Running a commercial composting operation means you must maintain compost piles and your equipment. One machine that is important to maintain is your compost turner. The consequences of failing to repair your equipment can extend to the end product.

If compost isn’t regularly turned, then it will degrade and become worthless. Some regions in the United States have regulations that forbid the sale of compost from a windrow if it isn’t turned on a regular basis. This means that if your turner stops working, you cannot turn your compost or sell it.

Maintaining drum-style compost turners

If your compost turner isn’t working, it’s probably due to a lack of maintenance. If too much oxygen is introduced into the windrows because the turner is malfunctioning, it will affect the quality of your product. Changing temperatures cause the compost to fail to meet government specifications. To prevent this, it’s important to keep your compost turner in peak condition with regular maintenance. The biggest mistake is the failure to schedule time for daily checks on the equipment.

Follow all service recommendations

Proper service recommendations include checking all fluid levels for the driveline and the condition of the belts, flails, or teeth every day. At the end of the day, it’s smart to clean the machine and recheck these areas again.


Drum-style turners have dominated the market for their ease of use and durability. These can use auger-type turning mechanisms or flails. Flails are one item that owners of compost turners must replace. This component meets the windrow first and cuts through it at the same time. A flail can become bent or worn down by excessive use. Some manufacturers recommend replacing flails after 100 uses.

Drive belts

Most compost turner owners focus only on the condition of the flails, teeth, or other turning mechanisms. But, it’s important to inspect other mechanical parts. Drive belts have become a vital component of these machines. If they are well-maintained, they can help the machine use less fuel and result in significant savings.


Machine operators need to be observant while operating their compost turners. If there is a concern of contamination inside the machine, it should be shut down and inspected immediately. Your compost will rely on keeping a regular temperature and mixture of ingredients, so it must not come into contact with any contaminants.

Vibrations and noise

It is also good to check for odd vibrations or sounds emitting from the machine while in use. This is common in most self-propelled compost turners. A vibration has the feel of riding along a road filled with potholes. If you maintain your compost turner, it should ride across windrows smoothly. This malfunction may be caused by a flail that is out of place. Contamination in the windrow or something being wrapped around the drum can also cause noise and vibrations.

Long-term compost turner maintenance

Besides daily maintenance checks, most manufacturers recommend certain preventive repairs be done at specific times during the year. These may include changing the oil, replacing the hydraulic filter, and checking the tension of the belts, flails, and teeth. Following these instructions will help to keep the compost turner functioning. Plus, it will help to determine which repairs you can do on your own and which need a professional.

Understanding how to use a compost turner

Before maintenance even begins, it is important to use your compost turner the right way. Manufacturers can help you decide what size your windrows should be, or help you find the right turner for specific piles. By not following their recommendations, you can put too much stress on your compost turner. This could put the machine out of alignment. The first sign of damage is hearing unusual sounds during the composting process.

One way composters cause this issue is to make their windrows too large for their machine. Too often, windrows are built bigger for a planned reduction or to make more compost, faster. The other cause is more intentional. Space is expensive at most compost centers, so it’s important to get the most out of every windrow. But, these turners work best when operated per the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Finally, training is necessary for first-time users who are not familiar with how compost turners operate. The biggest misconception is that a turner is simple to operate. The user must understand how to control this machine as well as how to maintain it.

Do you need help finding or maintaining a compost turner?

If you would like to learn more about caring for your compost turner, or about purchasing a new machine, SCARAB International can help. Our cost-effective and efficient machines can be used for small, medium, or large composting projects. We offer New, Refurbished, and Used self-propelled compost turners, as well as Leasing Options. If you need parts, we work with many local suppliers. Give us a call today at (806) 883-7621 or Contact Us via email for more information about our Products and how we can help you.