Equipment: Get Ready Now To Maximize Success

Retailer, grower

From the first day you go to the field in the spring, the application season is a race — something like a daily Indianapolis 500. Before the green flag is unfurled, there are steps ag retailers can take to optimize their performance this season.

Both preseason and structured in-season maintenance can help keep your machines in the field, your customers smiling and your business ahead of the competition.  And, better maintenance means your machines will operate at a higher level this season — producing more accurate application of high-priced inputs and more satisfied growers. Long-term benefits of well-maintained equipment include a longer useful life, safer operation, and higher resale value at trade-in time.

Whether you have the expertise to do the work yourself or prefer to rely on your equipment dealer’s service technicians, there are some basic components that should receive a careful eye well before it’s time to go to the field and on a regular basis throughout the season.

Checking The Lists 

Paul Haefner, marketing specialist with AGCO‘s Application Equipment Division, has been working with the big machines for 13 years and offers this checklist as a starting point for preseason inspection. He also suggests reviewing the owner’s manual for comprehensive maintenance checklists for preseason inspection and in-season maintenance, as well as recommended service intervals.

Product Delivery Systems. Haefner reports these systems, most important for accurate application, are often the most neglected. Check and properly calibrate the flow meter, product pump, control valve, controller, plumbing, boom valves, nozzles and nozzle bodies. Replace worn components, especially nozzles. Bag test the calibration of air applicators and pan test spreaders as well. Calibrate the radar gun to ensure it’s accurate. Then, make certain correct numbers are entered into the application console.

Wiring. Be sure wiring is intact and protective wiring looms are in place and secure to prevent pulling or rubbing.

Tires. Today’s machines haul huge loads at high speeds and are equipped with heavy-duty tires designed to take a beating. Even though they’re engineered for the task, don’t take them for granted. Closely inspect tires for cracks and damage to the lugs. Check proper tire inflation with a tire gauge. In-season tire pressure should be checked at least weekly. While you’re there, re-torque the wheel bolts.

Grease points. Check all grease points to ensure they will take grease and that nothing is rusted or seized up, particularly those in the steering components. During the season, grease per the operator’s manual directions.

Booms. Booms can take a beating in the field, and are often victims of trees or poles. Verify booms are folding in and out correctly. Check actuators and hydraulic components as well.

Hydraulic System. Since most machines have hydraulic drives, it’s important to inspect all hydraulic hoses for abrasion and wear. Patch or replace as needed and install guards to prevent future problems. Close attention to hydraulic hoses is often the biggest way to prevent downtime in season.

Drive train. With the engine warm, ensure the drive system will reach maximum speeds in each gear range.

Fluids and Filters. Replace all filters and change all fluids at scheduled intervals.  Be sure to check fluid levels after refilling. Fuel tanks also should be drained to eliminate sediments from the system and water that may have condensed during the off-season.

Air Filters. Pre-season, check and replace the engine air filter and all cab filters.  Cab filters should be checked every 250 hours and cleaned or replaced as needed.

Belts, Chains, Hardware and Fasteners. Check for wear on belts and chains and replace appropriately. Visually inspect all hardware and fasteners to make certain they are in place, properly tightened, and free of rust.

Safety Equipment. Lighting should be functional for both roadway and field operation. Fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and fresh water wash tanks should be on board and ready for use.

Using The Dealer Network

If this list seems long and you’re short of time, manpower, or expertise to complete your own preseason inspection, many dealers offer options for comprehensive preventative maintenance inspection programs preseason and in-season.

Loren Steenstra, a field service technician for Ziegler Ag Equipment, spends the winter doing preseason inspections for the company’s application customers within a 75-mile radius of his home base — Ziegler’s Jackson, MN, facility.

“Many of our ag retail customers are running short on help that is experienced with the equipment, so they rely on us for preseason inspection and maintenance,” says Steenstra. “Our 4-hour inspection goes deeper than what the operators can do themselves and includes fluid analysis for each component. Analysis results come back from the lab in as little as 24 hours and can detect problems such as bearing failures, engine wear, seal failure, and many other deficiencies before they become a problem in the field later on.”

