10 Tips to Extend the Life of Your John Deere Cotton Picker


All farm equipment needs maintenance and repairs to function properly, and machinery used for picking cotton especially needs such care after the hard work it performs. If a part breaks mid-season, it can hold up planting or harvesting while getting and installing a replacement. A better option than waiting for a complete failure is to conduct routine maintenance and plan when parts are nearing the end of their useful life.

Row Unit Maintenance

Keep the rows balanced for continued good performance. Ideally, they only need to be set once at the beginning of the season according to row width that year. However, certain rough areas or hard use can sometimes knock them out of alignment, and they may need slight adjustments from time to time.

Spindles and Bushings

Spindles and bushings need to be kept sharp to work as intended. Generally speaking, they should be sharpened at the end of each season or harvest. The exception can be if they hit something other than the cotton, debris, or a rock in the field. In that case, they should be inspected and resharpened if needed.


Routine Maintenance

Regular maintenance isn’t much different from the multi-point inspection a car goes through once per year. It’s just a good once over to make sure fluids are full, filters are clean, gaskets are forming tight seals, and all the subsystems are working properly. Some problems are easily fixed, others may indicate the need for a more thorough inspection and repair procedure. If engine oil is low for example, it might just below and need to be topped off. On the other hand, such an issue can indicate a larger problem if the engine is using or leaking oil, in which case the cause needs to be diagnosed and repaired.

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Daily and Seasonal Cleaning

Moistener System

The moistener keeps the spindles clean daily and the tractor should never be run without the moistener system engaged. Even so, debris and oils build up over time, and even the moistener system needs a thorough cleaning occasionally. There’s just no way around the fact of how oily cotton is and how it can cause a buildup of grime.

Engine Compartment

It’s no secret how dirty the inside of a tractor’s engine compartment can get. That just has to with how the machine is used in open fields and by driving down dirt and gravel roads between fields. Fluid leaks and spills can build up over time, causing the dust to stick in the most remote corners of the compartment. The problem with this is it makes the engine harder to inspect and work on, so it should be cleaned regularly according to need.

Row Units

Row units may not be fun to clean out, but it needs to be done before they are completely clogged. It isn’t a hard job; it just requires the time to go through by hand and pluck out any clumps or debris which may be stuck in them. Actually, there are special tools and techniques which are supposedly easy, but that’s only anecdotal at best. It always ends up with hand cleaning, then dusting the parts off with compressed air. Once they start to get clogged, they tend to disrupt the flow of the harvest and continue getting worse.

The Header

The header needs to be cleaned just like the row units. It seems to be easiest to start by hand, or perhaps with a short crowbar used as a scraper, to pull the bulk of the material out of the header. Then a quick blast with an air compressor will usually knock out any remaining dust or debris and get the system back to working as it should.

Tractor Exterior

The outside of the machine may not seem like it’s important to keep clean, but it’s simply good practice to do so. If nothing else, keeping the outside clean will inspire the workers to maintain the engine and interior compartments. If the owner doesn’t appear to take care of the machine, the workers won’t think it’s important either. Without fail, when a tractor breaks down sooner than expected, it has not been kept clean or otherwise taken care of. There’s also the matter of maintaining resell value if the tractor may eventually be sold, and keeping up a reputable appearance in the community.

Replacement Parts

When repairs are called for, it’s important to always use appropriate John Deere aftermarket parts or OEM parts to conduct the process. It might seem that generic parts can save a bit of money, but if they don’t fit properly or don’t work according to specifications, they’re going to cause more problems before failing and needing to be replaced anyway. It’s also a matter of labor time, considering how often a repair needs to be conducted every 10 years with the right part, whereas a generic part may only last one or two years.

You’ll know when you need replacement parts because the efficiency of the tractor will noticeably drop. Typically, you’ll likely try to clean them or make some adjustments, but it won’t help expedite the harvest. Sometimes there will be visible wear, other times there won’t. This can be especially frustrating if you’ve recently bought a new machine and don’t know what level of maintenance it received in the past. Maintenance and cleaning are always better than having to replace parts, plus you’ll be better in-tune with the tractor, and it will be easier to realize which parts need replacement instead of guessing until getting it right after replacing several parts which weren’t part of the problem.


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