With margins tight in today's economy, it's imperative your equipment is well taken care of and running at the height of productivity. When your finishing trowel is running the way it should you'll see fuel efficiency, a fine finish that doesn't require re-work, and a safe, reliable machine that keeps on running at the jobsite.
A smooth finish
Since the purpose of a trowel is to flatten a floor, failing to properly maintain your trowel will negatively affect a floor's finish. A trowel with a poorly maintained engine may sputter or jerk on the slab, resulting in dents on the floor, commonly referred to in the industry as "furrows". In addition, inability to properly pitch your blades, a bent arm or spider, or a worn out blade can cause a swirling pattern on the floor. These flaws can damage your reputation as a contractor and cut into your bottom line when you have to repair imperfections.
Grease, oil and fuel leaks will also negatively affect your finish. "Troweling begins after most of the bleed water from the slab has evaporated," explains Ed Varel, engineering project manager with Stone Construction Equipment. "If oil gets on the slab it's going to cause problems on the top. The remaining bleed water will evaporate and leave the oil on the slab, creating a finish problem."
Cleanliness is also important in achieving a smooth finish. "A poorly maintained trowel that isn't clean is going to drop dry concrete on the floor and scratch the polished surface on those last few passes. There is no way to go back and repair that damage, and those are marks against you as a concrete contractor," says Ben Wiese, product manager with Multiquip and Whiteman trowels.
The daily/weekly/monthly/annual maintenance guidelines in this article should be examined and customized to your company's trowel use. One contractor may use his trowel six hours a day, whereas another contractor may use his trowel only six hours a week. Check with your trowel manufacturer's maintenance guidelines to determine the best maintenance intervals for your company's trowel use.
One of the most important daily maintenance items you can do to keep your trowel in tip-top shape is to powerwash it at the end of each shift. This will keep it looking professional and free from excess grease or other debris that might gum up moving parts. And you won't have to worry about dried concrete dropping onto your floor. You can find cleaning solutions designed especially for removing dried-on concrete or a product you can apply to your trowel that will make it easier to clean at the end of each shift.
Greasing and maintenance checks can be easily performed after cleaning. This will ensure your crew has time to fix any problems well before the trowel is needed again and that your operator has a trowel ready to go at the beginning of his or her shift the next day.
The concrete slab is a tough environment for your trowel engine, and it's important to make sure you're taking a look at the engine components every day. "One of the most common problems I see with trowels is people aren't checking the air filters," says Troy Halverson, team leader of the product support department with Wacker Neuson Corp. "The concrete dust will choke the engine and the machine will have less power."
Examine the air filter every day for potential clogging. With a liquid-cooled engine you'll want to check your coolant level daily. On all engines you should check the oil level and for oil leaks.
Before turning on the machine, the operator should perform a visual inspection. "Make sure everything to the eye is tight, safety guards are in place and all the parts are there. You want the machine to be safe to work on and others to be around," Halverson says.
Scott Brening, product manager with Husqvarna Construction Products, adds, "Check the bolts that attach to the blades. If these bolts were loose it would be very dangerous when the rotors begin to turn. It could also affect the balance of the machine and make the trowel wobble during use."