11 best practices for maintaining construction equipment

Photo: NeSmith Landscapes
Photo: NeSmith Landscapes
Photo: Case Construction Equipment
TENSE UP A well-maintained and properly tensioned track can last thousands of hours longer than a neglected one. Photo: Case Construction Equipment

A design/build company’s success depends on the uptime of some big-ticket equipment, such as skid-steers, compact track loaders and compact excavators, among other earthmoving machines. When these machines go down, it can tank a job opportunity or lead to costly delays, not to mention the cost of the repairs themselves. George MacIntyre, product manager, Case Construction Equipment, Paul Breedlove, market account manager for BrightView Enterprise Solutions, and Buck Storlie, product line manager for ASV Holdings, offer their insights on keeping construction equipment running smoothly.

1. Have some basic repair tools at the ready. Breedlove stresses that having the knowledge and the tools to work through repairs in the field can be very useful. He recommends investing $300 in tools and supplies to keep on your truck, including a socket set, a jack, a pry bar, a grease gun, lubrication, extra oil and an air compressor or an air tool.

2. Perform daily machine checks. MacIntyre explains that the equipment should be evaluated pre-and postoperation. As part of this process, ensure all grease points are regularly topped off. Proper greasing is critical to the performance and the long-term health and well-being of the machine.

3. Take care of the tires and undercarriage. Proper care of these components will ensure productivity and also help extend the operational lives of the equipment — and therefore reduce the total cost of ownership, MacIntyre says.

4. Check track tension and condition daily. The most common problem with compact track loaders results from improper track tensioning, Storlie says. The tension should match what is listed in the equipment manual. Too much tension can accelerate track wear and wear on bearings, wheels and sprockets. A track that is too loose can result in ratcheting — the track skipping over the sprocket — which accelerates wear or damage. A loose track can also increase the risk of derailment.

5. Watch for leaks. What may appear to be a small leak is ultimately a symptom of a larger problem somewhere within the machine and should be addressed immediately.

6. Monitor bucket/teeth wear on machine buckets. Excessive wear that impedes the performance of the bucket means the rest of the machine is under stress and overworking to get the job done.

7. Pay attention to the fluids you’re putting into the machine. “Fluids are extremely critical to the efficient operation and lifelong reliability of each machine,” MacIntyre says, adding that fluids that go into the machine should be up to spec and designed for the environmental conditions your machine works in. “Don’t use a funnel with undetermined dirt/grease in it to fill up any reservoirs on your machine — introducing those contaminants will be harmful in the long run,” he says.

Photo: NeSmith Landscapes
GET AHEAD Experts recommend establishing a maintenance process and staying up on necessary repairs. Photo: NeSmith Landscapes

8. Have a maintenance and repair plan in place. Breedlove advises empowering your management or field team to learn how to perform maintenance and repairs. If there is an equipment break, have a process in place with either a mechanic on staff or dealer phone numbers to call immediately.

9. Keep your equipment clean. Make sure to regularly clean your compact track loader’s undercarriage of mud and debris to slow component wear, Storlie says. Also spend time cleaning the rear cooling package. Machines with swing-out coolers or ground-level access make this task easier. A clean cooling system improves overall machine efficiency and also gives you a chance to get a closer look at other areas that might need attention.

10. Don’t fall victim to the “I’ll get to it later” mentality. Putting off an equipment repair can trip you up if a new job or opportunity comes up and the machine is unavailable, MacIntyre says. “Contact the supervisor, fleet manager or whoever is in charge of fleet management and maintenance or reach out to your local equipment dealer or certified equipment technician and get on their schedule ASAP.”

11. Take advantage of the offseason and dealer-planned maintenance programs. Your downtime is when you should examine each machine to address any leaks or wear. Use dealer-planned maintenance programs — where manufacturer-certified technicians inspect and bring the machine up to shape — so the work is covered by your
warranty, advises MacIntyre. In addition, having lifelong records of manufacturer-certified work will help improve the resale value when you’re ready to sell that machine on the secondary market, he says.

Abby Hart

Abby Hart

Abby Hart is the former senior editor of Landscape Management. A native Clevelander, she spent 10 years in Chicago, where she was operations manager of a global hospitality consultancy. She also worked as managing editor of Illumine, a health and wellness magazine; and a marketing specialist for B2B publications. Abby has a degree in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communication.

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