Depending on the dealer, the preseason inspection costs around $400 and results in a full report of findings, as well as a detailed estimate and parts list for any recommended repairs. In some cases, the cost of the inspection is applied toward the labor for needed repairs or waived with a qualifying repair order. In any case, considering machines often cover 700 to 1,000 acres per day during the season, the preseason inspection and repairs can pay for themselves quickly by keeping the machines in the field.

Educating customers about the importance of proper maintenance is a big part of the service provided by Altorfer Ag Products, Clinton, IL. During the past two years, Altorfer has hosted customer meetings to train operators and owners on proper preventative maintenance and operation of application equipment. 

“With the conditions these machines operate under, you can’t put the machine in the shed in the fall, pull it out in the spring, and expect your performance to be perfect,” says Derek Strunk, shop service manager for Altorfer. “Preventative maintenance inspections should be done before equipment is put away, and repairs done before the season begins. Operators can help this process by making a list of things they know need to be fixed so machines are ready to go when they’re called upon in the spring.”

About 50% of the application equipment customers served by Altorfer turn to the dealer and its mobile service crew for contract preseason maintenance and inspection service.

“The machines are changing fast, and our customers know we have extensive training and experience with the equipment, particularly the electronics,” says Strunk. “There are a lot of high-tech components involved, and this equipment runs in the worst possible conditions for computers — dirt, moisture, and fertilizer — which can cause some serious problems.

“Every one of the newer RoGator and TerraGator machines ties into a laptop computer for diagnosis, which really helps us uncover a problem faster and more accurately and also saves money for our customers,” he says.

Altorfer has numerous mobile field service technicians based across the territory. When an in-season repair is necessary, technicians usually respond within 24 hours and are equipped to complete nearly any repair right in the field. In many cases, parts ordered by 4 p.m. in-season can be delivered by 8 a.m. the following day to a convenient location near the customer.

“Our customers are getting bigger and covering more ground, and it’s important to us to keep them in the field maximizing their uptime and their profitability. Proper maintenance is a big part of that.  When they do need service, our technicians are literally equipped with a mobile repair shop in the field,” Strunk relates. “That includes a welder, a 5-ton crane, air compressor, 20-ton air jack, and a full complement of tools and a selection of common parts. We can pull an engine in the field if that’s needed to get the customer back to work.”

