Airblast maintenance inspection – the morning walkaround

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An airblast sprayer inspection is part of preventative maintenance. This daily activity identifies small problems before they become big ones. You can do it at the filling station, so it’s fairly convenient.

Don’t think of it as stealing time from your spray day… it’s part of your spray day. Don’t skip it. If time is tight there are many other ways to improve your work rate.

This spray plane was left on the runway with the engine exposed for less than four hours. When the owners returned they found a precocious bird had built a nest. Perform regular sprayer inspections – you never know what you’ll find! Photo Credit – S. Richard, New Brunswick.
This spray plane was left on the runway with the engine exposed for less than four hours. When the owners returned they found a precocious bird had built a nest! Perform regular sprayer inspections – you never know what you’ll find. Photo Credit – S. Richard, New Brunswick.

Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment (as indicated on the product label), including hearing protection.

Inspection steps

Follow this generic inspection process. If your sprayer manufacturer or manager advises additional steps, be sure to perform them.

Before filling

1. Work with a rinsed sprayer parked on level ground (e.g. the filling station).

2. Check lines/hoses and fittings for signs of wear or cracking. Leaks or bulging may only become apparent under pressure (see Test spray).

3. Filters, screens, strainers and nozzles are clean and unbroken. Leaks may only become apparent under pressure (see Test spray).

As a plastic suction filter ages, it can warp or become brittle. When this happens, the O-ring may no longer sit correctly and the unit may allow air to be drawn into the lines. They should be cleaned and inspected after every spray-day.
As a plastic suction filter ages, it can warp or become brittle. When this happens, the O-ring may no longer sit correctly and the unit may allow air to be drawn into the lines. They should be cleaned and inspected when the sprayer is rinsed.

4. Engage each nozzle shut-off valve or nozzle body flip position. They can seize or loosen with time.

Begin filling

5. Begin filling the sprayer 1/2 full with water.

6. For PTO-driven sprayers, confirm universal joint(s), sprayer-tractor hitch and all connections are clean, lubricated and secure.

7. Check that all guards (e.g. PTO shaft shield) are in place and intact.

8. Ensure fan blades are unbroken and scraped clean. Intake grill(s) must also be clean and unbroken.

9. When 1/2 full, stop filling and check tire pressure (tractor and sprayer).

Test spray

For multi-row sprayers, you may have to move the sprayer off the fill pad for the test spray; it’s easier with the air off, if possible. Perform the following steps:

10. Open the manifold valve to fill the lines and begin spraying clean water.

11. Ensure each nozzle sprays correctly. Get out of the cab to inspect, don’t just shoulder-check. This gives the opportunity to double-check for line-bulges and leaks.

12. Ensure the agitation / bypass system is functioning properly.

13. Check that the tank is secure on the chassis and both crack and leak-free.

Complete filling

Continue filling. Once the sprayer is back up to 1/2 full, mix products per usual. If your sprayer manufacturer advises contrary or additional steps for a sprayer inspection, be sure to perform them.

Checklist

Sprayer inspections become repetitive, so it’s easy to accidentally miss things. Have you ever driven home while preoccupied, only to discover you don’t remember how you got there? Download our checklist to keep you engaged and to help ensure accuracy. Consider printing and laminating it for repeated use with a dry-erase marker.

You never know what you’ll find during an inspection. I found a robin’s nest hidden on this vineyard sprayer’s pump.”
You never know what you’ll find during an inspection. I found a robin’s nest hidden on this vineyard sprayer’s pump.

Anyone that operates heavy machinery should perform a preventative maintenance inspection before using the equipment. It’s no different for airblast sprayer operators; embrace the daily walkaround.