Dan Anderson: 5 Tips to Troubleshoot Combine Problems

An experienced farm mechanic by day, Dan Anderson’s practical shop tips, tricks and fixes are tested and true. ( Lindsey Benne )

Here are five common phone calls we receive at the equipment dealership during harvest — and five possible solutions to fix the problems before requesting a service call:

Yield Monitor Is Blank

  • “The yield monitor display is blank after I started the machine.”

Shut off the engine, wait 30 seconds, then restart the engine. Rebooting computers by cycling the ignition key can work miracles. In extreme cases, disconnect the battery cables to completely de-energize the electrical system for 30 or more seconds to “cold boot” the system.

Machine Won’t Budge

  • “My combine won’t move.”

The hydrostatic drive systems on middle-age and older combines are controlled by a cable that runs from the hydro control lever in the cab to a lever on the side of the hydrostatic drive pump. It’s not uncommon for the ball joint on the end of that cable, or the bolt holding that ball joint to the control arm, to break or come loose. Shut the engine off, reposition the hydro lever in the cab, then see if the hydro pump control arm moved appropriately.

Header Isn’t Cooperating

  • “We switched fields, and when we put the header back on the combine, the automatic header height control system doesn’t work/threw diagnostic codes.”

Inspect electrical connectors between the combine and the header. Bent pins are obvious problems. A trickier problem to diagnose is if female sockets slide back into their housing when male and female harness connectors are pressed together. Gently press a small screwdriver against each female socket to see if any are loose.

  • “My dad (uncle, wife, son, brother, employee) ran the combine last night, and this morning the header height control system is goofy.”

Check to see if all the activation buttons for the height control system are “on” or “off” as they’re supposed to be for the header that’s attached, and for the operating conditions. Amateur operators might push buttons by mistake. “Expert” operators often try to improve performance and have difficulty admitting they don’t know how to undo their “improvements.”

  • “The automatic height control system on my corn head/soybean platform is doing weird things. It worked fine when I put it away last fall.”

When electrically controlled systems malfunction after coming out of storage, be suspicious of varmint damage. Adjacent wires with the insulation gnawed off can short and cause headers to do strange things. Carefully inspect every wire in every harness on the header, from each sensor all the way to the main connection at the feederhouse. Remove and inspect wiring harnesses hidden in frame tubes. All it takes is ¼” of bare wire touching metal or another bare wire to cause problems with the height control.