Gimme a Break
With correct operating techniques and routine hydraulic breaker maintenance, you can plan your downtime.
by Christina Fisher
When it comes to hydraulic breaker maintenance, proper equipment operation is as important as routine preventive maintenance. These two factors work simultaneously to keep a breaker operating at peak efficiency with minimal downtime.
Operator training: back to basics
“When I conduct a seminar, I really stress operator training,” says Jeff Graham, technical support representative for Atlas Copco Construction Equipment. “Improper operation can really destroy a breaker just as much as a lack of maintenance.”
- From the outside to the inside. Don’t start breaking in the middle of the material. The breaker may not be able to break the rock very quickly. The working tool could get lodged in the material or overheat. It’s like eating a sandwich. You don’t start in the center; you start at the outside and work your way in, taking small bites to work your way into the material. Starting in the middle will increase the likelihood of extended cycle times.
- 90 degrees, please. Always work 90 degrees to the work surface. (This is not the same as 90 degrees to the ground!) When an operator works at an angle, the tool is put under stress and can break.
“This is why we put breakers on excavators,” Graham says. “The excavator can angle the breaker in different directions so that you can obtain that 90 degrees to the work surface of the material you’re working on.”
- They’re breakers, not drills. Never place the breaker straight down into the material like a drill, which can cause the tool to get wedged into the material. Instead, slightly rock the breaker 5 degrees in either direction. This allows the dust and debris to come out of the hole in order to easily remove the tool when you are ready to move.
“You rock the breaker to find the sweet spot,” Graham says. “It’s like playing golf. There’s a certain spot on your golf club that you want to make sure you hit to get the most power and the farthest drive out of your hit. It’s the same thing with a breaker. By finding the sweet spot, it reduces the amount of wear on the bushings and allows the breaker to work more efficiently.”
- Break, don’t pry. Never pry material apart with the breaker. It’s not designed to break by prying, which can damage the tool. Instead, break larger material up into smaller pieces.
- No progress? Time to move on. One of the most important things an operator can do is to avoid extended run time. “This is a common error,” says Matt Cadnum, vice president of aftermarket for Atlas Copco Construction Equipment. “Our specs indicate a run time of no more than 30 seconds in any one place, but a good rule of thumb is that if the material is not breaking in 10 to 15 seconds, then the operator should reposition the working tool.”
A lack of progress also indicates that the breaker may be improperly sized for the material. “When the debris and dust stop coming out of the hole and settle at the bottom, the tool is actually beating on the dust,” Graham explains. “The breaker is not transferring its energy from the tool to the material. Breaking power is decreased, and you lose that energy. That lost energy is turned into heat from the friction. This heats up the end of the tool and starts to distort and destroy it.”
This excess heat can also damage the auxiliary hydraulics on the carrier because it’s working harder. “The carrier is only designed to handle a certain amount of generated heat from the attachment,” Graham adds. “If you run the breaker for long periods of time, you can overheat the carrier as well, and the cooling system for the carriers won’t be able to handle it.”
Maintenance: All day, every day
By putting some simple steps and procedures into practice throughout the day, an operator or technician can keep a hydraulic breaker operating at peak efficiency for longer periods of time.
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