It’s amazing how the events of one day can affect the events of another. Two days ago, just before we quit for the night, I hit a patch of green weeds that my combine didn’t care for that much. Combines work better with dry stuff, green, wet stuff generally makes combines growl. This patch of weeds was no exception as it not only made my combine growl, it brought it to its knees. It went in the header, went up the throat, and my combine politely told me “feed accelerator speed 0,” the feed accelerator was plugged. In a combine, anything that says speed 0 is a bad thing. Since midnight was approaching, we went back to the trucks, unloaded, investigated briefly, and went home for a frustrating night of attempted sleep.
A few years ago, I plugged the feed accelerator and vowed to never do it again. That time it took about 4 hours to unplug the thing. The feed accelerator sits right behind the header and throws the material being harvested into the separator. To unplug it, you have to pull by handful the wad of straw that is plugging it. There is no reverser, there is no easy access to the thing. Yesterday morning, I went to the field hating the task ahead of me.
Thankfully, the was wasn’t that big. You can put the feed accelerator into low range and thankfully the wad went through and it wasn’t much of a problem. As part of the clean out process, you increase the clearance of the separator and raise the straw chopper to ensure the wad doesn’t plug anything else. Unfortunately, when we put the straw chopper back in place the belts that run that were put into low range not high range. It ran fine throughout the day, but eventually, just as we were quitting for the night, the belt broke and then the back end of the combine plugged. The screen on the monitor politely said “discharge beater speed 0.” So I went home again for a miserable night of sleep.
As part of my unwinding process I google “unplugging discharge beater” looking for hints from other farmers on unplugging the thing. The discharge beater is even more miserable than the feed accelerator to unplug. If everything goes right you can move the drive pulley by hand and get the plug out. Unfortunately, the wad can pack tightly and you can’t move the pulley by hand or by wrench. Some suggestions from combine forum included wrapping a chain around the pulley and attaching the other end to a pickup, cutting the wadded straw with a sawzall, or chainsaw, and, my favorite, using a cutting torch (dry straw + flame = fire hazard) in one hand and a garden hose in the other hand. I can only imagine that guy burning the straw with one hand and putting out the fire with the garden hose in the other.
With all this wonderful encouragement we set out to unplug the combine this morning. We looked and investigated and could not turn the pulley by hand. But we did discover what happened in the first place. The drive belt was on the wrong set of pulleys, a mistake from the night before.
We did find a wrench that fit the nut on the pulley and a great big bar to put over the wrench to increase our leverage. And to our amazement, it budged. Just a little but a little is better than none. I climbed in the back of the combine and pulled shards of straw out of the plug. We moved the pulley back and forth. Each time getting a little farther. And finally the wad came out. And it only took three hours.
As you can tell since this is such a long post, I have some time on my hands. We got a shower this afternoon that made us quit for the night. The forecast is for hot and humid tomorrow. If we don’t get anymore rain hopefully we’ll be back in the field tomorrow and I’ll post with my thumbs.