Pooley also advises sticking with manufacturers' recommended lubricants, and implementing an oil analysis program that can alert you to increasing wear or potential component failure. "Choosing a good brand of oils and filters is important," he says. "Most manufacturers will provide a list of recommended products. Following this recommendation is especially important if the machine is new enough to be under warranty. If you don't, the manufacturer may not honor [the warranty] if something goes wrong."
Extra care for harsh conditions
If you operate wheel loaders in extremely harsh environments, or in multiple shifts, adjust the maintenance schedule accordingly.
"Any high-production, demolition, waste treatment or other jobsite could potentially shorten a loader's life in operation if proper maintenance... is not performed," says Rogers. "Contractors should always perform the maintenance intervals as recommended, and always make sure the machine matches the operation and weight of material being handled."
With that being said, there are ways in which operators can perform a certain task that will help extend the longevity of the loader and, in the long run, keep it operating in peak condition over the long haul.
For example, make sure operators come to a complete stop before shifting gears. "If you don't, you could damage the transmission, axles, etc.," says Evans. "The operator's method of operation can result in damage to the machine. Encourage operators to treat the loader with respect."
Take time to evaluate a jobsite, adds Pooley. Experienced operators can assess jobsite conditions and adjust their approach to it accordingly. "When approaching a pile of material you intend on moving, consider what it is," says Pooley. "Sand and dirt will be easy to move compared to recycled asphalt that has been in a pile for a while. Once it sets for an extended period of time, it rebonds and becomes difficult to move."
Also equip the loader with the right tools for the job, including buckets, bucket teeth, tires, etc. "You should use a different bucket for moving soil, sand or gravel than one that you would use in a rock quarry," says Pooley. "In a rock quarry, you wouldn't be able to penetrate the pile with a flat bucket. But with a spade nose bucket, the point penetrates first and makes rock loading easier. The right bucket for the job will get more done in the long run."
Pay attention to tires, as well. "They're in constant contact with the ground, so you need to ensure they are inflated with the proper air pressure," says Evans. "If air pressure is not maintained, you lose stability on the machine, especially on the front." This can put both the operator and the loader at risk.
Evans adds, "If one tire's inflation pressure is considerably lower than another, your bucket or ground-engaging tool won't be level. Plus, with a low tire on one side, you have more torque and friction on that side, which is hard on the mechanical components of the machine, such as axles and brakes."
Overall, taking care of your wheel loader will add life to the machine, and value when it comes time to trade it in or sell it. "I can't stress enough the importance of following a routine PM schedule. Don't deviate from it," says Evans. "And if you have a record of maintenance performed, it can add 15% to 20% to the value of the machine at trade-in."