Hydraulic breaker attachments are designed to withstand the harshest of operating conditions. Yet, the repeated impacts and vibration they're subjected to throughout their use will inevitably result in wear over time, necessitating a rebuild or, in severe cases, outright replacement.
How quickly a breaker reaches this point lies in part in the hands of the equipment operator. Improper operation can significantly shorten breaker component life and drive up repair/replacement costs. As such, it's important to recognize and correct poor operating practices before they result in premature failures.
Compatibility is key
Before an operator even gets behind the controls, he or she needs to make sure the carrier and breaker attachment are a good fit.
"It's a mistake to run a big hammer on a smaller excavator, and vice versa," states Rob Sherwin, president/CEO, Arrowhead Rockdrill Co. Inc. "Serious damage may occur to either, or both, the hammer and machine."
Match the size/weight of the breaker to the carrier lift capabilities to ensure operating stability. Then make sure the hydraulic capabilities are compatible.
The hydraulic flow and pressure relief setting on the carrier are the two main concerns, according to Gary Thompson, product manager - mounted breakers, Stanley Hydraulic Tools. "You can either overflow the breaker and cause damage," he states, "and/or if you have the relief setting too low, you won't get enough operating pressure before it goes over relief, causing heat in the system."
It's also important to make sure the breaker and carrier are properly set up for the application. For example, some jobs require the breaker to be operated with part or all of the attachment submerged under water. In such cases, the breaker and carrier must be properly set up for underwater use.
"One of the ways that a contractor can [misuse] a breaker is to run it under water without a proper underwater kit on the excavator," says Greg Smith, marketing communications manager, Allied Construction Products, LLC. "Without an underwater kit and an air compressor, water will be 'sucked' into the breaker and contaminate the carrier's hydraulic system. [This] will cause damage, downtime and expensive repair costs to the breaker, as well as the excavator."
Know where to start
Operators should be trained in how to properly position a breaker to optimize productivity and minimize stress on the attachment and carrier.
"Some customers that are new to breakers will take a big chunk of concrete and start in the middle," says Kelly Steck, director of marketing, Stanley Hydraulic Tools. "They will get frustrated because the bit is getting hot (melting) and they're not seeing any productivity."
Sherwin has seen similar scenarios where an operator attempts to break material such as a boulder with the working tool positioned in the center. "In this instance, the hammer is not penetrating and is 'drilling' rather than breaking the rock," he points out. This can generate excessive amounts of both dust and heat. "There is heat buildup at the point of the tool and, after a sustained period, the working tool starts to burr up at the edges. This is commonly known as 'mushrooming' of the tool. At this point, the integrity of the working tool is compromised and more severe failure could result.
"Combine this with the increased vibration and recoil that transmits back up the excavator's boom, and excessive overworking of the excavator's hydraulic system," he continues, "and there is a potential - with continued misuse - to cause damage to the excavator."
Operators should be trained to start breaking at a corner or edge of the material and work their way inward, and to frequently reposition the tool. "One rule of thumb of experienced operators is to keep the tool moving enough during breaking," says Smith. "Operating in one spot will lead to an increase in hydraulic temperature."