Keep Pushing Ahead: Maintenance and Management of Construction Equipment

Equipment Maintenance

In construction, putting warm weather and long summer days together means one thing: business. As heavy equipment operators gear up for the busy season, they need to know that their equipment is ready to tackle the first big job of summer, even after being stored away during the winter months.

At Walker Machinery Co., we enlist the best industry practices to ensure that your equipment is dependable year round. No machine is going to have your back when the job gets tough without proper maintenance. In this article, we’ll highlight some of our industry-tested tips to maintaining your heavy machinery equipment, including the best time of the year for maintaining some of the most popular machines out in the field today.

Why Perform Construction Machinery Maintenance?

The reason behind performing standard, routine maintenance of your heavy equipment may seem obvious, but maybe not for the reasons you think.

For starters, establishing a maintenance program for your equipment ensures that your machinery can handle the types of jobs it’s meant to. A heavy equipment maintenance schedule means that you’re not going to be suddenly caught off guard, whether you’re in the yard or on a jobsite. Preventative equipment maintenance does just that: It prevents bigger issues from sneaking up on you and keeps your machinery operating at its fullest potential.

Secondly, preventative heavy equipment maintenance equates to overall lower operating costs. Instead of turning in your equipment when it fails to run, you’re preemptively bringing in equipment for inspections, ensuring that parts aren’t at risk for failure. The cost of an unexpected breakdown far outweighs that of preventative maintenance, especially when you factor in lost time on the jobsite.

Thirdly, and arguably most important, adhering to preventative maintenance means a commitment to safety. Anyone who’s worked a single day on a jobsite can attest to the potential risk of injury or even fatalities due to improper maintenance of construction equipment. Safety is, and will always be, the number one priority on any jobsite. Ensuring your machinery has been properly inspected and maintained is an easy way to minimize risk and protect your most important asset: your team.

Equipment Maintenance Tips

Before you do anything, you’re going to need to create a heavy equipment preventative maintenance checklist for your heavy equipment. Establishing standard heavy machinery maintenance guidelines will not only keep your machinery in check, but it will also set your expectations from your operators when it comes to caring for the equipment.

Checklist For Equipment Maintenance

Here are just a few to include on your construction equipment maintenance checklist:

  • Operator training
  • Wear and tear
  • Parts
  • Cleaning
  • Maintenance schedule
  • Lubrication
  • Attachments

Operator Training

As the technology behind your equipment advances, so does its efficiency and dependability. But just because your equipment is getting smarter doesn’t mean that your operators and technicians can start slacking on their training. Construction equipment management means more than just knowing how to put your machine to work. It also means knowing when something isn’t working and coming up with potential reasons why.

Integrating operator and technician training will not only better equip your team with the knowledge required to manage their machinery, but it will save valuable time when it comes to diagnosing the problems affecting your machines. If your company does not currently offer operator training in-house, Walker Machinery Co. training department offers over 50 courses that can keep your operators abreast of the newest technologies hitting their industry, including how to properly diagnose common equipment issues.

Wear & Tear

Wear & Tear on Equipment

Wear and tear issues aren’t unique to the construction industry or heavy equipment in general. Every day, we wear down the tools we need to complete our jobs. The problem arises when we ignore this fact and don’t take the maintenance measures to keep wear and tear in check.

Things like vibration, rising temperatures, friction and age all point to machinery parts that are being worn down. Here’s how each symptom can arise in your machine:

  • Vibration: If your equipment’s gears and/or belts are out of alignment, they can cause vibrations. Worn out balls and/or roller bearings can also produce vibrations.
  • Rising Temperatures: If you’re experiencing higher-than-normal temperatures, this could point to overuse of parts, friction or poor lubrication.
  • Age: This one’s simple enough: The older your parts are, the more susceptible they are to wear and tear. No part is foolproof, and putting off maintenance on aging parts can be detrimental to the overall health of your equipment.

Every piece of your equipment is going to undergo normal wear and tear. Recognizing that fact and acting on it in a timely manner will help maintain your equipment’s health in the future. Be aware that while wear and tear is inevitable in construction, there are performance limits on your heavy equipment. Exceeding the specifications outlined in your Owner/Operator manual won’t do you or your equipment any favors. Not only will you increase the frequency of construction equipment service calls, but you’ll also severely cut down on your machine’s efficiency and overall lifespan.

