Is you planter ready for spring?

corn plantingyoutubeMost of you have either made your input decisions for the spring of 2015 or are finishing up final details on inputs to get your crop in the ground for spring planting. Let’s not overlook the importance of making sure you are field ready with your planter.

Here is a quick checklist for making sure you are ready for spring planting:


Inspect frame structure for signs of metal fatigue such as cracks, bowing or separated welds. This type of wear can be hazardous to the operator and expensive to repair if left too long.

Hydraulic System

Inspect cylinders, hoses and hydraulic lines for leaks.

Drive Line

Inspect drive shafts and couplers for twisting or abnormal wear.

Replace worn out bearings, sprockets and chains. Chains that are rusty can be freed up by soaking them in diesel fuel or chain lube.

All of the chains should be well-lubricated with a lightweight oil or chain lube.

Row Unit

Inspect down pressure spring, parallel linkage and bushings.

All broken, twisted or worn parts on the shank of the row unit should be replaced.

Some planters have a firming point, show or inside scraper. These need to be replaced on a regular basis. This will depend on your soil type. The inside scraper also functions as a guard for the seed tube. If it is worn too much, your disc openers will wear on your seed tube.

Worn seed tubes can cause erratic seed placement in the seed trench. If your seed tubes need replacement you can now purchase seed tubes with tungsten inserts that can come in contact with the disc opener. These inserts can protect against wear.

Disc Openers

Any chipped, cracked or abnormally worn disc blades should be replaced.

Measure the blades across the center to determine wear. Most new disc opener blades measure 15 inches. Replace disc blades that show more than 1/2 inch of wear.

The disc opener blades should make contact with one another from 8:00 to 6:00 with about 4 inches of circumference. Heavy duty opener blades will not have as much contact (only about 3 inches). Always replace disc openers in pairs. Mismatching new and used opener blades can seriously affect the row unit’s ability to penetrate hard ground. Using mismatched blades will also create an abnormally-shaped seed trench which will affect seed placement.


If your planter uses flat scrapers, replace the scrapers after 1/2 inch of wear or if the scraper is no longer firmly contacting the disc opener along the entire width of the scraper.

If your planter uses rotary scrapers, be sure that the scraper is not worn to the point that the mounting for the scraper contacts the opener blade.

Gauge Wheels

The row unit gauge wheel should make contact with the disc opener blade and act as a second scraper when the row unit is in the ground.

If the gauge wheel is not making proper contact, adjust the shims in the gauge wheel arm. You may have to replace the gauge wheel arm or rebushing it. Gauge wheel tires also wear out and lose their shape and scraping edge that contacts the disc opener. Replace the tire if necessary.

Closing System

All planters have some sort of closing system, whether that system is a pair of V wheels, a single press wheel or a combination of closing discs and wheels.

Inspecting closing wheels is a lot like inspecting gauge wheels. You want to make sure your bearings are good and that pivot points and axles are not overly worn. The rubber tire on the closing wheel should not be overly worn or want to slip on the rim. Check your down pressure springs for broken or cracked springs and make sure the adjustment to the down pressure spring works freely.

Closing discs should be inspected too. They have very small bearings and blades that can wear out easily.

Metering System: Mechanical Finger Meters

Examine wheel for broken fingers or overly stretched springs.

Examine carriers plate. If a wear groove has developed along the top of the carrier plate, make sure that it has not worn through the dimple in the plate. This hill and valley is important for preventing doubles. If it is worn more than halfway through, it should be replaced.

Replace the brush at the top of the carrier plate every 100-150 unit acres. This is a cheap fix to doubles and overplanting in older meters.

Check the seed belt for cracks. If the seed belt is becoming hard or brittle, replace it. Hard or brittle belts can make the meter drag and cause doubles.

Examine the belt sprocket every other year. If the teeth are becoming hook-sharped, replace them. Hooked teeth can make the seed belt jump and can increase wear on the seed belt and meter drive parts.

When reassembling a finger meter, never over tighten the drive parts. In most cases, finger tight is sufficient. Over tightening will increase wear.

The best way to make sure your meters are working properly is to have them tested. Meters should be tested every 150-200 unit acres. Have your meters tested by a trained professional and make sure his test counts 1,000 seed drops per test. Any test recording less than 1,000 seeds is not accurate enough to properly adjust your meter. Also, if at all possible, provide your dealer with a sample of your seed or at least advise them on what seed size you use and what seed treatments you use. This will ensure that your meters are adjusted to fit your needs.

Metering System: Brush Meters

Check the individual cells on the seed plates to make sure that they are not becoming malformed.

Inspect the brushes in the meter. Replace the bottom brush if it is missing over 10% of its bristles. A telltale sign of a bad lower brush is severe overplanting. The upper brush is much more sensitive. If the bristles are missing, bent over or worn off, replace the brush.

Brush meters will have a wear band along the inside of the meter housing. This is to prevent seed from wearing into the casting. Replace the wear band when it gets thin.

Metering System: Vacuum and Air Pressure Types

Planters that use the air to meter seed require a different level of maintenance than mechanical meters.

Inspect all of the air delivery lines for potential and current leaks.

Inspect the seed plates for cracks and examine all the dust seals on seed-plated and hose joints. Make sure these items seal properly to prevent dust from getting in the system. Fine dust can quickly damage even new air pumps.

Many brands of vacuum meters have “knock off” brushes, little brushes the seed moves against to knock off doubles and seat the seed firmly against the seed plate. These need to be adjusted and replaced periodically.

The vacuum meters that John Deere uses have  lot of retrofit kits and replacement seed plates and other parts from specialty companies. All of these products have some merit and most back up their claims with sound research.


Every planter manufacturer has a seed lubricant that they recommend using in their meter, whether it is mechanical, vacuum or pressure metering. Use the type of lubricant suggested for your brand of planter.

Information from Ag PhD website.

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One Response to Is you planter ready for spring?

  1. Candyce Schultz
    Candyce Schultz February 22, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

    Great information Brian!

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