Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Make time to give your combine a little TLC

With a spell of unsettled weather forecast as we hit the main harvest period, it will really pay to have your machine working well -- and free of pesky rodents

Bruce Lett

With the forecasters predicting unsettled weather as we get into the harvest proper, it will pay to have your combine in tip-top shape over the coming weeks.

Combines work flat out for only a few weeks in the year, spending the rest of it parked out of the way and protected from the elements. Being dormant for so long makes them a very attractive winter home for many roving rodents, providing, as they do, numerous delicacies to chew on from belts to elevator paddles, grain-pan seals or even wiring.

So it really is important to dedicate a little time to your combine's welfare.

A combine harvester is an incredibly efficient machine, processing all manner of cereals with minimal losses when set up and maintained properly. Up front is the header, which cuts the crop, gathers it in and, via the neck, delivers it to the main threshing drum.

Grain and chaff goes through the concave to the shaker shoes, where it is cleaned, processed and elevated to the grain tank. The drum transfers the separated straw to the walkers for its last processing.

All of a combine's driving mechanisms are a series of chains, belts, gears, shafts and motors of either an electric or hydraulic variety. The first step is to run the combine up for a good 10-20 minutes, but a word of caution first. On liquid-cooled machines make sure there is coolant in the radiator and the fan belt is intact.


This year, it was decided that one of the first jobs to do on the combine was washing out the home farm's V8 Deutz air-cooled engine. It was a lucky move as the 'V' in the engine had been made into a nice straw-lined home by vermin squatters.

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With all cooling systems intact and header on, run the combine for that 10-20 minutes and stop it.

If there are any problem bearings, they will be hot after their winter break. Using a suitably long lever or loader tine, check for any play in shafts, pivots or shaker-shoe suspension rubbers. Check all belts for signs of perishing or cracking. Chains should be tight but loose enough that you can shift them side to side on their sprockets.

Rubber, in the form of grain elevator paddles and grain pan seals, have a particular attraction for rodents so have a good peek at all, replacing anything damaged. Most machines have guide stickers of some sort to assist in tensioning belts or drive mechanisms appropriately. If you plan to dismantle anything, take a picture or video with your phone to act as a guide for reassembling.

The parts book is always useful for this purpose as well. I managed to locate one for the old Deutz Fahr on a German website with extensive use of an online translator.

Electrics, especially lights, indicators and beacons need to work if travelling on the road.

If something electrical is not working, check it out in case it was the starter or dessert for one of our furry friends. Bare wires make a combine one hell of a fire hazard.

On that note, do not forget the fire extinguishers. Two is preferable, since a water or foam will tackle general fires but you'll need a powder extinguisher for oil or electrical fires.

At the very front is, of course, the header, which despite being one of the most important areas of a combine, is often one of the most neglected, while it is left on the header trolley and forgotten about. Sharp sections on the knife are crucial to proper crop cutting and even feed to the drum, especially in damp or greener conditions. Ensure all auger fingers are present and that all neck elevator slats are also present and straight to ensure even threshing drum feed.

Make sure you have functioning brakes and a handbrake, especially if you are going to travel on the road. Functioning mirrors or a reversing camera will help keep an eye on impatient motorists.

Finally, a little road tax will keep you on the right side of the law.

If the old girl is not registered, contact your local NCT test centre to arrange its registration, but be aware this is by no means a simple process and costs €250 just to get the registration number.

Indo Farming