Dave Guthrie with combine

Dave Guthrie, a farmer in Hopkinton, Iowa, is wrapping up inspections on his combine heading into the winter months. He takes notes of parts that need to be fixed, but not right away.

HOPKINTON, Iowa — After finishing up harvest Oct. 25, Dave Guthrie took time to reflect on the past year and start work on the 2019 season.

With his seed corn business, working with cattle and deer hunting for a couple weekends in December, he said the month tends to go quickly. With 2019 firmly in sight, Guthrie has already been planning for harvest next year, coming off a “challenging” harvest 2018.

A couple of those challenges came with the wet weather this fall at his farm in Hopkinton, Iowa.

“I’ve never been stuck with my combine before, and I pulled it out three times this year,” Guthrie said. “One was doing some custom work and another was in a farm we just rented and found a wet spot. We left some corn there and went back when it got cold and froze up.

“Combines aren’t meant to be pulled on,” he added.

He also said he ran into an issue early in the harvest season that could have had disastrous consequences.

“One day we had a bearing that went out in the jackshaft underneath the feeder house, something we couldn’t see,” Guthrie said. “We got out there and started combining corn and we got to the end of the field on my first pass. I usually get out and walk around the combine once and I could smell something. It took us a long time to figure out where it was at. It was a good thing we didn’t start the field on fire.”

With those issues popping up, Guthrie, who puts in around 120 hours each years in his combine, said he will continue to take his time inspecting each part of his equipment after the season, making sure he knows where he needs to make fixes or adjustments.

“It’s pretty routine,” Guthrie said. “You kind of know how everything goes. I usually make a note if there’s something that should be fixed, and if it doesn’t need to be fixed right away, I write it down.

“I was looking, and I have a backup light that went out, and things like that, it’s not a big deal. You can get by without them. A lot of times, I’ll wait until spring because the dealers will have a special. If you have a note of what you need, you can get a better price on it.”

Cost is something that many farmers are extremely aware of, with many looking to increase efficiency and limit excess spending. Those thoughts are well in mind for dealers as well.

“It’s a lot cheaper to get ahead of the game and fix the problem before it gets out of hand,” said Clint Gray, a salesperson for Monticello Equipment in Monticello, Iowa. “Plus if there’s breakdowns in season, it’s at the critical point where you are trying to get the crop harvested. That’s what a few guys run into.”

Gray said some of the most common problems they see in combines that break down are overlooked items such as bearings, belts and chains. He said some farmers might put off some of that maintenance in an effort to save money.

Another issue for farmers to keep in mind is where the combine is stored — watching out for rodents such as mice and raccoons getting in the machine.

“In the summertime and in the fall, we run into it where a guy will start up his combine that has been sitting in the shed for a while and it’ll have raccoons in it,” Gray said. “That’s bad when they go through the fan and the radiator.”