The best way to avoid having to replace cotton picker parts is to take care of the machine before, during, and after the harvest season with regular maintenance procedures. Even so, cotton picking is a difficult job and puts wear on the equipment. Cotton in its natural form is not the soft comfortable clothing it is used for. Cotton in the field is a strong fibrous plant which produces lots of natural oils. These properties mean eventually even the best cared for equipment is going to break down. There are a few procedures to use which make gear last as long as possible, and there are signs which present themselves when parts need replacement.
Pre-Season Inspection and Preparation
Before beginning the harvest season, the tractor should be in overall good shape after any maintenance and repairs from the year before. However, it has likely been parked in a barn since the previous year, so it’s a good idea to give it a good inspection and cleaning before putting it to work. Such inspection involves checking the tire pressure, making sure fluid levels are topped off, and checking any records of problems which may not have been serviced the year before. Additionally, the row units may need adjustment according to this year’s cotton breed, and the spindles and bushings should be inspected. In general, a simple visual inspection of machinery should always start the season.
Just giving the tractor a good inspection is similar to how a regular car or truck goes through an annual safety inspection. Nothing is expected to be wrong, but it’s better to find a problem and correct it before it gets worse than to wait until surrounding subsystems are also damaged and require repairs. It also doesn’t hurt to wash the exterior of the tractor and clean up the interior cabin to assure operator comfort when beginning the harvest.
Mid-Season Maintenance and Upkeep
This isn’t exactly maintenance on the tractor, but throughout the season there needs to be safety inspections of the equipment and how it’s being operated. Routine inspections similar to the one conducted before the season started should be conducted as often as possible. Again, it’s always better to fix a potential problem before it gets worse. It might seem like repairs can be postponed in order to not interrupt the harvest process, but the tractor will work more efficiently when it is kept in good working order and speed up harvest time. Another issue to address is how, if the machine breaks down with an utter failure, repair time is going to set the project back far worse than the time it would have taken to do the recommended maintenance steps.
The main things to do during the harvest season is to make sure the moistener system is working properly, and conduct daily cleaning of debris which may not be routinely cleaned out by the built-in system. It’s also important to make sure safety features haven’t been bypassed by the operator. In reality, such things do happen in real time when a safety feature is interrupting the harvest, but that means it’s not functioning properly and needs to be fixed immediately. Some safety features may seem to be solely for the safety of the operator, but they also tend to be linked in with other systems of the tractor which can become damaged if the safety feature isn’t working as intended.
Post Season Inspections and Repairs
Ideally, at the end of the season and before the tractor goes into winter storage, is the time for repairs. Any damage the tractor may have taken needs to be addressed, because this is when the operator is most familiar with how the tractor has been running and can most easily diagnose any problems it may have developed. The process starts with a visual inspection and thorough cleaning of the tractor. The same inspection that began the season is a good way to continue checking for potential problems, as making sure are the parts are working within appropriate parameters is a good way to give the tractor a once-over to see things in a little better detail than just kicking the tires.
Signs It’s Time for New Parts
If any operations seem less efficient than when the season started, there is likely a need for repair or new cotton picker parts. This can have to do with the tractor itself and the engine, or with the specific aspects of the machine designed to harvest cotton. There are many subsystems which can potentially break down, and every one of them is integral to the overall performance of the machine. Sometimes similar problems can be caused by different system failures, but there are a few things to look for to determine the exact cause.
- The spindles will begin to clog when they become dull. This is fairly easy to determine by examining the spindles visually and by hand to see if they have worn down past the point of working effectively.
- Damaged spindles cause the same issue, but cannot be repaired. A damaged spindle should always be replaced and properly installed to assure future efficiency. Rust on a spindle is a sign it is both dull and damaged.
- Clogging of the spindles can also occur when the moistener system isn’t operating as it should, and may require new hoses or connections to repair.
- General mechanical performance is no different than a traditional tractor for general use rather than cotton picking specifically, and will usually require new parts to get back to having the tractor run the way it’s supposed to.
- If there is visible wear on a part, it probably needs to be replaced. It might still be working, but it’s going to fail soon.