It's been said that eating breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Incorporating it into your morning routine refuels your body, jump starts your day and lays the foundation for life-long health benefits.
The morning routine you perform with your full-size excavator is equally important to the health of your machine. What you do during the first 15 to 30 minutes of each day pays big dividends in terms of increasing productivity, maintaining residual value and lowering operating costs. Incorporating additional weekly, monthly and annual scheduled maintenance only adds to machine longevity.
Key areas for preventive maintenance fall into three main categories: engines, hydraulics and undercarriage systems. A detailed and specific time line of scheduled maintenance for each area can be found in your owner's manual.
"A lot of money goes into research, development and engineering to determine at what intervals filters are to be changed, what items are to be greased and at what hour interval," notes Bill Metzger, product sales instructor, Doosan Infracore. "Also, using a maintenance checklist will help identify any items that need to be addressed. Planned maintenance is always less expensive than reactive maintenance."
Maintain the engine
Maintenance has become increasingly important with the move to Tier III engines.
"These new engines are more susceptible to damage caused by contamination," says David Pooley, Hyundai Construction. A filtration system for today's high-pressure fuel and sensitive pumping systems goes down to as low as 2 microns, compared to no limit for earlier models. "The maintenance schedule in the manual lays out a very comprehensive change-out period, and contractors need to stick with those recommendations," he says. "If they do, they will get the best life out of the engine, as well as fuel and hydraulic systems."
Make sure the oil and fuel are kept clean by changing filters and fluids as recommended. Between changes, check fluid levels daily and top off as needed.
Many manufacturers have incorporated features to make fluid checks quick and simple, and changes easy enough to be done on site.
"We've done a lot to make daily checks simple so contractors can easily perform maintenance tasks," says Adrian Hall, market development manager, JCB, Inc. "They're all available from ground level. Our oil checks are part of the startup sequence. Everything can be done from the comfort of the operator's seat or by walking around the machine and opening the various bay doors."
Oil sampling is also crucial to keep today's engines functioning at peak levels. "The greatest asset to any contractor is to get their excavators on an oil-sampling program," says Metzger. "When an oil-sampling program is implemented correctly, the analysis you receive from the lab will let you know ahead of time if something needs to be addressed. It also allows any potential problem to be addressed before the situation is catastrophic, and keeps repair costs to a minimum. Most oil sampling is done at the scheduled maintenance intervals or as specified by the oil sample report."
Maintaining good records, including oil sample reports, also adds value. "Not only has maintenance cost been kept to a minimum, but when it's time to look at replacing or updating a customer's fleet, the price received on trade or outright sale has increased due to the value added back into the machine by the oil sampling program," Metzger states.
As part of daily engine maintenance, be sure to leave sufficient time to properly warm up the machine, especially in Northern climates at this time of year. "It's never good to draw huge rpms or power out of an engine when it's cold," Hall says.
"We have an auto warm-up system that registers the external temperature and the temperature of the machine," he continues. "It will run itself through a cycle that's up to 20 minutes long to warm the hydraulics and engine prior to operation. You can override the circuit if all you need to do is load the machine onto a truck. But if you're working to dig a trench, letting the machine warm up will reduce the dangers of damaging the engine."