Vaderstad’s Rapid is the drill which many identify as marking the start of the min-till revolution. And there are plenty of used examples available for those looking to get on the wagon. Geoff Ashcroft reports.
A used Vaderstad Rapid drill could provide a good way of getting on the min-till ladder.
Vaderstad’s Rapid grew from the DS direct drill, and quickly gained an Accord seed metering unit in its formative years. By 1997 though, it was all in-house with the Swedish maker’s Fenix metering making its debut, and some of these early models are still kicking about.
Working widths are 4m, 6m and 8m, denoted by 400, 600 or 800 model numbers. Model naming has been wishy-washy. RDA denotes Rapid Drill Air, RDF is Rapid Drill Fenix and RDP is Rapid Drill Pneumatic. Essentially all are the same unit, but at different periods in its lifecycle.
To provide a tilth to fill the shallow slot made by the seed coulter, and then consolidated by the press wheels, System Disc appeared in the mid-90s’ - it is a format which has changed little over the last 22 years.
Multi-purpose by nature, the Rapid can be used as a direct drill only, or as a min-till drill with System Discs - or as a cultivator with seeding discs raised. From 2002, mechanical seed metering was changed to hydraulic drive, and this saw a new control box arrive, offering +/- seed rate adjustment through the box.
Able to be used in several configurations, the Rapid is seen as a multi-purpose implement.
By 2004, the drawbar lift ram was replaced by a linkage system using a rear lift ram to provide parallel lifting. This allowed greater spacing of modules, helping trash and soil flow through the machine more freely. At the same time, hydraulic depth adjustment of System Disc followed, and two years later, the rear press wheel format changed to a staggered layout to prevent soil dragging or bull-dozing in stickier conditions.
The Rapid has changed little since 2006, though you can expect to find later models offering better technology, larger hopper sizes, press wheels with higher ply ratings and a plastic fan housing to replace the earlier aluminium unit. System disc moved from offset disc gang to an X-pattern in 2007 to counter lateral side-shift for those using auto-steering systems, and by 2009, the Rapid gained a new seed hopper with a rounded front. Later changes include interactive depth control and an aggressive System Disc option.
The same bearings are used for the System Disc hubs and the seed disc hubs, simplifying parts availability and fitment. Early models had a grease nipple, requiring one push per season. Later models are sealed for life.
Give the discs a wriggle to check for play - if non-genuine parts have been used, bearings can come loose in the hubs, where OE parts will retain the assembly.
Frame cracking is virtually non-existent, says Vaderstad’s Rowland Dines, though pin and bush wear can be an issue on folding elements. Check for wing sagging with the drill opened up - if it is reasonably level, the pins and bushes will be ok.
Coulters are adjustable in relation to the seed disc, and they should not protrude below the disc.
Press wheel to drill coulter relationship - and therefore seed placement depth - is managed using a series of inter-connecting black rods which link the first disc to the second, and its corresponding press wheel.
These rods and their bushings are a wear item, and replacement pieces can be fitted or with press wheel mountings, can be welded onto the drill. If the model you are looking at has done 4-6,000 hectares (10-15,000 acres) on them, there is a good chance they will need replacing.
Take the time to inspect each press wheel and check for excess movement in its mounting assembly. Free play here is likely to be with the press wheel fork, which may need re-bushing or its bearings replacing. Likewise with the following harrow, wear at linkage points is inevitable.
Fenix seed metering unit - there will be two of them on 6m and 8m models - uses a rubber seal in the plastic concave which sits beneath the metering roller. And mice do like them. Check condition and wear of the metering units, and replace parts as necessary to maintain accuracy.
Ram seals and hydraulic valves should also be checked for leaks, as should the fan motor. If the drill is used on a tractor with any restrictions to its free-flow return, this can pressurise the fan motor and seals may then be needed. “It costs as much to fully restore an old Rapid as it does to freshen up a new one,” says Mr Dines.
Our featured example, a 2009 Rapid 600S, has covered about 5,000 hectares (12,500 acres), but has been through Cambridge Farm Machinery’s workshops and been given a full overhaul with new discs, rods and countless other components to be worthy of its £45,000 price tag.
Electronic control boxes, like those on many other pieces of kit, hold the key to a machine’s workload. A permanent memory will reveal just how much the drill has done in its lifetime. But given the nature of the beast, which will see parts replaced over the drills lifetime, condition is everything.
“While there are a lot of variables, and soil conditions do vary, we do have an idea of component longevity,” he says. “System Discs average out at 800 acres/metre, drilling discs should run to 1,000 acres/metre and the steel coulter that sits alongside the disc should cover 2,000 acres/metre.”
“If you’ve bought a fully refurbished unit, you’ll have an idea of how much work you can do before you need to start spending again on wear parts.”