People who own and operate heavy machinery know that while the job they provide is vital, repairs can be costly. However, considering the price tag on buying new machinery easily starts at six figures, it’s usually better to get the repairs done to ensure the longevity of your machine. That said, with a proper heavy machinery care routine, many repairs can be avoided to minimize surprises and operational downtime.
It’s the same as with personal vehicles: A little bit of preventative maintenance goes a long way. But setting a good service routine is far more important for heavy machinery, because even small problems can put people’s safety at risk, whether it’s an operator or a bystander. Having a daily checklist for key pieces such as warning lights and sounds, fluid levels and tire wear is ideal. This should be accompanied by more thorough weekly, monthly and annual inspections and maintenance, with a detailed log supporting it.
At Your Service
It’s important to distinguish between checkups and service here, though both are crucial. Regular services, such as oil changes replace consumables and parts known to wear before they become problematic. But guess what? Sometimes things need to be replaced before their service interval or as a result of heavy friction, heat and vibration. That’s where regular checkups come in. In addition to spotting leaks or loose hardware, today’s technology allows a technician to pull trouble codes and analyze fluid for contamination and can even alert you when your air filter is dirty. It should go without saying, but both checks and services should be done by a qualified professional.
The manufacturer should make a trove of information on safe handling, maintenance and operation available through the owner’s manual and directly through customer service. All operators should be fully trained on how to drive the machines, and anyone working in close proximity of them must also have an understanding of any possible safety concerns. Knowledge is also important where maintenance is concerned. Never replace a part with anything other than manufacturer-specified components unless you can be assured they possess the same capacities, load rating, thermal thresholds and overall performance specs. This even applies to lubricants, which possess different chemical compositions and can degrade seals or fail to provide proper protection against heat and friction if incorrect.
This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Being a responsible owner of heavy machinery means doing your best to keep it clean, dry and protected. Regularly washing your machine will help you identify small problems before they get out of hand, and will aid in keeping contaminants out of the system. That said, repeated exposure to the elements without proper upkeep will cause rust and electrical gremlins to run amok. Make sure that the electrical system is protected, and also be sure to follow proper storage advice from the owner’s manual, whether you’re putting it away for the season or for the night. This can include returning the equipment to a “resting state” to take the pressure off of hydraulic systems.
Heavy machines can be your best friend for a big job, but they aren’t going to take care of themselves. Timely maintenance, educated operation and proper storage will help you minimize risks to personal safety and get ahead of costly repairs before they arise.
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Photo courtesy of Blair Lampe.
Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.