspect all belts for condition and replace any that show wear, cracks or evidence of being hot. Be sure belts have proper tension and correct as needed.

  • After finishing up all the above, it is time for operational checks. Be sure things are reassembled properly, then start the unit and verify that all operational controls work.

Engage the cutterhead and feedrolls to check for proper operation and minimum vibration. Perform a knife sharpening and shearbar adjustment to verify correct function. Check metal detector operation.

Checking hay pickup heads
With the base unit back together, it is time to check out the headers, too. For hay pickup heads:

  • The condition of the pickup teeth and bands is very important for clean fields. Replace damaged or missing parts, and inspect the condition of the tine bars and bearings. Coat bare metal with paint or a rust protectant.

  • Check the auger bearings and flotation, and also the fingers or paddles for wear and proper operation.

  • Inspect the chain for wear and properly tension it. Inspect the PTO shaft for damage and wear and replace worn parts as needed.

  • Inspect all ground contact points for wear, including skid shoes, gauge wheels or rollers.

  • Lubricate all grease points and pivots.

Checking corn headers
Corn headers also need a few items checked:

  • Inspect the condition of all cutting parts and replace as needed. The same goes with any cleaners and wear items on chains or rotors. On rotary heads, straighten any bent teeth so that they don’t rub in slots.

  • Check and/or change oil in all gearboxes, looking closely for filings that might indicate an internal problem that will only get worse with more use.

  • Check ground contact points for wear; replace parts as necessary.

  • Paint or use a rust protectant on bare metal.  FG

David Wagner is a forage marketing manager for New Holland Agriculture based in New Holland, Pennsylvania. For more information, click here to contact Wagner.