How to drive a combine harvester

Written by john gregory
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How to drive a combine harvester
Familiarise yourself with the combine model that you want to drive. (combine harvester on field image by Dmitry Goygel-Sokol from

The combine, or practical threshing machine, was first patented in 1837. Prior to that date, harvesting, gathering, threshing and grain collection were all isolated tasks. Through the next century, combines were hitched to livestock or tractors. The latter half of the 20th century saw the advent of the self-propelled combine. The operation of a combine requires concentration and practice if a farmer seeks optimal harvesting results.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Combine
  • Operator's manual

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  1. 1

    Become familiar with the combine's operator's manual. Learn where the levers, pedals and other regulators are located. Control positions vary between brands and models.

  2. 2

    Perform a safety check on the vehicle. Confirm that the brakes are on, the levers are in neutral, the engine is off and that the ignition key has been removed. Check the header and auger to make sure there are no obstructions in the apparatus. Do not enter the cab and mount the driver's seat until these conditions are satisfied.

  3. 3

    Start the combine by -- in most cases -- pressing down on the fuel pedal and turning the ignition. Increase the engine speed by moving the applicable lever forward. Rev the engine while the combine is still in neutral.

  4. 4

    Adjust the position of the header -- or cutter -- higher for a wet crop and lower for dry conditions.

  5. 5

    Move the thresher control forward, followed by the header lever. Maintain that order, since the mechanism for detaching grain from heads must be running at full bore prior to the crop being drawn into the machine. Follow reverse order when ceasing operations.

  6. 6

    Release the brake. Put the drive-lever forward. Engage the gear appropriate to the type and condition of the crop in question. Consult the operator's manual for information on the safe and effective turn radius for the particular combine model.

  7. 7

    Apply the brake upon completion; return controls to the neutral position. Clean the blades and cylinders when the engine is off and the key is removed from ignition.

Tips and warnings

  • The most modern combine models -- as of 2010 -- have computer monitors in the cab. The computer guides the harvester and makes any necessary adjustments.

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