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Mechanics Corner: Round baler maintenance

Curtis Hoffman Published on 11 June 2015

It’s easy to sidestep the time necessary for it, but scheduled maintenance is an essential part of keeping your round baler working at top performance with minimal downtime. The people who designed your baler have included numerous features to save time.

However, operators must still make time to ensure all necessary maintenance is performed regularly. Using top-quality replacement parts and lubricants will go far in ensuring your efforts will be rewarded with trouble-free, productive baling.

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Prior to regular inspections, adjustments and lubrication, the baler should be cleaned following use. This is especially critical if the baler is stored outdoors. Cleaning gives the operator a unique opportunity to focus carefully on all parts of the baler. Using this cleaning time to visually inspect the unit is a good way to identify potential issues.

Compressed air is the most effective way to remove chaff and debris from cracks, crevices and corners. Another effective option is the high-velocity, high-volume air blast from a leaf blower. Wear eye protection any time air is used to clean the baler. Do not use water. Wet debris that remains after water cleaning may cause accelerated rust and corrosion.

Use the maintenance guide in your operator’s manual as a reference for prescribed service points and intervals. This will help make sure all the important items have been serviced. For safety’s sake, activate the tailgate lock prior to performing any work requiring an open tailgate. Make sure any crop-cutting knives are retracted when working in the feeder or bale chamber area.

Check the baler pickup and replace broken or bent tines as needed. Adjust pickup gauge wheels so teeth are approximately 1 inch above the ground. It is ideal to check this setting on a level surface to be certain the pickup has the proper clearance.

Set the gauge wheels lower for more clearance in rocky or uneven conditions. Flotation should be set to keep the pickup’s contact with the ground as light as possible while not allowing the pickup to bounce and leave crop in the field. Proper flotation is an often-missed adjustment that can result in unnecessary wear and damage.

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Roller chains are commonly used for many drives on round balers. Check your operator’s manual for a reference to each chain, type of adjustment and adjustment specifications. Some round balers can be equipped with an optional roller-chain oiler system.

When the pump dispenses oil onto exposed chains, the oil will occasionally be thrown off into the environment. Use a biodegradable lubricating oil to prevent contamination. If roller chains are oiled once, they must then be oiled regularly to continually flush contaminants from internal bearing areas.

Enclosed gear cases require service and lubricant level checks. The main gearbox has a level check, usually by dipstick. Consult your operator’s manual for the correct lubricant to be used for replenishment. Check weekly or every 50 hours of operation. Other baler gearboxes may have a check/fill plug used to check level. Check them also every 50 hours of operation or as prescribed in your operator’s manual.

Tension must be removed from the baler belts before performing service on them. Belts and lacings should be inspected weekly. Check belts for wear or damage. Check lacing cables for excessive wear or breakage. Follow instructions in the operator’s manual for belt repair and installation.

During operation, observe how the belts are tracking. Belts will normally shift as the bale is formed. Contact with belt guides is normal, but belts should not curl against the guides or flip over. Adjustments can be made to change belt tension across the baler, altering their tracking characteristics.

Consult your operator’s manual to learn about all of the possible adjustments. Be sure to inspect rollers for foreign material/debris that could affect belt tracking and tension.

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Don’t forget to service your main drive-line protection prior to season. Many round balers use a slip clutch for this function. Slip clutches are friction disc-type clutches that offer protection to overloaded components. Often, a clutch may slip without the operator being aware of the condition, as the overload passes and the machine continues to function normally.

It is important to make sure the slip clutch is actually functioning as it should. During the winter months, the slip clutch can sometimes seize up and may need to be burnished to ensure it will provide the expected protection. Specifications vary for different clutches on different balers. The operator’s manual should be consulted if clutches do not function correctly.

Twine and net-cutting knives must be sharpened periodically to maintain cutting performance. If these knives are removed and file-sharpened, be sure to keep the cutting surface straight and retain the original bevel. It is important to install the knife and comb properly.

Regardless of how thorough the maintenance inspection was when the baler was put away last season, give it another look before operating this season. The time you spend on preventative maintenance will be rewarded by more productive baling. PD

Curt Hoffman is a round baler marketing manager with New Holland Agriculture. He can be contacted by email.

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