Leave a Reply

Equipment Stories

SprayersNORAC Active Wing Roll Slated For More Sprayers
September 1, 2015
NORAC Systems, a member of the Topcon Positioning Group, announces the release of Active Wing Roll for RoGator, Apache, New Read More
2015 ShowStopper Award, MAGIE
EquipmentA ShowStopper From Case IH: The Patriot 2250
August 31, 2015
For nine years now, visitors to the yearly Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) show have been tasked with not only Read More
EquipmentDeere Announces Soucy Track Distribution Alliance
August 28, 2015
John Deere announces an alliance with Soucy Track to sell and distribute products through the John Deere dealer channel. “This Read More
Case IH Patriot 2250 Sprayer
EquipmentHigh-powered Case IH Patriot 2250 Sprayer Pushes Through The Toughest Field Conditions
August 26, 2015
Engineered with more muscle, the new 660-gallon-capacity Patriot 2250 sprayer features best-in-class horsepower, along with the fuel efficiency that comes Read More
Top 100 Articles
Crop InputsLand ‘O Lakes, United Suppliers Finalize Merger
August 24, 2015
According to a press release on August 24, owners of United Suppliers, Inc. and members of Land O’Lakes, Inc. “have Read More
West Central Cooperative, Jefferson, IA
CropLife 100Iowa Cooperatives To Explore Unification
August 19, 2015
The boards of directors at two of Iowa’s leading farmer-owned cooperatives yesterday signed a letter of intent to study the Read More
CropLife 100Southern States Coop Hosting Drone Flight This Friday
August 3, 2015
Southern States Cooperative — No. 9 on the CropLife 100 — is hosting an FAA-approved drone demonstration at Grandview Farms Read More
CropLife 100Aligned Ag Distributors Adds Four New Owners
July 30, 2015
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC has announced the addition of four new customer/owners to Franklin Holding Co. LLC. They are: The Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Purchases California-Based Specialty Crops Retailer
July 20, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has successfully acquired California-based NH3 Service Co.  Operating as part of Pinnacle’s Performance Agriculture brand, the new locations Read More
Asmus Farm Supply liquid fertilizer facility features 20,000 square feet
CropLife 100Slideshow: Asmus Farm Supply Shows Off Its New Liquid Fertilizer Facility
July 15, 2015
Asmus Farm Supply, Rake, IA, recently added a new liquid fertilizer facility to its company operations. The new liquid fertilizer Read More
Latest News
StewardshipOgallala Aquifer At Risk
September 4, 2015
The Ogallala Aquifer, with total water storage capacity about equal to that of Lake Huron in the Midwest, is the Read More
Valley Irrigation variable rate irrigation
StewardshipNebraska Getting Water Conservation Right
September 4, 2015
A precipitation map of Nebraska looks startlingly like a rainbow, with each colored band marking a different level of rainfall. Read More
Crop InputsBayer CropScience: A Decade Of Innovation
September 3, 2015
BLAMS! It’s not a sound effect from the pages of a Superhero comic book. Instead this nifty acronym is used Read More
ManagementReviewing MAGIE 2015
September 2, 2015
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj talks what he saw at the recent Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) show. Read More
Melissa Olds Dow AgroSciences
Crop InputsDow AgroSciences: Highlighting The Past, Present & …
September 2, 2015
In general, media events held by large agricultural suppliers tend to focus primarily on what plans the company has in Read More
Mobile tablet
OpinionTaking Data Head On
September 2, 2015
As you read this column, I’m hoping that if you picked up the phone and gave me a call, you’d Read More
Young soybean field
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Announces New Business Unit Head For…
September 1, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America announces the addition of Rico Christensen, Business Unit Head, North America. Christensen will have responsibility for Read More
Wilbur Ellis Pink Soybean Seed Treatment
Crop InputsWilbur-Ellis Goes Pink With Soybean Seed Treatments For…
September 1, 2015
This past year, proceeds of pink-dyed soybeans treated and sold to Wilbur-Ellis seed customers in Chester, SD, went to two Read More
SprayersNORAC Active Wing Roll Slated For More Sprayers
September 1, 2015
NORAC Systems, a member of the Topcon Positioning Group, announces the release of Active Wing Roll for RoGator, Apache, New Read More
Syngenta Sign
FungicidesSyngenta’s Newest Fungicide Receives EPA Approval
September 1, 2015
Syngenta announced today that its newest succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor (SDHI) fungicide – Solatenol – has received registration from EPA and Read More
Flooded corn in Indiana
Crop InputsDelaying The Fertilizer Decision
September 1, 2015
Comments gathered from several retailers recently evidenced a classic good-news-bad-news scenario. Good news is prices and supplies of nitrogen, phosphate, Read More
StewardshipBee Buffer Strip Initiative Seeks 100 Ohio Farmers
August 31, 2015
The U.S. Bee Buffer Project, an initiative of the Pollinator Partnership (P2), Burt’s Bees and The Burt’s Bees Greater Good Read More
2015 ShowStopper Award, MAGIE
EquipmentA ShowStopper From Case IH: The Patriot 2250
August 31, 2015
For nine years now, visitors to the yearly Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) show have been tasked with not only Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto, FMC Expand Roundup Ready PLUS Platform
August 31, 2015
FMC Corp. and Monsanto Co. announced today an expanded agreement to continue their participation in the Roundup Ready PLUS Crop Read More
Deere Nutrient Applicator
Eric SfiligojThe Good & Bad News From MAGIE
August 31, 2015
As I write this column, I’ve just returned from the annual Midwest AG Industries (MAGIE) trade show in Bloomington, IL. Read More
CPS Morenci receiving its 4R certification
StewardshipCPS Morenci Becomes First Michigan Facility Certified I…
August 31, 2015
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that Crop Production Services, Inc.’s facility located in Morenci, MI, has been Read More
EquipmentDeere Announces Soucy Track Distribution Alliance
August 28, 2015
John Deere announces an alliance with Soucy Track to sell and distribute products through the John Deere dealer channel. “This Read More
FertilizerFall-Applied Phosphorus: A Rooted Investment
August 28, 2015
As commodity prices decrease and input prices continue to rise, farmers are seeking more efficient strategies for meeting a high Read More