Is your grain storage bin in top condition? Steel bins are known for their longevity and durability, but this does not come without proper maintenance. They are thin-shell structures, which leaves them at risk to losing their shape and integrity if not properly loaded or cleaned.
These bins can hold many thousands of pounds of grain so, they need to be in their top condition.
Here Are 5 Key Grain Storage Bin Maintenance Tips
1. Check the Foundation
The foundation is always the first place you should check.
This is the main source of strength and integrity for your storage bin. The foundation should have no concrete missing or uneven settling, which can lessen the strength of protection against rainwater.
Large cracks can also be a danger to the structure.
Cracks bigger than one-eighth of an inch need to be sealed right away. This protects against water intrusion, which can cause corrosion of the bin or even widen cracks when water freezes. If a bin is filled and water appears, it can ruin an entire harvest.
Be sure to check the anchor bolts, tighten down the nuts if necessary. It is normal to find them slightly loose during the first year or two after a bin is built. Check the base angle, there should be a strong, tight seal between the bin’s base and its foundation. If the sealant need replaced use an elastomeric coating or spray on bedliner. Never use tar to seal the base of a bin, it may work the first year or two but will cause more problems down the road.
Bins without heavy-duty foundations have a tendency to lean over the years, and even new bins are at risk of overturning in the event of high winds without an adequate foundation and good anchoring system.
If the foundation is above grade be sure to maintain backfill around it to prevent erosion under the foundation. Also be sure to keep weeds and other vegetation away from the bins.
2. Walk the Walls
The walls of the storage bin need to be looked over and maintained inside and out.
The exterior check is a straightforward process because the main focus here is inspecting for loose or broken bolts. These may be sticking out or already laying on the ground in the immediate surrounding area.
Correcting bolts is an easy fix; they either need to be re-installed or replaced by the same type.
The interior of the walls, though, takes an eye with more attention to detail. The number one rule before maintenance is to always be sure to follow safety guidelines before entering a steel storage bin.
Once inside the walls of your storage bin look for things like spoiled grain, and water leaks. If you notice any wrinkling or inconsistencies in the sidewall, have it inspected by your local bin dealer immediately. They will often perform the inspection for free and will let you know if it needs to be looked at by a licensed structural engineer. Spoiled grain needs to come out right away, as it is a source of molding and a breeding ground for insects, which will damage the new harvest. This can also be the beginning stage of rust and signs of leaks.
3. Inspect Openings
Be sure to check the bulkhead doors and fan transitions for proper seal. Perform any needed maintenance of the door hinges and latches.
4. Go On the Roof
Another key signal of your storage bin maintaining its structure is the roof’s overhang, which should be consistent all the way around the sidewalls. If the roof appears to be more oval than circular, it indicates some fasteners may have fallen out and need to be replaced.
Getting on the roof also allows you to check for damaged panels, debris, and looking over the vents.
Damaged panels are a quick and easy repair when they are discovered prior to harvest. Debris is another thing to catch early, as it can trap moisture and cause deterioration of the roof’s protective coating.
When left to sit, dust and debris are the first opportunities for rust to form. This can weaken the structure of the storage bin.
5. Check the aeration and unloading system
Be sure the fan is clear of debris with nothing nearby that can get sucked into it and cause damage or plug the system. Be sure the blades rotate freely and is clean to maintain balance. Check the electrical system for loose wires and animal nests.
The unload system needs to be carefully inspected. Be sure the flighting is in good repair, check for wear and adjust the tension on all chains and belts. Be sure to grease parts as needed, many sweeps have grease zerks.
Maintenance Now, Profits Later
Never overlook the importance of steel storage bin maintenance before a harvest.
Taking the time to overlook the foundation, structure, and openings can be the difference between a sturdy, lasting system of holding grains and a harvest exposed to the dangers of water or rust.
At times, unmaintained bins can even fall over or break open. Always make sure to check and double-check for loose or missing bolts at each step of the process.
If you have an owner’s manual they often include a maintenance checklist that can help to ensure you don’t miss anything important that could cause a problem later.
During your maintenance process you might even realize you need a new storage bin. If so, contact us for pricing and more.