Leveling & Row Unit Maintenance Best Practice

Leveling & Row Unit Maintenance Best Practice

Bill Lehmkuhl

Today we’re taking a look at the importance of leveling your planter, maintaining your row unit, and what the best ways are to do it.

One of the best ways to level your planter is to take it out into actual working conditions, like you would when you’re going to use it in the field.

Whether you’re in no-till, minimum-till, or conventional tillage, you’ll experience leveling a planter in a different way.

You’ll have to figure out how you’re going to set your three-point hitchhiked or your planter and you’ll have to draw your height if it’s a drawn planter in order to get the planter bar level.

So, how do you do it? By sitting still in a field.

If you’re sitting still in a field then everything’s going to look level to you as you glance across your planter’s bar frame. You have to level your planter in motion.

So you’ll have to get somebody to drive your tractor or somebody to ride alongside in a pickup truck to check out your planter bar.

You’ll want a five by seven, or seven by seven bar, to be running level or pitched high in front.

Let’s take a closer look at the best practices for leveling your planter and then look at how you should maintain your row unit.

Why is it important to level your planter?

Today we’re taking a look at the importance of leveling your planter, maintaining your row unit, and what the best ways are to do it.

One of the best ways to level your planter is to take it out into actual working conditions, like you would when you’re going to use it in the field.

Whether you’re in no-till, minimum-till, or conventional tillage, you’ll experience leveling a planter in a different way.

You’ll have to figure out how you’re going to set your three-point hitchhiked or your planter and you’ll have to draw your height if it’s a drawn planter in order to get the planter bar level.

So, how do you do it? By sitting still in a field.

If you’re sitting still in a field then everything’s going to look level to you as you glance across your planter’s bar frame. You have to level your planter in motion.

So you’ll have to get somebody to drive your tractor or somebody to ride alongside in a pickup truck to check out your planter bar.

You’ll want a five by seven, or seven by seven bar, to be running level or pitched high in front.

Let’s take a closer look at the best practices for leveling your planter and then look at how you should maintain your row unit.

Why is it important to level your planter?

When leveling your planter you want the parallel arms to be running level, no matter what downforce system you have. If it’s a hydraulic downforce system, a pneumatic system, or a spring system, it doesn’t matter: the arms have to run level.

This will give the optimal row unit travel as the tail unit goes through the field. It also allows the downforce system to perform perfectly.

What happens if the planter unit is running nose down?

This means that the planter’s not running downhill. One of the things that can happen in this situation is that the seed tube will be pinched. When the seed tube is pinched, it’ll cause the seed to float about half an inch up into the bottom of the V and a half an inch in the bottom of the seed trench.

This is going to cause some depth issues and some emergence issues.

Depending on what attachments you have on your row unit running nose down could also cause it to run incorrectly.

If the rail unit is nose down, it’ll also affect how your closing wheels operate and it’s going to struggle to close the C trench in the field.

The most important parts of row unit maintenance

The most important parts of row unit maintenance

So we talked about leveling the bar, and now we're going to move on to the row unit itself.

Starting in the upper part of the row unit we’re going to talk about the parallel arms themselves.

So the easy way to check the arms is if you've got your planters sitting in your shop, just walk up behind a row unit and give it a shake. This way you can see how much wear you’ve got in your bolts and bushings.

Now, if you’ve got a lot of wear and tear on your bolts and bushings, when you think your planter is level in your field and your row unit is leveled out, it’s actually not. What’s happening is as you start planting and the double disc openers hit the bottom, the unit itself is going to nose downhill making it unleveled.

What this will do is change the pitch and the angle of your seed tube. It’s not going to be running level so you’re going to cause seed to float about a half inch up in the bottom of your seed trench. This is going to cause some depth and emergence issues.

How do you fix it?

This is an easy fix. All you have to do is open the row unit up, take the bolts, bushings, and arms off and replace them with new ones.

If you’re looking for a replacement arm we’d recommend one by GBGI. Their arm is quite unique and it provides you with less wear and tear over time.

Maintaining the lower row unit

When maintaining the lower part of your row unit you should focus mainly on your gauge wheels and your seed opening discs.

There are a lot of things down there that you should be aware of including how your gauge wheel is positioned up against the seed opening disc. You should check to see if there’s a gap between them.

If there is a gap then as you’re going through a field dry dirt that’s stirred up by the seed opening is coming by the seed opening disc. It goes right between the seed opening disc and the gauge wheel and right down into the side trench. This means what you’re actually planting is just dry dirt.

How do you fix it?

On most planters, it's as simple as going ahead and adjusting your gauge wheel arm and moving it to be tighter against the seed opening disc.

There are a few other parts to the lower row unit that you should keep an eye on for wear and tear including the gauge wheel arm itself, shoulder bolts, and depth rockers. Those are easily replaced, and you should check on them every so often to make sure they haven’t worn away too much.

You should also check your seed disc for wear and tear to make sure that it’s still working properly in your planter.

For example, a John Deere blade is a 15 inch blade so when it gets to 14 and a half inches it needs to be replaced.


We hope that we’ve helped you figure out what parts of your planter need to be maintained to ensure that you’re planting perfectly throughout the season.

If you have any questions or want to know more about the best practices for leveling your planter or maintaining your row unit then get in contact with us today.

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