In-Season Cotton Picker Cleaning/Servicing Tips

Properly cleaning and servicing the cotton picker each night or morning will result in better performance and lower potential of fire throughout the day. Most producers do a thorough cleaning from top to bottom before greasing, adding fluids, and inspecting and repairing. Here are some picker cleaning and servicing tips from Cotton Incorporated.

Cleaning Procedures
Check engine oil and coolant levels before starting the picker’s engine for the first time in the morning, but be mindful of these safety rules:

  • Always raise handrails when working on top of picker baskets or bale chambers.
  • Always climb and descend ladders facing the ladder and holding onto handrails.
  • Never try to climb to the top of a picker with tools or hose. Have someone hand you what you need on top of the picker.
  • Always engage proper safety locks for baskets and bale chambers before cleaning or servicing in or near those components.
  • Never defeat operator-presence switches or wedge tether switches in order to rotate the row unit drums without a hand on the switch.

Use a broom or your hands to remove large accumulations of lint and trash in the basket or bale chambers. Do this chore any time during the day when waste buildup becomes a fire hazard or if a sensor indicates a false condition. Although it is time-consuming, it can be very effective to go ahead and clean the whole basket/chassis area.

Inspect all sensors and remove any lint tags to prevent false indications. One advantage of hand cleaning is that wiring components are less likely to be harmed by mechanical damage, water from high-pressure washing or compressed-air removal techniques.

Low-Pressure Water Washing
Many producers use low-pressure water from home or commercial water systems to wash trash from the row units. This method is effective, but it requires an extreme amount of time on larger multiple-row pickers. It also wets the ground around the picker, increasing the chance of slip and fall injuries.
Some producers use a water trailer with a portable pump to clean the picker, add spindle-cleaning solution and extinguish fires. These units spray a lot of water at low pressure, so plan to clean more with volume than pressure.

High-Pressure Water Washing
High-pressure washing is effective at removing trash and grease in row units and is much faster than hand or low-pressure washing. Unfortunately, the water stream can damage seals, wet the ground around the picker, break or unplug wiring harnesses, and force dirt and water into some bearings and grease in gear cases.
Always wear adequate personal protective gear – hat, gloves, rain suit, protective eyewear, and boots with slip-resistant soles – when pressure washing a picker. Never direct a flow from a pressure washer toward humans or animals.
High-pressure washing is particularly effective at removing grease and trash accumulations inside the row-unit cabinets. It is best to wash the tops of the row units last and then move the picker to a dry area before further servicing.

High-Pressure Air Cleaning
High-volume, high-pressure air (150-250 cubic feet per minute and 125 per square inch from an industrial air compressor) is very effective at removing trash and lint buildup from a picker.
Lower-volume compressors can be effective with their airflow magnified and pressure kept at a safe level (not more than 30 psi at the discharge) with a venturi-type nozzle.
Volume is directly proportional to cleaning power. A heavy air hose (about 3/4 to 1 inch) with a stiff wand (pipe nozzle) is used to direct air where it is needed. This equipment can be heavy for anyone using it on top of the picker. A dead-man valve should be attached to the nozzle to prevent the air hose from whipping around if you drop it.

Take Precautions
Always wear personal protective equipment, including eyewear, gloves, boots, long pants, long-sleeve shirt, hearing protection, and respirator or dust mask. Air is less likely than water to break wiring and otherwise damage the picker, but it is still a danger.

Never direct high-volume, high-pressure airflow at radiator fins, hydraulic oil coolers, bearings and seals, electrical and glass components, and air-conditioning lines and condensers. An air blast can force grit into bearings and grease seals and can break glass, damage seals and puncture or bend thin components.
You can better clean out grease and trash inside row-unit cabinets by operating the unit in a slow, idle- tethered mode and flushing the moistening system periodically. The ground stays relatively dry, reducing mud and slipping injuries. Never use high-pressure air systems to blow dust and dirt from personnel.

After overall cleaning of the picker chassis is done, clean the lights and cab glass inside and out with a good glass cleaner and a cloth or towel. Inspect all lights for proper function and repair or replace as needed.
Follow the picker manufacturer’s recommended procedures closely for cleaning your particular make and model. John Deere provides a DVD titled “7760 Cotton Picker Cleaning & Operation # N382998” for specific instructions on cleaning, servicing and operating the round-module picker.

Service the picker as needed for greasing (see operator’s manual), and add fuel, coolant, engine oil, spindle grease and spindle solution as needed. Round-module picker owners usually replenish the supply of plastic wrap when servicing is complete.

Information for this article was provided by Cotton Incorporated.

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