Testing Spray Tip Nozzles for Wear

Testing Spray Tip Nozzles for Wear

Regular testing prevents crop damage from worn sprayer tip nozzles

Tip nozzles are among the least expensive components of a modern sprayer, but underestimating their importance and being lax with maintenance can quickly get costly. That makes it critical to test them and ensure they’re functioning properly before beginning a busy spraying season.

Why nozzle testing matters

Why is testing tip nozzles so important? A clogged or damaged nozzle can alter spray patterns, and depending on the chemical you’re applying, can have major implications for your crop, both in growth and weed/pest control.

“Think about how many dollars per acre you are spending on chemical. With the price of chemicals, you want those nozzles to do their jobs. When they get worn, they lose their pattern and you start getting droplets in different places,” according to Apache Sprayers Service Technician and Application Parts Specialist Chris Weaver. “You run the risk of overapplication, spray drift and streaking in the field. The more worn your nozzles get, the worse it is going to be. If you’re spraying herbicide, weeds will be worse in those areas.”

Testing your tip nozzles begins by knowing your nozzle size, spray pattern and the volume for which they’re rated. Having a firm grasp on these variables will help determine exactly how they should be optimally performing based on the required 40-PSI pressure. That pressure information is critical to have on hand when manually testing tip nozzles, Weaver said.

Nozzle testing methods

Measuring the output of each tip for nozzle wear and tear is the basic testing procedure for justifying replacement, and there are both manual and automated (via rate controllers) ways to do so. If done manually, which typically gives the operator a better feel for the condition of his or her nozzles, Weaver recommends using a metering bucket, calibration jug or other container that can measure specific output levels for each nozzle. Once the system reaches 40 PSI, each tip should emit a specific amount of liquid. Weaver recommends testing each nozzle for either 30 seconds or one minute, though the longer you test, the more accurate your nozzles and spray pattern will be.

This is where nozzle size comes in; the size dictates the amount of output per tip, and if that output is greater than that specified amount, the nozzle is likely to be damaged or worn. That means it should be replaced soon to prevent inconsistent and potentially damaging applications.

“If you have an XR11002 spray nozzle, that’s a 0.2-gallon-per-minute nozzle rated at 40 PSI. You should get 0.2 gallons of spray per minute per nozzle. If you are at 40 PSI and you’re getting 0.25 gallons/minute, you have a worn nozzle,” Weaver said. “There are also tip calibrators that have flow meters built into them. You hold one under a nozzle and it will tell you your gallons per minute.”

When to test nozzles

Testing your sprayer’s tip nozzles is something that should be done at least once a year, starting when you perform pre-season maintenance on your machine. How often you need to actually replace your nozzles depends on use and nozzle type.

“If you use polymer nozzles, they’ll likely last around 15,000 acres before needing to be replaced, whereas stainless steel nozzles will last up to 25,000 acres,” Weaver said. “But, given the simplicity and brevity of the process, especially when performing regular preseason maintenance, thoroughly testing nozzles is the best way to find out their condition and replace them if necessary.”

“It’s something that’s so easy to do when you’re getting your sprayer ready for the season. You are already spending a good amount of time getting your sprayer ready in the spring,” Weaver said. “It literally takes one minute per nozzle or less to do it.”

To prevent further wear and tear on your nozzles, be sure to reference our Nozzle Maintenance 101 Guide.


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