Keeping drag hoses in good condition
By Diane Mettler
A few simple steps will avoid some frustration and increase efficiency
By Diane Mettler
Drag hoses don’t come cheap. Depending on the system, hoses can represent a substantial capital investment. Getting a long life out of your drag hoses is good for the bottom line.
But healthy hoses aren’t just good for the pocketbook; they are good for the body and spirit as well. No farmer wants the extra aggravation in the field mending a damaged hose.
Here are just a few simple steps for keeping your drag hoses in good condition and performing properly.
Clean before winding up
Prior to storage, hoses needs to be thoroughly cleaned.
Jim Hodel of Jim Hodel Inc. has worked with a lot of used equipment, and says one of the most important things a farmer can do to get the maximum life out of his hose is to clean it before storing it. “I advise him to run a Styrofoam pig through the hose before winding it up for storage,” says Hodel. “Wind it up clean.”
Wind up when not in use
Take the time to wind up the hose on a cart when it’s not in use. When a hose is lying on the field is when it’s most susceptible to damage, including extreme temperatures, oils, solvents and rodents.
“We don’t recommend letting the hose lay on the ground for extended periods of time,” says Hodel. “Critters will gnaw into it and we’ve even seen hunters shoot holes through it.”
Hodel adds that another risk of leaving your hoses out in the field is the risk of equipment being driven over them, and, although there are kits to mend drag hoses in the field, the life expectancy of the hose will definitely be shortened if it takes the beating of other machines.
Keep them out of the sun
Another reason for winding up and storing idle hoses on carts is to keep them out of the sun. In fact, storage in a barn is ideal.
While your hose is lying out in the field, the sun’s UV rays are working on every exposed square inch. Hodel says, “If the hose is wound up and stored, the sun can only reach the hose exposed at the top wheel.”
Roll with care
Jeremy Puck of Puck Enterprises, a company that not only sells equipment but also spreads over 200 million gallons of manure a years, says it’s all about maintenance.
“We take for granted that once you roll hose up onto the cart it’s going to come off exactly like you put it on,” says Puck.
“Over the course of sitting all summer, there can be some deterioration of the hose that is exposed to sunlight. Also, the couplers can be pinched against other hoses on the reel. So, when you pull the hose off the wheel you could see some damage if you don’t take good care when rolling it up when you park it for the summer.”
Rate hoses before the season starts
Puck recommends inspecting and rating your hoses before you begin each season.
“Our company lays out the hoses and then we rate them. We color-code them by spray painting toward the end of the hose. Green would be a hose that is good and yellow is used on a hose that has some nicks and cuts – so we’d make sure not to use that hose near a ditch or water trough or anything like that. We use the color red if the hose has had a splice put in it – if it was compromised at one point in its life — maybe a blowout or a tear or snagged on something.”
These colors let Puck Enterprises identify the hoses as they are coming off the cart “We know immediately if it’s a safe place to lay a hose or if we should choose to put it somewhere else,” says Puck.
Follow the pressure guidelines
Take the time to ensure the pressure in the hoses is at or below its rated working pressure. “The hose should have more burst pressure than working pressure,” says Hodel. “Otherwise, you may get in trouble.”
OSHA also suggests changing pressure gradually to prevent excessive surge pressures, as well as protecting hoses from severe end loads.
Ensure you’re getting maximum use of your pumps
Often an extra pump or a different pump placement can improve efficiency as well as add longevity to your hoses. At Puck Enterprises’ “pump school” applicators learn that there is a certain amount of math and physics that goes into spreading the load between hoses and maximizing flow.
“By teaching applicators how their pump can perform and what environment to run it in, we can usually increase their flow and they can get more work done in the same time just by putting their pump in the correct place.”
He adds, “If you have two miles of hose out, we always thought we should put the pump in the middle – one mile on each direction – but that’s not always true, depending on hose diameters and elevation and everything else. At the end of the day, getting as much done as we can is what we’re after because that’s how we get paid.”
Check your pumps
Your hose isn’t much good if your pump is in poor working order. Puck recommends a general inspection each season. It’s a good practice to remove the suction cover and check the wear ring and the impeller to make sure they are in good shape. If they show any damage or wear it’s a good time to replace them.
“You can also inspect the mechanical seal on the back of the pump to make sure it’s in good condition and not leaking or broken,” says Puck. “Also, change the oil and bearing case after every season. Pumps are pretty simple. “
Is distance of application changing?
As commercial fertilizer prices increase it becomes more economical for the farmer to have manure pumped farther distances. This can be more of a challenge for the applicators but can be done in a safe manner with correct pump placement and monitoring hose pressures.
“We’re pumping a little bit farther than we used to, and we are probably doing it safer than ever before because of pump placement. We’re putting more booster pumps in line to keep our overall line pressures lower,” says Puck.
How long can you expect your hoses to last? Well, that all depends on how you treat your hose, says Puck. “I would say five to seven years is probably an average life. But the first hose you buy never lasts as long as the last one you buy.”
Puck says this from experience. “We don’t inflict the damage to the hose that we used to. We know what to look for, how it behaves and how to work with it.”
By following these simple steps you will not only be extending the life of your hose, but saving yourself time and money. And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get a boost in your efficiency as well.