Maintaining and Troubleshooting Straw Blowers

Straw Blower Maintenance and Troubleshooting

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Properly maintaining your straw blower is one of the biggest steps you can take to extend the operational life of your machinery. Regular upkeep and attention can help ensure your equipment runs at peak efficiency while minimizing any potential downtime that could be caused by unexpected issues.

Understanding the common issues affecting straw blowers ahead of time can help you stay a few steps ahead of costly repairs. We’ll cover those common straw blower issues below.

Common Straw Blower Problems

Some of the most common straw blower problems, from clogging and refueling to motor wear, worn bearings, and stalling, can be minimized with a routine maintenance schedule, and attention to detail in the field.

For most makes and models of straw blower, keeping an eye on the following common issues will help you plan for the most efficient use of your machine, and keep it running like new for the operational life of the equipment.

Discharge Reduction

A variety of factors can impact the power and discharge distance of a straw blower. The most common culprit that leads to decreased straw blower discharge is clogged filters. Soil and dust can get into the blower over time, and if enough debris builds up in the blower, it will gradually slow it down and reduce the blowing efficiency. Regularly checking the air filters, and looking for and clearing any build-up or obstructions in the blower wheel, air intake, and discharge paths will keep these areas functioning smoothly.

If you’ve checked the filters, and find that the blower still isn’t performing at its expected capacity, the next thing to check is the fan. A broken or malfunctioning fan can’t create the suction necessary to discharge the straw at distance. Radiators are another common cause of reduced discharge in straw blowers, so if the fan and the filters look good, the radiator may be the issue. Even partially blocked radiators can cause the engine to overheat which will slow down performance, and potentially cause the engine to shut off entirely. 

Engine Performance

Engine overheating is also a common straw blower problem that can lead to significant damage if left unchecked. Low coolant levels, a blocked radiator, and dirty engine oil can all contribute to high engine heat, so it’s critical to check coolant levels regularly and to change the oil and oil filter to help maintain the optimal engine temperature. 

Frequent engine stalls or poor performance can often indicate an issue with the fuel or ignition system — dirty fuel filters reduce the flow of fuel to the engine, which can cause stalls and power issues. To help prevent this issue, regularly check the fuel filter and replace it when necessary. Ensuring the fuel lines are clean can also help prevent any stalling or performance issues, so it’s a great idea to check these when investigating the fuel filter. 

The ignition system is another area where problems can crop up, often leading to combustion or performance issues. To avoid this, check the spark plugs and ignition wires regularly to make sure connections are strong and uncorroded. 

Structural Integrity and Mechanical Failures

Excessive vibration or noise from a straw blower can indicate larger mechanical issues that may need attention. One common cause for both of these issues is drive system failures — particularly loose or worn straw blower parts such as drive belts and chains. Both belts and chains are crucial for smooth blower operation, and any slack or wear and tear can lead to inefficiencies or increased vibration. As a result, it’s important to regularly inspect the drive belts and chains for signs of wear or damage. This can help you identify and tighten any loose belts to ensure proper alignment, or replace them if necessary. The blower wheel is another area that can result in added vibration, so it’s important to inspect this component as well and make sure it’s properly balanced.

Another common source of trouble can be fluid leaks which are often caused by worn hoses, gaskets, or seals. These leaks not only contribute to engine inefficiencies, they can also cause more serious mechanical failures. To keep on top of fluid leaks, regularly inspect all hoses, gaskets, and seals in the straw blower’s engine and hydraulic systems. Look for any signs of loosening or wear like cracking, or damage that could be causing leaks. Once you isolate any issues, replace the components as needed to make sure the fluid systems are intact. 

If these components are damaged or have failed, replacing them is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the fluid systems and preventing further leakage. Regular maintenance checks are vital to catch these issues early, ensuring that the machine operates quietly and efficiently.

Straw Blower Maintenance Checklist

As with any complex piece of equipment, it’s important to maintain a long list of moving parts and components. A comprehensive list of regular maintenance checks can go a long way in helping you stay on top of routine and seasonal maintenance that can help your machines stay in peak form. Depending on your specific machine, it should look something like this:

Daily Maintenance Checklist 

  1. Check Engine Oil and Hydraulic Fuel Levels:
    • Ensure they’re within the recommended range and top up as needed.
  2. Inspect Coolant Level:
    • Check and refill coolant as needed to prevent engine overheating.
  3. Examine Fuel System:
    • Check the fuel level and refill as needed.
    • Inspect the fuel filter for dirt or clogging and clean/replace if necessary.
  4. Visual Inspection for Leaks:
    • Check for any signs of leaking fluids from hoses, gaskets, or seals.
    • Replace any worn or damaged components to prevent leaks.
  5. Ensure all Safety Devices are Working as Intended

Weekly Maintenance Checklist

  1. Drive Belts and Chains:
    • Inspect drive belts and chains for looseness or wear.
    • Adjust to ensure proper tension and alignment.
    • Replace any belts or chains showing signs of significant wear or damage.
  2. Radiator and Air Intakes:
    • Clean the radiator and air intakes for optimal airflow and cooling.
    • Clean or replace the air filter if it has too much debris or damage. 
  3. Inspect Discharge Hoses:
    • Check the hose and elbow for wear and secure attachment and lubricate necessary parts.
  4. Ignition System Check:
    • Inspect spark plugs, wires, and other ignition components for wear or damage.
    • Replace faulty ignition components to ensure smooth engine performance.
  5. Check the Battery and Electrical Connections:
    • Replace the battery or any worn connections if necessary. 

