Before and after irrigating season is the best time to maintain pivots and their control boxes, whether you do it or have a specialized technician make a preventive maintenance service call. The servicing that s done when you don t need the pivot is much less stressful than calling for an emergency service or searching for the problem when you have other jobs to do.
Pivots run in the worst of conditions, always in water and mud, says DeLon Crapo, service manager with Oliver Irrigation in Lethbridge. And, like any machinery, it breaks down when it s working hardest, when it s really hot and you re struggling to keep your crop from burning up. That s when the cost of a service call is the least of the costs of a breakdown. Doing it right first time costs even less.
Whether you re doing routine maintenance or troubleshooting an issue, make safety your first consideration, says Crapo. Before you do anything else, lock out the machine so nobody can start it while you re working on it. You may be out of sight of the control panel, so lock out the power at the disconnect, don t just switch it off. If you don t have a good idea what the problem is and how to fix it, don t touch it, says Crapo. It s high-powered equipment that can be deadly.
And, when you first touch the machine, give it the back of your hand. If it is live, it s 480-volt power, a hold-on voltage. Testing it with the back of your hand is safer, the shock will throw your hand off the machine.
Replace broken and lost driveshaft covers. Those driveshafts won t stop for any small thing, like a body part. It s easy to avoid the shaft or step over a rut out of season, but when you re already stressed or tired during the long days of summer you may get clumsy or paying less attention.
Put it in writing
Crapo advises writing out a maintenance program, doing some things at least annually and others, like changing the oil in the gearbox during in-depth maintenance every three years. Meters are great for checking what s going on, he says. But pay attention to your own sensors, your ears and nose, and check out anything that smells or sounds strange around the tower box.
Regular maintenance includes checking the electrical system, particularly micro-switches and contactors. Dirt and leafcutter bees are the worst enemies of electrical parts, he says. One leafcutter bee can topple a pivot if it s the one that builds a nest behind a micro-switch, stopping it from making contact. Blow out the bees, nests and dirt and hold the lid up to the light to look for tiny holes.
Homemade fuses don t belong in your pivot s electrical panel. It needs the correct voltage. Crapo repeats the old adage that you get what you pay for. And, since you ve paid lots for the pivot, keeping its parts like cables and fuses up to the original standard, preferably with OEM parts and cables, is worthwhile.
Boxes and covers need to be well sealed to keep out all sorts of creatures. Crapo and his crew think they ve seen it all, but a snake sheltering in a poorly sealed box gives anybody a start.
Check tire pressures two or three times a year. Check the drive train too, particular U-joints and shields. The shields protect the U-joints as well as you. Regulators have limited lifespans so these may need to be changed.
Check your sprinklers and valves under running conditions. And, if you need to change a sprinkler package, replace it with the correct one, not any old sprinkler package.
The whole purpose of a pivot is to carry water to the crop, says Crapo. Without the right sprinkler you ll be over-or underwatering, losing productivity.
Ruts are hard on the pivot as well as you. Boom backs and part circle sprinklers can keep the wheels on dry ground as much as possible. On difficult soils, three-and four-wheel base beams or plastic minitracks called RAAFTs, can drastically reduce rutting.
Check for broken or chewed conduit and insulation. Frayed insulation can lead to a short to the frame, sometimes sending a fuses out message to the panel. Crapo recommends taking in one of the pivot schools Oliver runs every winter, usually a one-day version in Medicine Hat and a two-day school in Lethbridge. He says anybody planning to do their own maintenance should come to one, whatever make of pivot you have. We teach you everything you need to know to maintain your pivot and extend its lifespan, he says. With good maintenance pivots can function well for 40 years or more.
Every service person you ever meet tells you preventive maintenance is the best way to keep any piece of equipment running and working for you. When the equipment is your pivot, they really have a point.