Whether new or used, equipment needs to be in top operating condition to be most productive. Take a ride-on vibratory compactor, for example. In order to produce a smooth mat with the desired density, all critical components need to be in good working order.
"All equipment is bright and shiny when it leaves the factory," comments Bruce Monical, Wirtgen America. "But no matter how good it is, if it's mechanical, it will eventually wear out."
The single biggest influence on how quickly that happens is maintenance. "If you follow the recommended maintenance procedures for your particular compactor, you should be able to extend the life of the machine," says Monical. "And that also influences the performance, because the better the machine is maintained, in general, the better it will perform... If the engine doesn't 'miss', if the pumps don't surge, if the drums are smooth and not pitted, if the water system is clean and provides a constant spray of water to the drum - all of that will improve the job because the performance of the machine is what it should be."
Keep it serviced
Maintenance of the engine and hydraulic system components is particularly critical. "In order for a hydraulic vibratory system to have the proper output to compact the asphalt, the engine has to run at its specified rpms," notes Dave Dennison, BOMAG. "If the engine isn't turning fast enough, the hydraulic system won't perform as designed and your vibratory performance will be diminished."
Using clean, high-quality lubricants also plays an important role in reducing wear, lowering operating temperatures and obtaining the maximum service life from components.
"Keeping the cooling system clean contributes to the lowest possible operating temperatures, which helps prolong the life of lubricants, seals and components," says Tim Sturos, product support supervisor, Caterpillar Global Paving. "Improper maintenance can lead to contaminated hydraulic oil and high operating temperatures, which cause increased wear and poor performance."
Fluid analysis will help you to more easily track lubricant condition. "Regular oil sampling helps establish the condition of the lubricants," says Sturos, "and guides equipment managers in making optimal maintenance decisions in order to avoid unscheduled downtime and excessive maintenance costs."
To ensure optimal mat quality, pay attention to the water system; in particular, make sure the scrapers on the drums are adjusted properly. "They have two functions," says Bob Marcum, Volvo Roadbuilding. "The first is to distribute water evenly across the drum. The second is to remove any material that might stick to the drum. If they're not properly adjusted, they won't do either function in an optimal manner."
Water system performance can deteriorate if you frequently use an unclean water source. "If you pull water from a ditch or lake or other unclean source, the system can be compromised as the filters will have to work that much harder to remove debris," says Dennison.
Regional differences can affect the water system, as well. If you operate in cold climates, drain the water spray system at the end of the day.
"Water in the spray system can freeze, which can damage the water pump and filter systems," says Sturos. "If the water spray system is inoperative, the compactor drums could pick up asphalt off the mat, resulting in a poor mat surface." Some manufacturers, including Caterpillar, offer an optional freeze protection system.
If you work in the South and equip your compactors with coco mats, make sure the mats are in place and contact the drum uniformly to keep it moist at all times. "When the drum is dry, hot asphalt can stick to it," says Marcum. "Each time the drum comes back around, it picks up even more. Then you have the added cost of stopping the machine, cleaning off the drum and repairing the damage to the asphalt where you picked up the material."