Maintaining a matrix of chains for such diverse farm machinery as bean pickers, corn pickers and combines takes dedication.
“In a combine there are probably six or seven different sizes of chains with a dozen chains overall,” Eric Fery of Ag Chains Plus said. “Chains that are harder to access tend to get overlooked.
“Maybe you see part of it as it comes around the open end, but you didn’t roll it all the way around and see that part of the bolts were missing from the paddles and it’s about to fall off.”
Fery and his sister, Cindy Octobre, founded Ag Chains Plus in Stayton, Ore., in 2010.
Their selection is unique on the West Coast and many of the chains and sprockets their customers buy can’t be found elsewhere in the region. Their chains range from quarter-inch No. 25 roller chain up to a 240 roller chain with links 4 inches wide and many chains that are otherwise obsolete. All need proper care.
“Western Oregon is wet in the winter with really moist air,” Fery said. “Equipment sits all winter long and it starts rusting.
“Most of the precision roller chain factories recommend that if a machine is going to sit for more than a week you should put some type of protective coating on the chain — usually a light film oil composed of diesel and hydraulic fluid,” he said. “I tell people, ‘Take your used motor oil, go down to a hardware store and buy a gallon hand pump; put a little diesel in there and go spray down your chains and let them run for a little while before you put them in the barn for the winter so when you pull them out in the spring they’re not all rusted and seized up.’”
The thin lubricant seeps into all the moving parts and the carbon in used motor oil acts like graphite.
“A big thick oil won’t penetrate into the chain and can throw it out of alignment and start grinding the sprocket teeth because they’re pulling too hard,” Octobre said, “…and, we do not recommend putting new chain on worn sprockets.”
When it comes to bearings, Octobre and Fery see a common pitfall that shortens a bearing’s life significantly.
“Everybody over-greases their bearings and they blow the seals out and the bearing is shot,” Fery said. “There’s a mentality that you’ve got to grease it until you see it coming out.”
It’s important to follow each manufacturer’s recommendations.
“We have another remedy that is new to the industry; solid lube bearings impregnated with synthetic oil that don’t require greasing,” Octobre said. “They are big in food processing; it’s not dripping on their conveyors or the food.
“We haven’t used it on the farm machinery yet but we’re hoping to at some point.”