Dusty Fields & Filters

Dusty Fields and Filter Maintenance

Maximize sprayer productivity with proper filter maintenance

They are usually inexpensive and not the first thing you think about when conducting routine maintenance on your Apache Sprayer. But, when you operate in dry, dusty conditions, filters are an especially important element to keeping your sprayer well-maintained. That’s particularly true considering the cost of the damage poorly maintained filters can cause down the road.

Today’s modern filters are light years ahead of those in the past. More advanced designs and materials make air filters more effective in trapping dust and dirt that would otherwise reach critical system components and inflict damage. But, because they’re so much more effective and working in much more efficient engines today, they require more attention during routine maintenance, according to Apache Sprayers Senior Application Specialist John Casebolt.

“With modern engines, especially Tier 4, we’re actually doing more filtration than we used to. Filter systems are high-efficiency units, which means we’re going to clean the air better before it gets to the engine,” he said. “Those filters tend to become contaminated and plug more quickly, and people who have been running some of the older equipment with older engines and filtration systems aren’t accustomed to checking them as often as they should.”

Staying attentive to filters

Working in dry, dusty conditions can accelerate wear on filters simply by virtue of the volume of sediment they’re filtering, as well as the heat that typically accompanies that kind of intake. But, generally, there are other signs your filters are clogged or not performing optimally. Sometimes they’re the first thing to watch for in diagnosing filters that are nearing the end of their operational lives.

“All components are going to get dirtier working in hot, dusty conditions, and you need to clean out filters more frequently to prevent engine performance issues,” Casebolt said. “If it’s hot and your A/C system isn’t working, the air filter for your cab needs to be cleaned out more frequently, too. Keep your eye on these types of things when working with more dust.”

Cleaning filters

When cleaning air filters, it’s important to do so in a way that doesn’t alter or damage its structure or shape. It may be tempting to either knock dry sediments loose from the filter or use an air compressor that will get more of the loose material than cleaning by hand. These are likely overkill, though, and stand to potentially damage the filter worse than simply wiping the excess dust and sediment away gently by hand.

“If you try to clean it out with compressed air, it has to be done with low pressure and from the inside out so you don’t damage the fleece or paper in the filter,” Casebolt said. “Some people just grab an air hose at 100 or 120 PSI that you could blow something across the room with. I don’t think that’s wise because there can be more damage done to an air filter doing that than what they’ll gain. My recommendation is to clean it by hand and just get the loose stuff out of it.”

Tech tools help

The good news is that modern equipment, like an Apache Sprayer, typically has on-board diagnostics and warning systems that alert the operator when a filter’s performance is slowing down or being altered in a way that affects overall performance. But, don’t use those warning systems as the primary means of diagnosing filter issues.

“I’m not a fan of depending on those safeguards as a means of determining when I’m going to change my filter,” Casebolt said. “They’re there to warn us in those situations where it’s gotten a lot dustier than we realize, but by the time the warning goes off, I should have already checked my filter instead of running as long as I have with it in that condition.”

Casebolt recommends changing air filters at least once a year, or every 250 hours of operation, whichever comes first. For those who don’t operate that many hours in a season, it’s still important to change filters annually.

“Some will hit that 250-hour mark in a season, and some will hit 500 hours. For some operators, a filter will last an entire season, but for others, they’ll be changing it twice or three times a year,” he said. “If you run a filter too long, you are sacrificing engine performance, so you need to be proactive in changing them.”

Plan ahead

Though it’s not common among farmers today, keeping a basic supply of filters on hand is a good idea, Casebolt said. If you have a replacement already on hand for when a filter needs to be swapped out, you can minimize the time to do the job. During the off-season, that may not be that big of a deal. But, during spraying season when time is money, it can be huge.

“I’m in favor of operators planning ahead and not just buying what they need to service the machine right now, but getting what they will need for the next service. If they plan on putting 250 hours on a machine in a year, I would plan for that and have those filters on the shelf so I’m not spending precious time during the season waiting on filters to arrive or spending time trying to track them down,” Casebolt said. “Filters are consumables. It’s not like you are buying extra parts to sit on the shelf and maybe have to use. You are going to have to use them.”

Looking to purchase filters for your Apache Sprayer? Head to our parts store.

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