How to store your combine over winter

An hour or two spent preparing your combine for storage can save a lot of headaches and extra expense next summer.

Clean the combine to stop damage and rodents

The first step is to clean the combine.

The two best tools for cleaning combines are a pressure washer and compressed air. If you don’t have compressed air, a leaf blower will work.

This is a messy job, but is important because:

1. It helps make combines less attractive to rats and mice

2. It reduces the chance of corrosion

3. Dirt and crop debris, especially in the engine compartments, is one of the biggest causes of combine fires.

First, clean any crop residue and debris with the air compressor. Compressed air is better than a pressure washer as it cleans without leaving moisture in the combine. Make sure you clean dirt from around any bearings and any crop remains that wrap around the shafts during harvest.

Other areas that are sometimes missed are the grain tank and pan, and the engine compartment. Dirt and crop remains in the engine compartment are important to clean. They can be a fire hazard when you start the harvest next season. This is one of the biggest causes of combine fires.

You may need to use the pressure washe. Be careful not to pressure wash any electrical connectors, or any shaft seals and bearings.

While you have the shields off for cleaning, it’s a good time to look for any damaged or worn parts that need repairing.

Wear, tear and repairs

Combines get used extensively for a short time of the year – this means that they are more likely to have worn or damaged parts.

If you don’t have the time to make repairs on the combine until the quieter months, there’s one thing you should do:

Take the time to make a note of all the things you need to fix or repair on the combine. Six months later, there’s a good chance you or your mechanic will have forgotten them.

How to prepare a combine for storage?

  • Fuel Tank – To prevent water in the fuel injection system component system, fill the fuel tank with fuel over winter. This stops condensation in the tank. Remember to drain the water separator before use.
  • Battery – Remove battery and store somewhere warm and dry.
  • Belts – Loosening belt tension slightly. Don’t remove the tension as this will case the belt to shrink – this causes headaches next season.
  • Radiator – If you have added water to your radiator, remember to replace it with coolant.
  • Oils – Do a service check and change fluids if required. Old oil can lead to corrosion while in storage, so it is better to make the oil change before winter.
  • Engine – When a machine is in storage for a long time, some people recommend sealing exhaust and breather outlets with masking tape. This will help stop condensation caused by changes in temperature. Condensation in the engine can lead to rust. Remember to remove the tape when you start the engine.
  • Bearings – After you have greased and lubricated, run the combine for 15-20 minutes to distribute the grease inside the bearings.
  • Tyres – Combine tyres can be expensive to replace, so it’s worth making sure these you store these correctly.

We would recommend putting the combine up on blocks to get the tyres off the ground. This is particularly important if the area is damp.

Tyre pressures should be set at the normal pressure and are best kept out of sunlight. Oil or grease on the tyres will damage them so make sure to clean this off.

How to keep rats and mice out of a combine.

If you’ve ever gone to start your combine and found that rats or mice have spent the winter months making a home in it or (worse yet) a meal out of the wiring, then you will understand how frustrating that can be.

We have put together a list – we haven’t tried them all, but hopefully they will give you a few ideas:

1. Electronic repellents – these are sonic or ultrasonic devices that emit a high pitched sound. This is said to deter mice and rats.

2. Baits and traps – These can be effective. Traps can be a lot of work emptying and resetting them. Bait and poison is a good option, the downside is that rodents will find a hidden spot to curl up and die. Dead rats and mice do not smell pleasant.

3. Cats – A farm cat or even a Jack Russell Terrier will be effective rodent killers.

4. Moth balls – This is said to keep mice away, but won’t make them leave if they are already there. It may be worth paying a little extra to go for scented moth balls, as the smell will be quite strong in the cab.

5. Other solutions – There are many other methods used such as Irish Spring soap, homemade traps, mixtures of old diesel and oil, powdered or granular sulphur.

10 Tips To Cut Combine Breakdowns

Here are 10 common-sense steps that most farmers can take to avoid combine breakdowns, according to Potter and two agricultural Extension machinery specialists:

1 Start with a preseason inspection. “To avoid breakdowns, farmers need to give their combines a rigorous preseason inspection,” says Dan Ess, Purdue University Extension ag engineer. “That’s number one. The obvious places to check are chains, belts and bearings.”

