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Seed Meter Maintenance Key to Precisely Spaced Seed

Much can be said about investing time during seeding to double-check your planter’s operating performance. That chore actually starts in the shop this month with exposing seed meters and examining their components. 

Regardless of the type of meter you are employing, the process is the same. “Disassemble each meter to clean all parts using compressed air,” says Planter Doctor Kevin Kimberley, who utilizes a spray surface solvent during this chore to provide complete cleaning. “Soap and water often aren’t adequate to remove graphite and seed coatings that have stuck to all those meter parts and surfaces.”

After cleaning, and with all of a meter’s components laid out on a table, set about examining all their working parts for wear and tear. Your planter’s owner’s manual offers a great guide to examination.

finger pickup pointers

When it comes to finger pickup meters, Kimberley automatically replaces certain parts like brushes, belts, and their idlers each year. “Look for a warped baffle or elevator housing with wear and determine if it needs to be replaced. Buff away any and all rust that may have developed on metal surfaces.” 

During your examination, check the meter’s faceplate for wear. “Replace plates showing wear into the second layer of metal as this can result in overplanting. If I replace the plate, I normally also replace the finger pickups at the same time.” 

Likewise, check the seed conveyor belts for worn paddles or cracks. “You want the belts to be pliable. Check their drive holes to see if they have elongated from working with the pulley.”

pneumatic meters

With pneumatic meters, the most challenging issue is removing seed treatment from plastic parts since “it adheres to plastic like glue,” Kimberley says. 

Pneumatic meter components that require particular attention for wear include:

  • Seals. They are crucial to maintain accurate vacuum.
  • Meter disks. They wear far more than you realize.
  • Brushes. They should be replaced every year.
  • Lids and housing. They can warp from heat.

Kimberley recommends marking the pneumatic meter and each of its major components (disks, lids, etc.) with a number that corresponds to the row unit it was removed from.

With your meter repair work finished, have them calibrated by a technician. “I like to test every meter 10 times using 500 seeds in every test to be sure they operate accurately. Don’t trust that even a new planter runs accurately,” he says.

row unit work

Next, turn your attention toward row units, inspecting them for wear and tear. “Start at the front of the unit with attachments (like residue wheels or coulters) and end with the packing wheels, inspecting all moving parts in between. Every component on the drive system (including the transmission) should be examined including chains or cables, sprockets, idlers, clutches, and their bushings or bearings.

“Replace overly rusty, stiff, or kinked chains. A faulty chain can set up a vibration that affects meter accuracy, especially for hard-to-plant seed sizes,” he says. “For cable drives, remove the unit and turn the cable to see if it’s rotating smoothly. After inspection and parts replacement, operate the drive in the shop and watch all the components in action to see if adjustment or part replacement is needed.”

About the Planter Doctor

Kevin Kimberley bought his first calibration stand in 1980. Today, Kimberley and his crew at Kimberley Ag Consulting have rebuilt and calibrated tens of thousands of meters for farmers across the country. Contact the firm by going to or by calling 515/967-2583. 

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