Parts

When it comes to managing your construction equipment, it’s important to understand the difference between original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts and aftermarket parts, as these can affect the overall maintenance of your fleet. Let’s look at the pros and cons of OEM part versus aftermarket parts:

OEM Parts: Pros

  • Easier choice when it comes to your part. Dealers usually carry only one type, meaning you won’t have to compare brands and cost.
  • Part should work just as well as the part you’re replacing, so there shouldn’t be any concern about a drop in efficiency.
  • Most dealers will back up OEM parts with a one-year warranty.

OEM Parts: Cons

  • Expect to pay more than you would for aftermarket parts. OEM parts carry the name and reputation of the dealer, which means more out-of-pocket costs for the client.
  • There may be a limited number of options for purchasing OEM parts in person.
  • Sometimes OEM parts aren’t better than their aftermarket counterparts. This isn’t always the case, but you may find yourself paying extra for branding rather than performance.

 

Aftermarket Parts: Pros

  • Less expensive than OEM parts.
  • Quality can match and/or exceed OEM parts.
  • Greater variety, which equates to a wider range of prices and part selections.

Aftermarket Parts: Cons

  • Although the quality of aftermarket parts can, at times, exceed that of OEM parts, there are many cases where that ends up not being true. Be wary that aftermarket parts can equate to a lesser quality because of the types of materials used to manufacture the part.
  • Selection can be overwhelming to someone who may not be familiar with the intricacies of the different options available to them.
  • Warranty may not be available at time of purchase.

 

When it comes time to replace parts on your equipment, Walker Machinery Co. offers an extensive parts inventory, available to clients 24/7. Don’t forget that Walker also offers used parts, which, similar to aftermarkets, can be less expensive than OEM and match quality output.

Cleaning

While it can seem tedious, proper cleaning of your machinery and their surrounding storage environment is a core component to proper heavy equipment maintenance management. Here are just a few examples of the areas that will need be to cleaned on a regular basis:

  • Seals
  • Filters
  • Breathers
  • Electronics

Routinely cleaning these areas lowers the risk of contaminant buildup, which has the possibility to cause breakdowns in your machine. That’s why cleaning should really be looked at as not just a solution to your heavy equipment maintenance, but as a necessary component of your preventative maintenance practices.

Maintenance Schedule

Equipment Maintenance Schedule

Keeping a maintenance schedule for your heavy equipment is a no-brainer. Not only will it keep you organized, but it will also keep your operators and technicians organized as well. Plus, with a maintenance schedule, you can better budget your maintenance costs for the year, knowing ahead of time when certain parts will need to be repaired or replaced. Items to include on your maintenance schedule can include — but aren’t limited to — items like power transmissions, seals, gaskets, bearings and bolts.

If the resources are available, you may want to consider investing in a maintenance software program. These programs can keep valuable data right at your fingertips, so you can better analyze your costs, equipment and maintenance needs.

Lubrication

Another key to construction equipment maintenance is proper lubrication of your machine’s moving parts. Lubrication reduces friction, which can lead to substantial damage of your machine’s parts. When conducting a lubrication inspection, keep the following in mind:

  • Check for excess oil and/or grease build-up in the pistons.
  • Check for any leaks around oil seals.
  • Check manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure the right lubricant is being utilized on your machine.

If your equipment seems to be acting up, having a Walker Machinery Co. professional check your lubricant can help diagnose the issue. By inspecting the lubricant, and more specifically any contaminants within it, a Walker technician can help point you to a specific part or parts that may be under duress.

Attachments

Managing your construction equipment means not just understanding the specific machine, but its attachments as well. Determining the right type of attachment for your equipment comes down to a number of factors, including the condition of the jobsite, the climate and your material composition.

Forcing attachments onto equipment that are not specified won’t help your efficiency or your bottom line. Not only is it a question of safety, but it also affects the longevity of your machine and costs associated with maintenance, repair or replacement. Walker representatives are always available to answer any questions you may have about the specified attachments for your equipment and how to get the most out of your machinery.

