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Preseason Planter Repair
Planter design may have transformed, and seed technology may have advanced of late. What hasn’t changed, however, is the paramount necessity for a preseason inspection and maintenance on seeders, insists Kevin Kimberley.
Kimberley should know. He has an in-depth relationship with planters going back 35 years, when he bought his first seed meter calibration stand. Today, Kimberley and his son, Brock, receive thousands of meters from farmers. The Kimberleys inspect and rebuild to the point that those meters are 100% accurate, 100% of the time.
Kimberley also spends time on the road as a consultant. His services start early in the spring in the field making sure each one of his customers’ planters is operating at 100%.
That considerable experience has revealed an embarrassing revelation for Kimberley.
“Conservatively, I have seen seed meters I’ll guarantee were costing the farmer who owned them a minimum of 10 bushels and upwards to 20 bushels per acre because they were in bad repair. Often, I find other planter components that are running badly worn or damaged, and this is from planters operating on top-notch farms.”
1. Clean up seed meter components
During the planting season, graphite and seed treatment accumulate on the internal working parts and surfaces. “Seed treatments, in particular, stick like glue and, in doing so, can jeopardize meter accuracy,” Kimberley says. “If you don’t remove buildup, it gets progressively worse, plugging holes in meters or impacting the ability of seals to maintain contact.”
Simple soap and water often isn’t adequate to remove graphite and seed coating. “We use a spray surface solvent for removal,” Kimberley says. “Scrub off any seed treatment from working parts and buff out any surface rust.”
During the season, employ a mixture of 80-20 talc-graphite in the seed. The talc-graphite additive smooths out texture differences “making different hybrids equally slick, thus improving their ability to freely flow through a meter,” Kimberley says. Also, the additive helps minimize treatment buildup on key meter components such as fingers and belts (in finger pickup meters) or seals and brushes (on pneumatic meters).
2. Replace worn
There are myriad planter parts that wear from a season of use, and they should be automatically replaced in the winter. These include brushes, belts, and idlers on pickup meters and all brushes on pneumatic units. “Don’t consider the cost – just replace them,” Kimberley says.
Long-lived seed meters can and do wear to the point that they need to be replaced. When examining pneumatic meters, in particular, look for wear on the contact surfaces of seals, meter disks, brushes, lids, and housings.
Planter tips: Pneumatic seed meters
3. Examine closing wheel assembly
Spin closing disks (if your planter is so equipped) and press wheels, listening for noise, which indicates worn bearings. Examine the entire press wheel assembly to determine if it is bent or cracked. “Planting on a curve or on hillsides can put pressure on mountings, causing undue wear on one side,” Kimberley says. “Eventually, they get out of alignment, and the wheels won’t press down on either side of the furrow.” Also, check for worn bearings, bushings, or cams. “Grab the assembly and move it up and down and from side to side to check for slop.”
4. Look for bent parallel linkage arms
It may appear little can go wrong with parallel linkage arms. Yet, their bushings do wear (sometimes to the point of elongating mounting holes), and their arms can bend or twist, particularly if you plant on sidehills, through waterways, or over washouts caused by rain.
“This jeopardizes depth placement,” Kimberley says. Evaluate linkage by grasping the row unit from behind and moving it up and down and from side to side. Look for sloppy motion at the mounting points (an indication of worn bushings) and whether row units rise and fall at an angle (an indication of twisted linkage).
Planter tips: Parallel linkage
5. Check air bag connections for leaks
Air bags rarely present repair issues. Their connections can spring leaks over time from vibration, however, and also from hoses becoming brittle. “With the air bags inflated and with a spray bottle full of soapy water, walk down the planter and spray every connection. If bubbles appear, then you know you need to replace the hose,” Kimberley explains.
6. Don’t ignore planter attachments
By nature of having been added to the planter, attachments are often overlooked in preseason maintenance. Their blades need to be sharpened (if designed as such) both prior to planting and, if necessary, during the season. Inspect attachment frames and mountings to determine if they were damaged during the previous year. “Confirm that attachments are in alignment with the row unit. You’d be surprised how often this is overlooked when they are originally mounted on the toolbar,” he says.
7. Scam seed tubes for wear
Seed tubes are often ignored because they’re so well hidden from view by disk openers. As such, you need to remove tubes every year and examine them for wear. “Frequently, worn tubes will have a small dog-ear flap of plastic at the bottom,” Kimberley explains. “Remove that dog ear. Really, any significant wear calls for new seed tubes.” While you have the tubes out, look at them lengthwise to determine if they are straight. “I’ve even found brand-new tubes that are curved. A warped tube causes seed ricochet, leading to spacing problems.”
Finish this examination by cleaning the eye of the monitor sensor in the tube and inspect cast guards for wear.
8. Take note of tires
Tires are the most often ignored planter components – until they go flat. Even if they don’t go flat, underinflated tires affect how well row units are able to maintain precise depth placement, and they can jeopardize level planter operation. “Proper inflation keeps the toolbar level and keeps drive tires turning at the same speed,” Kimberley says. Inspect all tires and their rims before planting “in case they caught a rock last season and got dinged.” Check inflation pressures at least once a week during the season. Be sure to write inflation pressures on tire rims for quick reference.
Planter tips: Tire pressure
9. Scrutinize hoses and electric lines
Like tires, hydraulic hoses and electrical lines and connectors are often ignored during a preseason inspection. “Hydraulic hoses do wear, especially where they bend from folding the planter, for example,” Kimberley says. “Such a bend can weaken the hose, causing it to maybe collapse or to affect meter pressure (if it supplies the orbit motor propelling the air pump) or transmission speed (if the planter is not ground driven).”
During this examination, also look for abrasion and cracking on hoses that can, among other things, indicate a buildup of heat in a particular location due to a hose restriction. Finish the hydraulic inspection by examining all cylinders to detect leaks.
Finally, check all electrical lines for bare wiring. Check their connections, too, cleaning them with a solution made for electrical components.