Monthly Maintenance Checklist

  1. Engine Oil and Filter Change:
    • Change the engine oil and replace the oil filter to ensure clean lubrication and cooling of engine components.
  2. Hydraulic System Check:
    • Inspect hydraulic hoses, fittings, and fluid levels.
    • Replace any worn hoses or seals and top up hydraulic fluid as necessary.
  3. Exhaust System Inspection:
    • Check for blockages or damage in the exhaust system that could affect engine performance.
  4. Inspect the Blower Wheel and Drive Couplings for Damage or Wear.


Seasonal/Annual Maintenance Checklist

  1. Comprehensive Engine Overhaul:
    • Perform a detailed engine check as per the manufacturer’s manual, including timing adjustments and valve checks. 
    • Replace all fluids and filters.
    • Check and replace the exhaust system components if corroded or damaged.
  2. Thorough Cleaning and Lubrication:
    • Clean the entire machine thoroughly to remove dirt, debris, and potential blockages.
    • Lubricate all moving parts.
  3. Safety and Operational Check:
    • Test all safety features and controls for proper operation.
    • Conduct a full operational test to ensure the machine functions correctly under working conditions.
    • Ensure that all decals and warning labels are visible and legible.

Pre-Storage Checks

In addition to performing routine maintenance for your machine, it’s important to make sure you’ve prepared your straw blower for any time where it will sit idle for a long period of time, such as over winter. To set yourself up for success when the next straw blowing season starts, make sure you perform the following pre-storage maintenance for optimal equipment performance and longevity:

Pre-Storage Checklist

  1. Clean the Machine Thoroughly:
    • Remove all debris, dirt, and leftover straw materials from the machine.
    • Wash exposed surfaces and allow them to dry completely to prevent rust.
  2. Engine Maintenance:
    • Drain and replace engine oil and oil filters.
    • Add fresh fuel and a fuel stabilizer to prevent the fuel from deteriorating during storage.
    • Run the engine for a few minutes to circulate the stabilizer through the system.
    • Drain or top up the coolant system if necessary.
  3. Inspect and Replace Filters:
    • Check the air filter and clean or replace it if it’s dirty or damaged.
    • Inspect the fuel filter and replace it to ensure clean fuel flow upon next use.
  4. Drive System Check:
    • Inspect drive belts and chains for any signs of wear or damage. Replace if necessary.
    • Adjust the tension of drive belts and chains to the recommended specifications.
  5. Check for Leaks and Wear:
    • Inspect hoses, gaskets, and seals for any signs of wear or leaks.
    • Replace any components that show signs of deterioration to prevent leaks and ensure seals are tight.
  6. Lubricate Moving Parts:
    • Apply lubricant to all moving parts such as bearings, chains, and pivots to protect them against rust and ensure smooth operation when the machine is used again.
  7. Battery Maintenance:
    • If the straw blower has a battery, fully charge it before storage.
    • Disconnect the battery to prevent power drain and store it in a cool, dry place.
  8. Tire Check:
    • Inspect tires for any cracks or wear. Inflate them to the correct pressure to prevent flats or damage while stored.
    • If possible, store the equipment off the ground to avoid tire deformation.
  9. Cover and Store in a Suitable Location:
    • Cover the straw blower with a breathable tarp to protect it from dust and moisture.
    • Store the machine in a dry, covered area to prevent exposure to harsh weather conditions.

Maintain Your Straw Blower

Following these maintenance and pre-storage checklists will help ensure your straw blower is – and remains – in optimal condition during high-use periods and seasons of inactivity, minimizing the need for costly repairs and ensuring reliable performance for future landscaping projects.For more details on straw blower maintenance and expert advice on any straw blower problems you might be having, drop us a line and we’ll help you troubleshoot straw blower issues.

Doug Wysong

Doug has been designing innovative equipment for the erosion control industry for almost 40 years. With a degree in Agricultural Engineering, Doug specializes in power and energy systems, vehicle dynamics, and slurry pump technology to keep the Apex brand at the forefront of the landscaping industry. Doug has learned much from customers over the years and feels their input is vital in making the equipment he designs special. The best days are spent hydroseeding with customers and seeing what they can do with the product!

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