Stop, what's that sound?
In an ideal world, all maintenance issues would occur before an operator starts a job in the field or after the machine is brought home for the day. But this is not an ideal world. However, operators are not left clueless when it comes to noticing if a piece of equipment is not functioning properly. There are some things operators can look or listen for while on the job to indicate a piece of equipment is not performing correctly. "The first thing they should be looking for is something out of the norm," Loutzenhiser says. "That means just kind of keep your eyes and ears open to your whole unit."
For example, if you see that you are running a higher than normal psi with your pump and spray tip, and your mix design hasn't changed, that may suggest that you should clean out your valves, he says. Also, if you aren't getting constant strokes from your air diaphragm pump it may not be running efficiently.
Humphries says a drop in the pressure of the spray is another sign of an improperly working machine. He points out three likely causes to this drop:
- The filter basket. "The material in the filter basket is dried sealer that fell off the insides of the tank or even small stones that are actually balls of additive that wasn't added properly or didn't mix properly," Humphries says. "The material is deposited in the basket under pressure and has a clay-like consistency that sticks to the side of the basket, so you can't just pull it out with your hands." He suggests shutting off the main valve and running the pump for a few seconds to release pressure. Then open and remove the filter basket. Use a screwdriver to clean out any built-up material, then dump the material into a bucket.
- Plumbing clog. A second cause of a pressure drop could be a clog. Check if the sealer is recirculating back into the tank, Humphries says. This will help a contractor locate the clog. If sealer is recirculating, the clog is in the wand or the hose. To remove the clog, he says to insert the wand into the tank and spray into it.
- Bottom ball. A third possible cause of a drop in pressure can come from the bottom ball in the pump. The 2-in.-diameter ball can get stuck, causing the pressure not to build up. "After a time, because it's working in such an abrasive environment (with all the sand in the sealer), it will wear down to 11/2-in. diameter and will get stuck in the bottom of the pump," Humphries says. When this happens, the ball needs to be replaced.
Although there are many different areas where a sealcoating machine can break or wear down, a do-it-yourself fix is still possible. And if a piece of equipment does show signs of break down or wear while in the field it isn't hopeless. "With the right person, with the right skill level, and the right tools," Loutzenhiser says, "the maintenance can be done on the job."
Prevention is key
Waiting to do maintenance until a piece of equipment shows signs of breakdown, or even worse does break down, is not the ideal way to take care of your machine. At this point in the season, there is certain maintenance that should be done to keep your sealcoating units working effectively and to prevent issues while in the field. Several of these maintenance fixes can also be done in the field if need be.
Some of the issues mentioned earlier, such as loose bearings, can easily be fixed by tightening some nuts. Other issues are a matter of a regular checkup. Checking the fluids on your unit as well as the air filters is very important, Loutzenhiser says. How often you check the air filters depends on how often the equipment is used. If you use the equipment a lot, and in dirty conditions, you are going to want to check them more often.
"That's really something it doesn't hurt to go overboard on, changing your lubricants and changing your air filters, because it's so quick and simple and cheap," he says. "It's a lot better than the alternative."
Checking the brakes regularly is also essential. "A neat trick is to jack all four tires up, then spin them and check to make sure each individual brake is functioning properly," Loutzenhiser says. That way you will know if only three wheels are working instead of four. Another good preventative measure is cleaning the filter pot every morning.
Humphries says another way to keep your equipment working properly late into the season is to check the hydraulic oil both pre- and mid-season. If the oil wasn't replaced before the season started it should be replaced at the mid-season check, he says. Humphries also suggests rebuilding the pump before the season starts.