2 Review your operator’s manual. “Check your manual for the appropriate settings for rotor or cylinder speed, concave clearance and fan speed,” advises Mark Hanna, Iowa State University Extension ag engineer. “Also check settings for screens in the cleaning shoe.”

3 Inspect and clean daily. “Keep bearing surfaces clean of dust and crop residue,” says Hanna. “Check for leaks of pressurized oil lines such as those to the turbo charger.”

4 Use air, not water. High-pressure air is the preferred cleaning tool for most combine components. “Be careful if using high pressure water to clean the combine, even on the outside of the machine,” warns Hanna. “Water forced into interior surfaces can cause rust.”

5 Pre-scout fields. Farmers should pre-scout fields for crop size, ear size and weed patches, and be ready to make adjustments as needed, says Hanna. For example, the stripper bar settings on the corn head should have about a 1¼-in. gap for normal settings. For smaller-sized ears, he says that gap should be narrowed.

6 Adjust to field conditions. “As the crop dries down in the heat of the day, fine-tuning can help,” says Potter. “Each time you change to a different corn or soybean variety, check to see if you need to make some adjustments.”

7 Check grain quality. “If the combine isn’t giving you good quality grain, you might have a worn grain elevator chain,” says Potter. “If the elevator chain is damaging grain, it could lead to other breakdowns.” Feeder house adjustments might also be needed, he adds, if grain quality is deteriorating.

8 Be prepared. Keep a cell phone with you or have some other way to quickly call for help if you need it, recommends Hanna. He also advises having two ABC-type fire extinguishers available on the combine. A 5-lb. model should be in the cab and a 15- to 20-lb. model should be mounted at ground level. Having a small shovel on board the combine can also come in handy to quickly throw dirt on flames.

9 Don’t delay repairs. “If you know some things aren’t working right, get them worked on right away before you forget,” advises Potter. “Proper maintenance starts right at the end of the season before you put the machine away.”

10 Clean before storing. Prior to placing a combine in storage for the winter, farmers should clean and remove the battery and place it in a heated storage area where it won’t freeze, says Hanna. He also advises giving the combine a good, overall cleaning.

“Also before harvest, make sure the skid plates under the grain platform are clean, and check that they give you a full range of movement,” says Hanna. “Clean under the corn snouts on the corn head and check and clean the gathering chains. Also clean any accumulated debris on the cooling fins on the radiator, the hydraulic oil cooler and the air conditioner condenser.”

Inspect Combine Components Before Harvest

To help in efforts to clean and adjust your combine prior to harvest, Mark Hanna, Iowa State University Extension ag engineer, has developed a preseason combine component checklist.

You may also want to keep and expand on the following checklist as you review your operator’s manual prior to harvest:

  • Air conditioner (clean cooling fins, check the drain tube for plugs)
  • Auger spirals (look for worn or bent flighting on cross augers and unloading augers)
  • Battery (check, clean)
  • Bearings (check wear, condition)
  • Cleaning shoe (clean, adjust, lubricate as needed)
  • Corn head (check condition of ear savers)
  • Cutter bar (check flexibility and movement)
  • Cylinder or rotor rasp bars (check manual for allowable wear)
  • Drive belts (check for tension, look for excessive wear and cracks)
  • Feeder house (adjust setting of lower drum, inspect sheet metal on underside for holes, cracks or worn or thin material, and replace if needed)
  • Filters (replace)
  • Fluid levels for engine oil, coolant, hydraulic fluid and gear case oil (check both condition and amount)
  • Gathering chains (clean, check tension and condition)
  • Grain bins (clean with a shop vacuum)
  • Grain platform (check knife sharpness and wear, examine for full back-and-forth cut)
  • Lights (clean, replace bulbs)
  • Reflector tape (clean and/or replace)
  • Rubber paddles on grain elevator (check for wear /condition)
  • Skid plates under grain platform (check for full range of movement)
  • Stripper bar (check settings)
  • Slip clutch (check operation and bolt condition — look for broken or sheared bolts)
  • Tires (check air pressure, tread wear and condition).