A Daily Dose of Maintenance
The front-end wheel loader plays a critical role in an aggregate job site setting, and without it, work can come to a complete stop. A knowledgeable and skillful operator and a well-maintained machine not only keep the job running smoothly, but can also increase productivity, extend the life of the machine, and keep money in your pocket.
Striving to keep your equipment working at its best means following the machine’s daily maintenance procedures. Following the day-to-day routine can provide efficient performance over a longer period and extend the service life of the equipment. Each manufacturer has its own maintenance checks, and it’s up to the operator to ensure that those checks are performed when needed.
There are four key times to perform daily maintenance: before starting the machine, during the equipment’s warm-up period, during operation, and while shutting down the machine. The most involved will always be the prestart check.
Before turning on the wheel loader
The prestart, walkaround inspection can help determine whether there are any damaged or worn parts, fluid leaks, or problems with the engine’s air filter system. “It’s very important to develop a checklist of things to look for and have the operators go through each item, check it off, and hand in the completed checklist prior to operating the equipment,” says Dave Drzewiecki, wheel loader team coordinator and technical support for Volvo Construction Equipment.
1. Check tire pressure.
As you walk around the wheel loader, an easy place to start an inspection is the tires. Check the pressure to ensure each tire is properly inflated. This provides maximum tire service life. “Overinflation reduces ride comfort, increases vibrations, and reduces traction performance,” says Drzewiecki. “High vibrations through the loader may lead to cracked welds and brackets and possibly other service problems.” While checking tire pressure, look for excessive wear, cuts, and sidewall damage.
2. Look for loose, worn, and damaged parts.
Continue your inspection by checking for loose, worn, or damaged parts on all aspects of the loader. Give special attention to the bucket’s cutting edge. This is where the majority of wear takes place and should be checked before and after each work session. If the bucket is equipped with teeth, they should also be inspected. If the cutting edge is worn back to the edge of the bucket or there are any teeth missing, notify the supervisor.
If your loader is equipped with fan belts, hand-test the belts for tautness and wear during this part of the maintenance check. The fan controls the temperature of the engine, and proper operation depends on the fan belts.
Make sure the battery is securely fastened. Inspect cables, clamps, and connections for tightness and corrosion. If the battery cell needs to be filled, do so with distilled water.
3. Inspect in and around the machine fluid leaks.
Any fluid leakage will affect the safety of the operator and the machine while operating. Leaks can often be found simply by looking at the ground below the loader. If you see any wet spots or stains, look above the spot to try to identify the source of the leak.
Typically, for hard working construction equipment, the potential for hydraulic oil leaks could be found at the cylinder seals or hose connections. While looking for hydraulic oil leaks, Drzewiecki says to take time to inspect the machine for hose rubs, making sure the fittings are properly tight for brakes, steering, and the hydraulic work circuits.
If you notice a coolant leak, it could be caused by loose hoses or a damaged radiator. If that is the case, a certified technician can help you repair the problem.
4. Level off all fluids necessary for the job at hand.
Check the engine oil levels daily either by dipstick or vehicle diagnostics (if equipped). Check the latest change interval to see if it is time for an oil and filter change. “Be sure you are using the manufacturer’s recommended oil for the specific machine and the proper viscosity range,” says Drzewiecki.
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