Even the most skilled operator can diminish wheel loader longevity and productivity by misusing certain functions or by operating the machine in a manner that causes premature component wear. The risks increase exponentially when a new operator gets behind the controls.
That’s why manufacturers stress the importance of operator training regardless of experience level. Many manufacturers, along with their dealers, offer training programs with the purchase of a new machine. “For a lot of companies, if they would accept the manufacturer’s operator training, that would take care of a lot of [the problems],” says Doug Phillips, product competence manager, Volvo Construction Equipment.
Often, an operator doesn’t realize he may be using the machine incorrectly. “He thinks he’s fine. But if he doesn’t get some education about all the new technologies, then he operates the wheel loader like it’s still a machine built in the ’70s,” Phillips notes. “The technology is changing so fast. Operators are often uninformed, and that’s what causes a lot of these issues.”
“Operator training is key — making sure that the operator knows the machine and all its functions,” adds Chad Ellis, product manager, heavy, Doosan Infracore Construction Equipment. Loader functions can differ between brands. “Make sure the operator is trained on that particular machine so he knows exactly what he’s doing and what button he is pushing.”
The operator’s manual is an invaluable resource. “Besides basic training on wheel loaders, the operator should read the manual that outlines proper techniques,” stresses John Chesterman, product marketing manager, four-wheel-drive loaders, John Deere. It will also describe features that can improve operator productivity and comfort. “So the time invested in studying the manual can have significant payback to the owner in getting more work done.”
Following is a look at some common problem areas associated with wheel loader operation, along with some suggestions on how to address them.
Take it easy on buckets
According to Ellis, the most common wear areas on loaders are the front pins, bucket, bucket wear plates and teeth, if applicable. Such wear is accelerated by lack of general maintenance. For example, lack of greasing will accelerate the wear of the front pin. As such, it’s important to follow greasing and other daily service guidelines prescribed in the operator’s manual.
Inattention to buckets can prove costly. “Make sure you turn or replace wear plates on the front of the bucket before you start tearing up the bucket itself,” Ellis cautions. “If you let those wear down to where you start wearing on the bucket, you can cost yourself a lot of money before you need to.”
The choice of bucket can also affect overall wear and tear on the front end of the machine. “If the operators don’t have buckets that enter the material easily, they put a lot of undue stress on the pins and bushings where the attachments affix to the wheel loaders,” says Phillips. “They may run the rpms wide open and hit the pile with excessive force, which can stress a badly designed bucket. That causes bushing and pin wear on the front of the machine, extra fuel costs, etc.”
Selecting buckets specifically suited to the application and material will enable more efficient loader operation, while minimizing front-end component wear.
Cool it on the brakes
All loader brakes (except on hydrostatic machines) work by friction, which generates heat, product experts at Kawasaki point out. If the brakes are over-applied, overheating and premature wear will occur, which can result in early brake failure. Common causes include:
•untrained operators going too fast and then making short, quick stops