Taking care of travelers keeps water coming

Ernst IrrigationService Technician Chris Ohler of Ernst Irrigation says travelers are giant winches. The machines are capable of bringing in up to a quarter-mile of irrigation hose.

Travelers are an irrigation tool known for their flexibility and precision. They are also long-lived machines as long as they are properly cared for throughout the year.

Irrigation service technician Chris Ohler at Ernst Irrigation in St. Paul, Ore., works primarily with such systems.

“Ninety percent of my repairs happen on travelers,” Ohler said. “They’re basically giant winches that bring in the hose and the gun that waters the field from up to a quarter mile away.”

Travelers can be used on any crop and may be pointed into a corner of a field where no pivots or linears can go. They are frequently used at dairies to empty lagoons and distribute manure over fields.

“I’ve got farmers that have 15 machines and farmers that have one,” Ohler said, “and they all rely on that machine to apply water. We want it turnkey when early spring hits and not be out there doing drastic repairs at the last minute.

“It’s like a car; you get in and the check engine light comes on and you keep driving it and you notice that it’s steering funny and then all of a sudden it doesn’t stop as good as it used to,” Ohler said. “Everything has to work together right down to the nozzle and sprinkler at the end of the hose.”

Ernst Irrigation provides complete weatherization service in late fall and winter with periodic incentives.

“We grease the ring and pinion gears, oil the chains, change the engine oil and flush the radiator fluid,” Ohler said. “We drain the water out of the booster pump; if you leave water in there it’s going to crack. …And you want to blow all the water out of the hose, too, because it can rupture if it freezes.”

Throughout the year it’s important to pay attention to your machine, including keeping an eye on the oil, radiator fluid and the purity of its gasoline. Keep the filters clean and the chains tight.

“If you see a bearing starting to seize up or sound funny, call us to get it swapped out,” Ohler said.

Being proactive will prevent problems that can spell expensive downtimes and repairs.

“When a problem occurs, there is a lot of diagnosing and looking at evidence to see what caused it,” Ohler said. “For example, if your chain keeps jumping off on its way in you can just keep putting it back on or you can look and find a way to figure out why, which can be challenging because there may be 15 ways to go about fixing one problem and you’ve got to figure out which way to go.”

Repairing these machines also entails a good deal of fabrication work: cutting, grinding and welding.

“It’s amazing what one little set screw will do to a machine; it’ll completely stop it,” Ohler said, “But for the most part they’re pretty basic machines and can usually be fixed.”

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