Keep Large Wheel Loaders Productive
Routine maintenance of your production loaders helps ensure high productivity, keeps operating costs down, and promotes long machine life.
by Todd Tuntland
Production loaders set the pace for putting rock in the box. Keeping them digging and loading efficiently is largely a function of routine maintenance. Proper routine maintenance, coupled with good operating practices, delivers the lowest cost per ton.
Following the inspection guidelines and maintenance intervals detailed in your wheel loader operation and maintenance manual is the best way to keep operating costs down, and it’s the main way to avoid mechanical failures that result in costly unplanned downtime and lost production. Additionally, routine inspection and maintenance – with emphasis on repair before failure – enable components to achieve their full design lives. Worn components taken out of service before they fail also have a greater likelihood of providing valuable cores for remanufacturing.
Routine maintenance is a shared responsibility of maintenance technicians and wheel loader operators. The pre-shift truck inspection conducted by the operator is both a safety inspection and a maintenance inspection. Ideally, the operator will use a checklist for the walk around inspection. Figure 1 is an example checklist for wheel loaders. Additional information about conducting a wheel loader walkaround inspection can be viewed on the Caterpillar Web site: safety.cat.com.
The problems that the operator detects and reports during the walkaround inspection and during the operating shift often can avert costly mechanical failures. Regardless of who is conducting inspections, monitoring machine health, or performing routine maintenance, the operation and maintenance (O&M) manual for your wheel loader provides details that can guide those actions. When you have questions, refer to the O&M manual first for answers.
Here’s an overview of maintenance recommendations for key systems.
Perform tire inspections daily and check tire inflation every 50 operating hours or at least weekly. Always obtain the proper tire inflation pressure from your tire supplier. Low tire pressure can be hazardous, especially in load-and-carry applications. Additionally, low inflation pressure reduces load-carrying capability, makes the tire more susceptible to cutting, and increases rolling resistance. The result is accelerated tire wear and higher costs.
Use dry nitrogen gas for tire inflation and for tire pressure adjustments. Nitrogen is an inert gas that will not aid combustion inside the tire. In addition to reducing the risk of explosion, nitrogen reduces the slow oxidation and deterioration of rubber and reduces corrosion of rim components.
Oils and scheduled sampling
Perform regular sampling and analysis of oils in wheel loader systems, such as the engine crankcase, transmission, final drives, and hydraulics. Monitoring the condition of these oils helps establish appropriate change intervals and helps identify problems before they lead to mechanical failures. Fluids analysis is an integral part of machine health monitoring and machine management. Such a program can significantly lower operating costs and increase mechanical availability of your loaders.
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