Best Time of Year for Maintenance

Time of Year For Maintenance

Managing your construction equipment means establishing a preventative maintenance schedule and sticking to it. While year-round care is ideal, there are certain times of the year where preventative maintenance is strongly suggested. Those include before and after the winter season.

Preventative maintenance before winter ensures that your heavy equipment is properly prepared to sit dormant for months, sometimes in freezing temperatures, without suffering any lasting complications. And maintenance completed after winter affirms that your winterizing efforts were successful and that your machine is prepared to run at its fullest potential. Skipping either one is generally not a safe bet, as you risk running into serious performance issues when it is time to pull your equipment from storage.

Seasonal Maintenance Tips

Checklists For Maintenance

Keep the following maintenance checklists handy when you’re prepping your construction machinery for before and/or after winter:

Fuel

  • Fill fuel tank up at the end of each day to minimize moisture and/or water build-up.
  • Drain water from your water separator daily to ensure fuel tank is free of debris.
  • Drain your machine’s tank while the engine is running to remove any contaminants and/or residual fuel that has built up over time.

Engine

  • Run your engine until it reaches operating temperature.
  • Check that V-pulley belts are free before starting your engine.
  • Check fan belts’ condition/alignment.
  • Cut down on engine’s idle running time — no more than 10 minutes.

Battery

  • Store battery in warm, dry climate.
  • Charge your battery before storing.
  • Recharge your battery when capacity drops below 75 percent.
  • Maintain a schedule to check stored batteries every 30-45 days.

Tires

  • Maintain a routine inspection of your equipment’s tires during and after storage months.
  • Inflate tires in a heated area to improve tire bead seal.
  • Utilize dry nitrogen gas for inflation during winter maintenance as this will severely lower the chances of ice crystals forming.

Filters

  • Check filters for any restriction and/or clogging.
  • Replace fuel filter during winterization maintenance.
  • Empty fuel water trap during winterization maintenance.
  • Keep extra fuel filters on hand during and after storage months.

 

Seasonal Maintenance by Machine

While the tips above are good rules of thumb for all of your heavy equipment, we want to provide you with some specific maintenance checklists for some of the more popular equipment out in the field today. That would include excavators, wheel loaders and skid steers. Listed below are just a few examples of the areas your preventative maintenance routine should cover, whether it’s seasonal or year-round.

EXCAVATOR MAINTENANCE

Inspect and/or replace the following:

  • Hydraulic oil level
  • Engine oil level
  • Radiator coolant
  • Fan belts — tension, damage
  • Attachments
  • Track tension
  • Swing reduction — gear case, gear grease
  • Battery
  • Air breather element
  • Swing gear — pinion grease
  • Air cleaner element

WHEEL LOADER MAINTENANCE

Inspect and/or replace the following:

  • Hydraulic oil level
  • Engine oil level
  • Radiator coolant level
  • Fan belts — tension, damage
  • Fuel pre-filter
  • Attachments
  • Drive shaft — front, center
  • Wheel nuts
  • Rear axle pivot
  • Fuel tank
  • Battery
  • Transmission oil
  • Axle oil

SKID STEER MAINTENANCE

Inspect and/or replace the following:

  • Hydraulic oil
  • Engine oil
  • Roll-Over Protective Structure (ROPS)
  • Safety treads
  • Shields
  • Attachments
  • Boom locks
  • Lighting
  • Engine
  • Fuel level
  • Coolant level

Walker Machinery Co. Equipment Maintenance Services

At Walker, we’re in the business of keeping your machinery out of the warehouse and in the field. Preventative maintenance, whether scheduled periodically year-round or seasonally, keeps your equipment performing at its best, lowers overall maintenance costs and prolongs the life of your machinery.

When it comes time to start preventative maintenance, you need someone you can count on to know what it takes to keep your equipment operating at maximum efficiency and productivity. We can develop a PM Agreement that places responsibility for preventative maintenance in the hands of our experienced technicians. At Walker, you can expect:

  • Highly trained technicians inspecting and maintain your equipment.
  • Written reports and analysis, providing additional indicators for future repairs.
  • S-O-S Fluid Analysis, maximizing equipment life by identifying potential concerns and abnormal wear.

Contact a Walker representative today to learn more about our heavy equipment services and how to keep your machinery pushing ahead.

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