How to Operate a Combine Harvester

Written by ehow careers & work editor
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A combine is an expensive piece of farm equipment. Although modern technology has made it easier than ever for farmers to operate a combine, not everyone can operate one. You must have some training before you can use a combine. The following steps are just as a guide to show what a combine operator needs to do in order to harvest grain.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Prepare the combine for the field. Oil chains, grease bearings, check belt tightness and all the other items in the daily operation checklist provided in the operator's manual.

  2. 2

    Check the engine and battery. Add fuel to a cool engine only. Make sure all safety shields are in place and that the fire extinguisher is loaded.

  3. 3

    Move the combine to the field. Unload it from the moving trailer, if that's how it reached the field. Attach the header to the combine. Check field conditions for moisture to make sure the crop is ready to harvest.

  4. 4

    Survey the field for hidden obstacles and ditches. Know how the crop conforms to the contour of the ground.

  5. 5

    Position the combine to start harvesting. Make sure the header control is operating properly as you move through the field. Watch for any debris that can clog the header or the chopper as you operate the combine. Make sure the grain is flowing smoothly into the grain hopper. Watch for unusual amounts of foreign matter in the grain.

  6. 6

    Dump the grain into a waiting grain truck when the hopper is full. Some large combines have a tractor pulling a wagon follow alongside as they combine. The grain dumps directly into the wagon. If you are doing this, notice any changes the tractor driver makes.

  7. 7

    Make note of any necessary repairs when you're finished for the day. Store the combine in a manner appropriate for the weather conditions. If possible, put it in a machinery shed.

Tips and warnings

  • A combine has many moving parts that can harm you or even kill you in an instant. Exercise extreme caution.
  • Never remove safety shields.
  • Be alert to any other persons who might enter the field as you are combining.

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