In today’s work environment, the last thing a contractor wants from their machine is downtime. When a roller breaks down, essential compaction time is lost, affecting density and the entire paving operation.
Keeping your rollers operating at peak efficiency throughout the season can help you better meet both quality specs and deadlines. Here are 10 tips from roller manufacturers that can help ensure your machine runs smoothly all season and without the fear of lost time.
1. Perform Daily Maintenance Checks
Completing a brief walk-around of the machine can be an easy way to see if something is off before you even leave the shop in the morning.
“A daily check of the machine will ensure it's safe,” Wayne Tomlinson, training specialist at Volvo Construction Equipment says. “Look for loose wiring and hoses, check for leaks (a sign a hose may be loose), and check the electrical controls. If a switch isn't working, make sure one of the wires isn't loose. Make sure backup alarms, warning beacons and headlights are operating properly and check the center joint and test the parking brake.”
2. Keep the Drum Clean & Lubricated
During your visual inspection each morning, make sure there are no dings in the drum surface and that the drum is clean.
“Failure to keep the drum clean or having damage on the surface will result in imperfections in the mat,” Tomlinson says.
Also of importance is the systems in place inside the drum itself.
“The drums are the core of the roller,” Josh Weston, national product support manager at Hamm says. “Whether it’s a vibratory or oscillatory system, you want to check the oil levels on a weekly basis to make sure they’re not getting low. Low oil levels will cause your bearings to go out which will create a lot more down time than just checking the oil since it takes so much time to remove the drum and replace the bearings.”
3. Check All Fluid Levels
From completing the recommended oil change to making sure you have enough coolant, keeping all fluid in check will help ensure the engine at its full performance level. A brief check of the maintenance decal on the machine can also ensure that all fluid is at its optimal level.
“All of your lube checks should be on that decal,” Tomlinson says. “That will say what levels the machine should be at and when you check your engine oil and coolant you can add fluid if the machine needs it.”
4. Inspect the Water System
“You want to make sure everything that has to do with the water system is maintained frequently,” Weston says. “If the water system is not working properly, asphalt will start sticking to the drums and no one wants that.”
If at all possible, try to always fill the tank with clean water from a known source. Water goes from the tank to the sprinkler bars and sprays out over the front and rear drum. It serves as a lubricant to prevent asphalt from sticking to the drum so it’s important that the water you put in it is clean and won’t clog the system.
If you know you're going to be working in an area where water is scarce, you want to make sure your roller has a water filtering system and that you check it often.
“Keeping the spray-system fully functional by ensuring the nozzles are properly spraying evenly on the drum will give the contractor the ability to achieve the best surface appearance,” Bryan Downing global sales consultant with Caterpillar, Inc. says. “It’s critical for nozzles to be in prime working order so contractors are consistent with the compaction process and not stopping to clean out the nozzles constantly.”
“Spray nozzles are wear parts,” Weston adds. “They crack, they wear out and clog so it’s important to make sure water is able to flow through them freely at all times.”
You also want to check the tank regularly for algae, calcium deposits, or other contaminants.
5. Monitor Drum Scrapers
Keeping drum scrapers well-maintained is a big one and Bert Erdman, product manager, heavy compaction at BOMAG says this is an often overlooked maintenance area.
Drum scrapers hold the water to the drum to ensure proper lubrication so if they’re worn, you’re going to lose water between the scraper and the drum and asphalt will start sticking to the edges.
“The scraper system needs to be in contact with the drums at all times to spread that water consistently and minimize the potential for asphalt sticking,” Downing says.
“When transporting the machine, contractors should also pay close attention to the drum scrapers and make sure they are properly adjusted before starting work,” Erdman adds. “If you’re running that roller for an extended period to get it to the jobsite, you need to make sure they don’t run dry. Either keep water on them or retract the scraper so it doesn’t touch the drum while you’re rolling the machine to the jobsite.”
6. Check Air Filters
Making sure the air filter isn’t clogged can help ensure that the engine won’t run too hot.
“A dirty air filter won’t do you any good,” Erdman says. “If it’s plugged up, you’re generating higher levels of exhaust than you should be.”
“If the air filter is dirty, you should replace it rather than try to clean it out with compressed air,” Weston adds. “Sometimes you can do more harm than good by trying to clean it.”
7. Hydraulic System
The hydraulic system is another huge investment in your machine and you need to make sure this system stays maintained.
“Checking your hydraulic oil level inside the engine compartment is huge for protecting your investment,” Weston says. “Over time, that hydraulic oil needs to be changed but usually you can go 1,000 to 2,000 hours before you need to change it. Always followon the operator’s manual specs. Between maintenance intervals, pay attention to the color of the oil and if it starts looking dark and dingy, it’s time to change it.”
8. Inspect Shock Mounts
The shock mounts are another important part of the roller to check before you leave the shop. The shock mounts are the rubber mounts that isolate the vibration of the drum from the operator. The energy then is directed from the drum into the mat.
“Small cracks in a shock mount are okay, but they can be torn by a truck driver when he ties it down so they need to be checked regularly,” Tomlinson says. “If you have a crack where you can stick a quarter in, you should replace that one. If you have a shock mount that is starting to tear or fail, you should replace them all on that side of the drum.”
9. Add Fuel at the End of the Day
Here’s another one that’s easy to do and doesn’t take much effort, but has a big impact on the machine.
“By fueling the roller at night instead of the morning, you remove the air from the tank and reduce the likelihood of condensation in the tank,” Tomlinson says. “Moisture will add water to your fuel and cause problems.”
Plus by filling the tank at the end of each day, you assure greater productivity right away the next morning.
10. Use the Machine Properly
An asphalt compactor is, for all intensive purposes, designed to shake itself apart. Don’t let your crew be the cause of that any sooner by improperly using the machine.
“The easiest maintenance is the maintenance that never has to occur,” Erdman says. “By properly using the machine you’re not damaging the components unnecessarily.”
Proper machine use is also for the benefit of the asphalt mat being laid.
“Improper machine use for the application adversely affects the asphalt quality,” Downing says. “If you’re using too high of an amplitude or frequency for the job, you might be fracturing the aggregate. When you do that, you’re really changing the design intent and structure of the asphalt.”
“Over-compaction is the easiest way to damage the machine,” Tomlinson adds. “You’ve reached density, but you continue to vibrate. Not only are you damaging the asphalt, but all that energy is coming back up in to the machine and you’re prematurely wearing the shock mounts and you could even damage the machine.”
While there are times maintenance can fall to the wayside, these tips are here to help you easily remember to protect your investment.
“If a machine breaks down, everything comes to a halt unless they have a back-up machine, which is a luxury,” Weston says. “We know customers get busy, but those who stay on top of their maintenance will not see as many breakdowns.”