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Heavy equipment maintenance tips to keep your fleet running smoothly during the summer

A JLG boom lift on the job site
A United Rentals branded JLG boom lift.

Summer heat can be physically stressful not just for construction workers but also for heavy equipment. Increased temperatures, along with longer work days, intensify the wear and tear on construction equipment.

United Rentals has shared some best practices for heavy equipment maintenance to help keep excavators, trucks, loaders and other machines running smoothly and productively on job sites. By following these preventive and routine maintenance tips and incorporating them into your heavy equipment maintenance schedule, owners and equipment operators can lower operating costs, avoid costly repairs and extend equipment life.

Daily inspection tips for preventative maintenance

Daily inspections are an essential element of an effective preventive maintenance plan. During hot weather, contractors and equipment owners should especially look for these issues:

Coolant, oil and other fluid levels

In summer, engines get hot and thirsty. Daily maintenance checks should ensure the machine has the proper coolant level, coolant/water ratio and oil levels recommended by the manufacturer. Radiators must run totally full to prevent oxygen from entering the cooling system.

Grease

Hot temperatures reduce the adhesive properties of grease, so use thicker grease. Consult the equipment manual to find what type of grease is best for the machine, where to grease and how often. Keep in mind grease can get "squeezed out" during heavy operations like earthmoving or drilling. When dust and silt mix with grease, it increases wear and tear on the equipment, so clean equipment regularly.

Belts and hoses

Discoloured hoses and loose belts offer the first hint of overheating, so be sure to inspect them.

Hydraulic system and air filters

During an equipment walk-around, check for signs of possible hydraulic oil leaks, excess oil and grease, leaks around seals and loose bolts. Also give the air filters a look-over.

Tire pressure checks

Hot conditions weaken tires and may cause a blowout. Check tire pressure regularly. Tire pressure increases with the temperature, which can lead to over-inflation. On the flip side, an underinflated tire heats up more quickly.

Brakes

Be sure to check the brakes. Steamy summers can cause the loss of brake friction because the brake components cannot absorb the additional heat.

Cooling system

Summer working conditions require maximum airflow through the oil cooler. Check that the radiators and inlets and outlets of the cooling system are free of debris. Accumulated dust that cakes can clog a cooling system, so use compressed air daily to clean it.

A United Rentals branded John Deere 310K backhoe loader.

Scheduled maintenance tips for construction equipment

Along with conducting daily inspections, contractors should set a schedule for deeper routine maintenance. Whether working with excavators, wheel loaders, skid steer loaders or other equipment, scheduled maintenance routines need to cover hydraulic and engine oil levels, transmission oil, radiator coolant, tire treads, battery, brakes and many other checklist items.

Make sure the coolant matches the manufacturer's specifications

Older equipment may use a silica-based coolant, while newer equipment usually includes a tag near the coolant filler that indicates the use of an organic acid technology (OAT) coolant. Make sure the coolant matches the information listed in the operator's manual. Anti-freeze used in summer must have a higher boiling point to prevent cooling water from boiling.

Clean and check seals, filters and breathers

Dry, windy summer days can push dust and contaminants into heavy equipment systems. Check the transmission, pistons, bearings and major assemblies for signs of wear or lubricant build-up.

Use software calendaring tools and other equipment management

Many times, manufacturers specify the replacement of parts at certain intervals for equipment used in hot environments. Use software calendaring tools to create routine preventive maintenance programs and use a log to document part replacements as well as lubrication and repairs.

Outsource to a specialized equipment maintenance service provider

Proper maintenance is part of an even larger fleet management strategy. Outsourcing to an equipment maintenance service provider that specializes in equipment repair and service in the field and onsite can protect a contractor's equipment investment. These services safeguard employees by helping ensure equipment is expertly inspected, maintained and repaired. They can help contractors address ANSI, OSHA and CSA requirements.

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