Downtime can be very expensive with an asphalt paver. If your paver breaks down on the job, you may have 10 to 20 trucks full of hot mix, a multi-million-dollar asphalt plant and 30 to 50 people, all sitting idle. Some contractors have recorded internal costs as high as $200 to $300 per minute when not continuously paving. That's why preventive maintenance of your pavers is a business necessity.
Just imagine that you have taken delivery on a new rubber-track 10-foot paver with the most popular front-mounted hydraulic extendable screed. You want to run it for 3,000 hours, or three years - trouble-free.
Typically the job of daily inspections, lubrications and minor adjustments belongs to your paving crew.
"There's no better first line-of-defense on paver maintenance than the crew," says Ben Burra, equipment superintendent with Arrow Road Construction, Mount Prospect, IL. Arrow owns and operates six highway pavers.
"Each of our crews stays with one paver through the season," says Burra. "The crew gets to know its own paver very well - all of its tendencies and so forth - so we in the equipment department keep up good communications with our crews about how the pavers are performing."
Cleaning your paver daily is one of the most often overlooked maintenance chores, says Jeff Smith, VP product support, Roadtec. While this article hits many of the highlights of paver maintenance; you should consult your owner's manual for a complete checklist.
At every 250-hour filter change, Roadtec recommends pressure-washing the radiator and hydraulic coolers. Keeping those items clean helps with the cool running temperature of the paver and is very important to prevent downtime and to prolong the life of the components.
On a tracked paver, it's very important to keep the undercarriage clean, says Burra. "You need to get down there and make sure there are no chunks of asphalt sticking to the undercarriage."
Weekly, you need to check slat chains, to make sure they're not too loose. "You don't want to see more than half a link showing at the bottom of your paver frame," says Smith. "You don't want it to be really tight, or excessively loose.
He recommends checking conveyor drive chains and auger drive chains once a week. There should be no more than one inch of play in the conveyor drive chain.
Typically there's an auger chain on the left, and another on the right. Those chains are invisible, but you can just grab the end of the auger on each side and try to wiggle it. "Push it from full forward to full reverse, and if you get more than half an inch of play, it needs adjustment," says Smith.
He says it is especially important to change hydraulic filters after the first 50 hours of operation on a new machine. Doing so assures that any manufacturing rough edges in pumps and motors are taken out of the system with the first filter change. Change the hydraulic oil, using manufacturer-recommended product, every 1,000 hours or once a season, whichever comes first.
Change the engine oil and filters after the first 100 hours of operation. Check the water in the battery and inspect and verify all grease lines and functions. And at 100 hours, it's important to inspect and adjust both slat chains. The same goes for your track pressure.
After the first 250 hours of operation on a new machine, change the fluid in three sets of planetaries: the auger, conveyor, and track drive. Use only 80W-90 oil.
From there on, check the fluid level every 250 hours of operation and change the fluid every 1,000 hours of operation.
Proper track adjustment ranks as one of the most-neglected aspects of asphalt paver maintenance, says Smith, There are cogs, or lugs, running down the center of each track, and those cogs need to be kept running straight. Check the cogs often for tell-tale wear on the sides. Asphalt build-ups around the bogey wheels, the front idler wheel and the drive wheel can throw a track out of alignment.