Having a cotton picker that functions properly is essential for harvesting processes to be as efficient as possible. But like any piece of machinery, it’s not going to be immune to wear and tear issues.
Moisture, rust, and abrasive weeds can wear down the cabinet and cause air suction problems. It’s important to have the right aftermarket parts for your equipment to continue functioning as well as possible.
1. Spindle Issues
A cotton picker’s multiple spindles rotate in the module chamber at high speeds to snatch and pull seed cotton from inside bolls. The spindles then transfer the seed cotton to the gin’s modules, which compact and bundle them for transport. The resulting modules are the basic units of a gin processing plant. The entire gin process can be interrupted if any of these parts fail. To help prevent fires and other equipment problems, a farmer should thoroughly inspect and clean the machine each night or morning before starting work.
Regularly cleaning and servicing a picker keeps it running at peak efficiency. This maintenance includes cleaning and lubricating all of its parts, including the row-unit cabinet, conveyor doors, and spindles. Trash and lint buildup causes row-unit chokes, reducing harvesting efficiency and increasing the fire risk.
Some techniques for reducing or eliminating these problems include beginning the day with a clean row-unit cabinet, lowering spindle cleaner solution application rates, and using lower ground speeds. In addition, a farmer should remove trash and lint from the rows before greasing them each evening or morning. Using grease with a higher molecular weight can help reduce friction and increase the turning force of a spindle.
Replacing cotton picker spindles is expensive and time-consuming. To reduce the number of times a spindle is replaced, a cotton picker can be equipped with a spindle with a ceramic wear coating. The coating is a hard material such as silica chrome alumina oxide and covers substantially the entire picking end of the spindle. The coating has a harder surface than sand and wears much longer than conventional spindle surfaces in sandy conditions.
If a fire occurs, the operator must immediately unload all of the harvested seed cotton, even if it is in a basket or module chamber. This is done to reduce the chance of a hydraulic line or fuel tank rupturing and spreading the fire further or causing the operator to lose control of the machine. Unloading the seed cotton also removes a source of ignition, which can prevent the fire from spreading to adjacent areas of the machine and possibly triggering a chain reaction, such as when an explosion from a spark in a hot area of the module chamber ignites a fuel or hydraulic hose.
2. Hydraulic Issues
Cotton picker hydraulic issues can reduce your yield if not dealt with promptly. The fluid lines connecting the row units to the engine and power unit can burst and ignite, causing fires that can spread quickly and damage your picker. The best way to prevent hydraulic issues is by properly maintaining the system by reducing oil usage, checking for leaks, and keeping the fluid level in the right range.
Check all hydraulic components’ oil levels and conditions regularly, including accumulators, reservoirs, and valve banks. Keep an eye out for leaks and ensure that all drain plugs are securely closed. Also, be sure to clean the engine compartment regularly to prevent debris from clogging the hydraulic system and causing fires.
A dirty air filter can slow the operation of your machine by preventing the proper flow of compressed air through the picker. This can cause the spindle to vibrate, creating noise and reducing picking efficiency. Regular cleaning and maintenance of the air filter can help to minimize clogs and keep it functioning at its best.
Maintaining your picker’s proper row height and tilt is essential for maximum yield. Incorrect settings can result in misalignment and uneven picking. In addition, a poorly tilted row will not facilitate an even distribution of the load between rows. If you do not have a hydraulic lift to raise the rows, be sure that your picker is on firm ground to avoid mud and slip-and-fall injuries.
When a fire occurs in your cotton picker, follow the recommended procedure for safe dismounting and inspection. Stop the engine, put the transmission in park and set the brakes, remove the Type ABC fire extinguisher mounted in the engine compartment, exit the cab, and inspect for signs of fire. Be sure to look for fire in the duct area, baskets, module chambers, surge hopper, and tops of row units.
Performing routine maintenance on your cotton picker can save you from expensive repairs and extend the life of the equipment. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and procedures for cleaning your equipment and be sure to use personal protective gear like gloves, eyewear, long pants, long-sleeve shirts, boots, earplugs, and dust masks.
3. Electrical Issues
When a cotton picker isn’t properly maintained, it can develop problems that will cause fires. A fire in a cotton picker is not only a major safety hazard for your machine operators but can also destroy the entire machine and fields. This is why following the recommended maintenance procedures for your make and model of the cotton picker is important. Doing a thorough cleaning and inspection each night or morning will ensure better performance and less potential for fire throughout the day.
When the picker isn’t cleaned thoroughly, accumulated dust and dirt can block the airflow. This can lead to overamping, which is when the electrical components draw too much current. Overamping can damage components and shorten their life expectancy.
Other common electrical issues include faulty wiring, fuses that blow frequently, and short circuits. Electrical problems can lead to fires in a cotton picker, which can destroy the entire machine. To avoid these problems, it’s important to check the system for overamping and short circuits on a regular basis.
Another common electrical issue is an overcharged battery, which can damage the electronics of a cotton picker. If you notice that your battery is overcharged, it’s important to charge it immediately to prevent any damage.
An overcharged battery can also lead to a voltage surge. This is when the current passes through a wire that isn’t connected to the main system. The high voltage can cause the wires to heat up, which can lead to a fire. To avoid this, it’s essential to have a Residual Current Circuit Breaker (RCCB) installed on your cotton picker.
Keeping the picker in good condition will help to extend its life expectancy. It’s important to clean the picker each night or morning before greasing, adding fluids, and inspecting and repairing it. It’s best to thoroughly clean the chassis before moving on to the module chambers, picker baskets, and surge hopper. It’s also important to raise handrails when climbing on the top of a picker and to be careful when using ladders.
4. Miscellaneous Issues
Many picker issues are caused by poor or no maintenance, which reduces picking efficiency. For example, the doffing area often needs cleaning to remove debris around the doffers and spindle moistener pads. It is also important to remember that weather and soil conditions can dramatically decrease picker performance. Therefore, monitoring relative humidity and soil moisture levels closely throughout the harvest season is important.
Inspect all components before and after each field day to ensure that they are in good working condition. This includes the doffing area, baskets, module chambers, and surge hoppers. A fire that begins in one of these areas can quickly spread, consuming the entire picker chassis. In addition, a fire that occurs near hydraulic or fuel lines can cause the lines and tanks to rupture, further accelerating the spread of the fire.
If a fire starts, the operator should immediately follow the firefighting procedures specified in the picker’s operator manual. After shutting off the engine, lowering the row units, and disengaging the power to the cabinets, the operator should evacuate the picker with as little time and debris as possible. It is critical to clear the area behind the machine, making sure to unload the baskets and modules. Additionally, the operator should make sure to remove the Type ABC fire extinguisher mounted in the engine compartment and take it with him or her for the remainder of the inspection. This helps prevent additional fires that could start in the cab.