When you start your concrete saw at the beginning of each day, you take for granted it will respond immediately. But given that it spends its entire life surrounded by clouds of dust or pools of slurry, plus works at extreme operating temperatures with less than gentle handling, it's almost surprising that it does.
There are things you can do to combat the conditions concrete saws face and ensure they start promptly and run efficiently. It begins with regular maintenance.
"Simple regular maintenance will help to greatly increase the productive life of concrete saws, while maintaining their future value," says Troy Halverson, senior service representative, Wacker Corp. "With the cost of saws ranging from a few hundred dollars for hand-held [models] to thousands for floor saws, routine preventive maintenance costs pennies on average over the life of the equipment."
Most problems affecting concrete saws are related to three key areas: air filtration, belt/chain tension and starters. Focusing on these areas goes a long way toward extending saw life.
Keep air flowing
Maintenance of a concrete saw's air filtration system can't be overemphasized. Check the operator's manual to determine the proper maintenance intervals and procedures for your particular model.
Currently, there are a few different types of filters available. Traditional foam/oil filters need to be checked and cleaned routinely. Wash in soap and water, then soak them in oil.
Halverson recommends cleaning or changing foam pre-filters whenever you refuel. "Consider having several pre-filters in plastic bags on site and ready to go to reduce downtime," he says.
These machines will also have a paper element. Recommendations for cleaning these filters have changed in recent years. Historically, contractors were taught to clean them with compressed air. "But the combination of high-pressure air and abrasive concrete dust will eventually cause micro tears in the paper," says Joe Hickey, industrial products manager, STIHL, Inc. "Then, the dust will go right through and get into your engine."
It is now recommended that you visually inspect the main paper element for any damage and replace it if any is found. "Otherwise, this filter should not require frequent cleaning or changing," says Halverson. "If it does need service, gently tap it out on a flat surface. Never wash it. And when in doubt, toss it out and replace it."
Manufacturers are introducing new filtration systems in an effort to curtail damage done by concrete dust and slurry. Husqvarna's air cleaning system cleans the air via cyclonic force that removes any large particles. "You remove a lot of the dirt and debris before you take it into the air box," says Mike Ward, product manager, power cutters, Husqvarna. "Then it's filtered again through a three-stage filter."
STIHL offers a relatively new type of air filtration system, X2, that includes a manifold pre-filtration system, a paper element and a cotton flock filter. The company recommends that you don't clean these filters; in fact, don't even open the cover to examine them. "Filters actually clean a little better when they have some filter dust on them," Hickey explains. "At some point, it will get so clogged that no air will get into the engine. The machine won't rev up, or it may bog down and you will notice a drop in power. Then, change the filters."
To further reduce dust exposure to both the operator and machine, there are a number of attachments available that connect directly to the saw to collect dust at the source, notes Becky Gallert, demolition product manager, Wacker.
Manufacturers are also encouraging a move to wet cutting. In fact, some states are beginning to mandate the use of water because of the dangers of silicosis.