Tillage attack plan
How well implements perform this spring will be determined by your devotion to remedial maintenance in the shop this month. The following is an abbreviated inspection repair tip list created by Kevin Kimberley based on his field experience.
1. Hitch and Frame
Beginning with the hitch and walking your way to the rear of the implement, examine the frame by scrutinizing welds (particularly at hinges) for cracks as well as for twisted or bent steel and worn or loose fasteners and their bushings. “Catch and correct these problems in the shop before they break in the field,” Kimberley says.
Inspect all hydraulic hoses, their fittings, and couplers, as well as cylinders for leaks, wear, and (in the case of hoses) cracking. Replace hoses, fittings, and cylinder seals as needed. Hydraulic leaks, in particular, compromise the ability of an implement to maintain tillage depth or to remain level in operation.
The single most overlooked item on implements, tires need to be examined for wear, weather cracking, and proper inflation. Also, they should be spun by hand “while you watch for smooth rotation and listen for bearing wear. Now is the time to replace worn bearings rather than after they have gone out in the field and possibly could score a spindle in the process,” Kimberley says.
4. Soil-Engaging Tools
Any part that engages the soil must be checked for wear. “Start at the front of the implement and examine disks or coulter blades (if you're using a field-finishing implement) for sharp edges. Next, check for wear on sweeps, shovels, and points. Pay particular attention to those items running behind tractor tires, as they wear the fastest,” Kimberley says. Once the point on a sweep is worn down, it can't penetrate the ground, “much like using a butter knife vs. a steak knife. Worn sweeps also smear the soil (creating a hardpan) and are less effective breaking up big clods.” Dull disks are even worse at compacting soil, “as they are pushing, not cutting, into the ground.” Blunt blades can lift an implement out of the ground often increasing draft by 15% to 20% or higher, causing a tractor to consume more fuel. “You can sharpen disk blades. I replace wavy or rippled coulters,” he says.
Often ignored, shanks and their mountings exert a major influence on sweep, or shovel, performance. Study all shanks to see if they are twisted and “shake them up and down and side to side to determine how worn their fasteners and related bushings are,” Kimberley recommends. “Check springs for elongation and lost tension and their mountings. Mounting bolts and spring cups (retainers and washers) do wear and break.”
6. Finishing Attachments
Begin your inspection with finishing attachment frames and mounting points. “Such attachments are crucial to leveling fields and distributing residue, which has a huge impact on planter performance,” Kimberley says. Check any soil-engaging component for wear. “Coil tine length is particularly critical to how well they perform. Pay close attention to tines or spikes (if so equipped) at the front of the ranks, as they wear fastest.” Regarding rolling baskets, the key here is to appraise their bearings for smooth rotation; examine the baskets for bent rods or bars.