Regardless of the current condition of your sprayer, a thorough, systematic approach to preparing the machine for the 2018 season can pay dividends in reduced downtime and yield-robbing application problems.
Over his 21 years as an AGCO product specialist for application equipment, Paul Haefner has developed the following preseason sprayer inspection procedure for his technicians servicing RoGator and TerraGator sprayers.
A STATIC INSPECTION
"The first step of a preseason inspection involves a walk-around of the machine where it sits in cold storage," Haefner explained. "Take notes as you start this process so you can record everything that needs attention. If you don't write it down, you'll forget things.
"Before you start the engine, look for puddles and other leaks. If you move the machine, those leaks will be much more difficult to find," he said.
Next, he recommended checking battery condition and examining cables and connectors to eliminate loose fittings and corrosion.
"It is also a good time to drain the sediment drops on the fuel tanks," he explained. "Anything heavy will settle over the winter, and you want to remove it from your fuel supply.
"The same thing applies to fuel bowls and water separators in the engine compartment," he said. "And, don't forget to visit the air tanks to blow the condensate out of them."
Haefner's static inspection continues with replacement of the engine air cleaner element and a look at air-intake cleanliness and air-box seal condition. He also recommended checking tire pressure at this time.
Once the initial walk-around is complete, start the machine and move it outside and, while keeping an eye on the gauges, allow all systems to stabilize at operating temperatures.
"With the machine outside, I advise another 360-degree walk-around with the notebook," Haefner said. "Pick a point, and start around the machine looking at hardware, hydraulic and fluid lines, wiring, straps and fixtures. Look for anything loose or worn. Note anything that needs attention.
"When you get to the booms, do the same thing," he continued. "Look at hydraulic lines and feed lines. Look for hose weather-checking or brittle or soft spots. Look for chemical-induced deterioration of the outside coating on hoses, and replace any that look suspicious."
While inspecting the booms, Haefner suggested removing and servicing spray nozzles if they weren't cleaned and stored at the end of the previous season. Also, inspect the nozzles across the boom width to ensure they are aligned and pointing the right direction.
"At the same time, repair any rust spots on the machine, and paint any bare metal that invites chemical attack during the season," he said.
A TOP VIEW
Once the walk-arounds are complete, Haefner moves to the top to inspect the product tank.
"Open the tank, and use a flashlight to look for product residue or other damage to the vessel. If there are residues, power-wash the tank, and go through the manufacturer's recommended rinse procedure to ensure you start the season clean," he said.
"Once that's complete, if you didn't do dealer service at the end of the previous season, now is the time to change engine oil if it is at or near its drain interval; and lubricate everything equipped with a grease fitting -- particularly on the booms.
"Many new machines have bulk grease banks for convenient maintenance," Haefner explained. "But, with those, you're pumping grease sometimes 10 feet to the fitting. Have someone help to make sure the fittings are taking grease."
Haefner said newer machines with diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tanks need particular preseason attention to the emission system.
"Be certain the DEF pump is operational, and change the filters. These are things many operators forget, and changing them in the spring is a good routine to adopt," he said.
The last thing is to top off all engine and accessory fluids, including the windshield washer.
After the powertrain is serviced and the machine can be run longer, Haefner said, it's time to check all the lights, marker beacons and turn signals to ensure they work and are aimed in the right direction.
"Operate the booms and hydraulic motors, and pay particular attention to boom breakaway settings," he said. "Get an assistant to help pull the booms back. They should break away and return to their operating position with no binding.
"Also, be mindful of boom lead, and set it according to manufacturer specifications. The booms should look as if they are pointing a bit to the front of the machine. Set correctly, in operation booms are perpendicular to the machine's center line," Haefner explained.
Boom lead is the preset forward angle -- a few degrees -- at which the boom is set. Once the sprayer is moving forward, friction from the crop and forward movement of the machine pushes it back. Lead is built in to make certain once the sprayer is under way the boom arms are 90 degrees to the motion of travel.
"On a 120-foot boom, a few degrees of lead error can make a significant difference," Haefner said. "The 120-foot boom may be covering only 117 feet if the lead angle is not set correctly, and that will result in expensive skips and over-application."
THE LIQUID SYSTEM
Preseason preparation of the liquid system includes a careful inspection of all strainers -- the main strainers and those on the pumps, Haefner said. "They need to be removed and cleaned carefully. Dented or torn strainers don't flow the same. If they're damaged, replace them."
Next, fill the sprayer with water, run a pressure check on the main pump and record maximum deadhead pressure.
"Record that pressure in your notebook so you can check it again midseason and again before you store the sprayer for the winter," he said. "Doing this can help you follow the pump's condition and alert you to problems if the maximum pressure changes."
Haefner recommended testing the system at 50 to 70 psi after the main pump test.
"Walk the system from pump to boom to nozzles to look for leaks, puddles or hoses ballooning under pressure. After that, do a flow check on the nozzles with a graduated cup or bucket, and a stopwatch.
"Set the boom pressure to 40 psi and, using the orifice size of the tip, check for the proper gallons per minute [gpm] rate. An 04 tip will flow 4⁄10ths gallon per minute at 40 psi. Likewise, an 06 nozzle will flow 6⁄10ths gpm at the same pressure," he explained.
Once you are confident of the nozzle flow rates, Haefner recommends observing the spray pattern of the nozzles under pressure.
"Walk the boom, and look for consistent fan patterns, and make sure they align for even coverage," he said.
At this point, turn individual boom sections on and off, and do the same with the master switch to determine if all are on and off at the same time.
Now it's time to put a known quantity of water into the tank and spray it out while driving, he said.
"If you put 500 gallons in, make sure it dispenses 500 gallons. If it doesn't, use the owner's manual to calibrate the system before mixing chemicals," he said. "The next thing is checking speed calibration over a known distance -- a mile is good. If there are errors, calibrate the radar guns to be certain they provide an accurate acreage count."
Haefner said once this list is complete, load up and spray.
"It's a big project that may take more than a day. So do it before the season begins and not the day you plan to spray."
SEASONAL TIPS FROM A TECH:
Kyle Eisenmann looks at more than 150 AGCO sprayers a year in his responsibilities as a service technician for Butler Ag, in Fremont, Nebraska.
He offered these tips for sprayer upkeep during the season:
-- Keep the machine clean.
-- Remove fertilizer and other products from frame rails and fenders. "A clean machine is easier to inspect visually for other problems," he said.
-- Record all settings in the controller. "Doing this allows you to re-enter those settings if a touch-screen or other components of the computer system fail," Eisenmann explained.
-- Delete previous jobs from your controller to ensure sufficient computer memory for jobs at hand.
-- Keep a notebook with the machine to record any error codes that flash during operation. "Knowing the code helps with quick diagnoses of system errors," he said.
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