In high ambient temperatures, pay attention to engine temperature to ensure it doesn't get too high.
"If you run repeatedly in the overheat mode, you will start damaging or distorting costly engine and hydraulic components," says Hall. JCB excavators have an automatic cool down mode to prevent overheating. It reduces the power demands from the hydraulic pumps, thereby automatically bringing the machine cooling system back to normal levels.
However, you still need to make sure coolers are kept debris-free. "If coolers don't get cleaned and become impacted, or if the system registers above normal operating temps, the machine will go into a shutdown mode to prevent it from overheating," says Hall.
The best way to keep coolers clean is to blow them out with an air hose. "If you use water, you run the risk of dirt turning into a solid when it dries," says Pooley. "Washing out the radiator with water can also push the dirt into the middle. If it doesn't all get washed out, it can accumulate between the coolers to the point where it restricts air flow."
If you work in a very dusty environment, coolers should be blown out every day. For general applications, clean them at least once a week, or as needed.
How can you maximize the chances engine service will get carried out as recommended? Many manufacturers have incorporated "reminders" into the CPUs of their machines. "You can set the hours, per the manual, for every oil change, filter change, etc.," says Pooley. "Then you will get a reminder when a certain task needs to be performed."
If an engine can be equated to the "heart" of the machine, then the hydraulic system could be seen as its "circulatory" system. Though hydraulic fluid doesn't need to be changed as often as engine oil, fluid levels must be checked frequently and change-outs performed as recommended and/or needed.
"When you're dealing with servo lines feeding up into the joysticks, any form of contamination can cause the machine to not work as efficiently," says Hall. "Clean oil equates to reliable hydraulics." He adds that JCB's range of excavators are fitted with the Plexus filter system, an ultra-fine in-line kidney filter that eliminates debris greater than 1 micron and extends hydraulic oil changes to 5,000 hours.
Many hydraulic oils have service intervals of roughly 2,000 hours. But if you mount a breaker and use the unit in a demolition application, you will need to change hydraulic fluid more frequently - at around 1,000 hours. "Hammering causes a lot of shock and damage to the oil as it's being used," says Pooley. "If you're using a hammer occasionally, it's not a problem. But if you're hammering continuously, the oil breaks down twice as fast."
If you live in a climate with extreme temperature fluctuations, you may also have to change hydraulic oils more frequently to ensure you're using the optimum oil for the climactic conditions. "Where temperatures drop to well below zero, a normal oil would be too thick," Pooley explains. "In these situations, you need an oil with low viscosity so it flows at lower temperatures. If it's too thick, your machine takes longer to warm up to operating temperatures. It may also be slower to operate, and you run the risk of cavitation in your hydraulic system and damaging the main hydraulic pump."
Also pay attention to hoses. Be aware of the burst pressure of any hoses you replace. Your best bet is to buy OEM components to ensure a proper fit.
Maintain torque and tension
The undercarriage of a full-size excavator accounts for about 20% of the total cost of a new unit. Maintenance and replacement costs considered over the unit's life account for about 60% of total costs.
"Therefore, it's mandatory to preserve the undercarriage for as long as possible," says Guido Bottin, engineering and quality manager, Berco of America, Inc. "Furthermore, the downtime to replace/repair components is usually long and customers may not be able to afford it."