Winterizing Your Combine
When you put your combine in the shed this fall the last thing on your mind is next year’s harvest. You have other things to worry about: grain to market, inputs to price, relationships with landlords, and some well-deserved time away. You’ve just finished your busiest season of the year, but your time still commands a premium. With a schedule this busy, it’s important that you apply your time where it matters most.
Taking a few hours after harvest to prepare your combine for winter will save you time and money. By doing a few simple, preventive maintenance steps now you can prevent costly rodent damage, rust damage, extend the life of wear parts, and keep your cab in good shape. We researched what we think are the most effective processes to completely winterize your machine and compiled a kit to assist you in the process.
- Thoroughly Clean Your Combine
Harvesting is a dirty business. The plant dust and debris generated while threshing inevitably settles throughout the combine. This dust can draw and hold moisture causing metal components to rust. It can also attract rodents. Make sure you blow your combine off with an air hose—paying special attention to the engine compartment and the sides. If possible, pressure wash the combine after cleaning with an air blower. Don’t forget the cab during the post-harvest cleaning. Now, while you have the time, is an excellent chance to vacuum the dust and wipe down the windows. This would also be a good time to wipe down the interior with a protectant wipe to prevent weathering and premature cracking.
- Inspect the Belts and Hoses
Check belts for condition, tension, and alignment. The rubber should not be brittle, nor should it be extremely soft. Soft hoses are an indication of exposure to oil leaks. Check the tension on the belts to make sure they are not overly tight or loose. A good rule of thumb for belt tension is .016 of an inch deflection for every inch of belt. Check hoses for condition and leaks. Look for damp spots around fittings and connections.
- Grease and Lubricate
One last go around with the grease gun is a great idea before putting the machine in the shed. The grease will force out any moisture that has settled in the tight places and it will be ready to go for next year. Lubricating the chains and sprockets will also provide a nice coat for winter and prevent the components from rusting. Lubricate the drive chains and sprockets and the feeder house chain. Consult your owner’s manual for grease points and lubrication check lists.
- Check Fluids
After harvest is a good time to check the fluids on the machine and inventory any major repairs. Now is the time to catch an engine leak or hydraulic leak while you have plenty of time to address the issue. Consult your owner’s manual for fluid check points and levels. Be sure to drain the DEF for the winter to prevent lines from busting.
- Add a Diesel Treatment
In cold weather, diesel fuel can gel up and cause damage. Fuel filters will plug with ice and wax. Adding a pre-winter fuel treatment will help prevent gelling and damage to your system. We recommend Power Service Diesel Fuel Supplement with Cetane Boost. It is effective in temperature as low as -40 F, and 1 ounce will treat 3 gallons of fuel.
- Distribute a Rodent Repellent
Pests are arguably the biggest cause of combine damage. Mice and rats chew through wires and make bedding in the cabs. Although a good post-harvest cleaning will remove grains that attract rodents, your machine is still vulnerable. Don’t be stingy with a good rodent repellent—a rodent can cost your thousands of dollars in damage by chewing through a few wires. Put some repellent in the cab targeting the wires behind or below the seat. Place some in the engine compartment and throw some in the back on the sieves. While a poisonous bait may be more efficient, be mindful of the toxic chemicals used in these baits and the capacity to transfer other animals. We recommend a botanical rodent repellent mix made by Earthkind.
- Disconnect Batteries
The last thing you should do after parking your combine for the winter is disconnect the batteries. Newer models have battery disconnects built into the wiring. Older machines will have to be manually disconnected. The future benefits will be well-worth the added labor. Use this time to check over your connections and thoroughly clean them: look for corrosive build up, dirt or debris, or oil. Foreign matter in the connections will provide a path for energy to escape.
The familiar axiom “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” was coined by Benjamin Franklin while urging citizens that the best way to fight a fire is to prevent it’s happening altogether. The phrase has been used in many settings since, and we are sure Ben would lend it’s use to equipment maintenance. Take time after harvest this year to winterize your combine—you’ll be happy you did!