In my line of work, I get asked a lot of strange stuff, but I do think the strangest this year came a few days back, when one of my new bosses asked me to write up a “Tech Tip”.
In a few days I will start my 37th year in this John Deere store in Sterling, CO both as service tech and service manager, so I have indeed given my fair share of tech tips over the years. I would contend the best advice I ever gave anyone was to just stop now and call the guy who knows. Usually, that can save more time and grief versus doing it yourself.
I suspect, however, that isn’t what my bosses had in mind. So, what with millet harvest just around the corner, and King Corn, coming up soon, I decided to talk about combines.
Over the years, I have been asked many times: “How do I set my combine?” As I said, my standard answer is, “Call the man who knows.” (That would be your 21st Century Equipment service professional.) But I realize that is not always convenient, and it is a skill some want to master for themselves. So, here’s my list of what to do and what look for…
Checking the multiple “machines” on your combine
First thing, determine ground speed Not all operators are comfortable running at the same speed. This depends entirely on the operator—and it has an impact on how the combine performs.
Next, remember that the machine you are setting is actually several machines in one. That’s why they call it a “combine”. It combines the job of several machines—cutting, feeding, threshing, separating, cleaning, grain handling and finally residue handling. All of this matters, because to set a combine correctly, you need to determine which “machine” isn’t operating up to par and needs adjusted. Then remember: Try to only adjust one thing at a time, so you can be sure what worked and what didn’t.
Check 1: Do a power shutdown
The best way to determine this is to do a power shutdown and get the machine in the field, full of material and running at the ground speed you have determined. Then, gently and in a hurry, at the same time: 1) pull the hydro to neutral; 2) stop the separator and the head; 3) idle down; 4) raise the head and back up about three feet; 5) and shut the engine down.
Check 2: Look in front of the machine
Is there already grain on the ground before you get there as a result of wind shatter, critter damage or disease? If it’s on the ground now, we don’t have a chance of getting it the bin—so take that into account when you’re counting kernels on the ground behind the machine.
Check 3: Look at the head
Next look where the head was just running: Do you see any head loss, cutter bar trouble, deck plate trouble, snapping roll trouble?
Check 4: Inspect the feeder house
There should not be a lot of loose grain there. You don’t want your feeding machine doing the work of your threshing machine. Check for feeder house drum problems and feeder house conveyor chain trouble.
Check 5: Look at the threshing machine
Next, get those shields off the side of the machine and look at the threshing machine. In the threshing elements and concaves (front part of the rotor) you should see grain still in its parent material—wheat in the heads, corn still on the cobs, etc.—at the very front of the machine, gradually coming off toward the last concave. There should be no grain left by the last concave.