We know we are all creatures of habit. Without even realizing it, you have established patterns that structure and fill most of your days—starting with the time you tell your alarm to get you out of bed, to your method for moving material with your wheel loader. While you may tweak your schedule periodically, much of what you do on a daily basis flows from the rhythm of routine.

So, it would stand to reason that owners and operators would have a similar approach to routine maintenance on a wheel loader—conducting the same inspections and checklists in the same order at the same time every day … right? Not exactly. When business is good and schedules are hectic, you might rationalize that stretching maintenance intervals or cutting corners would not be too damaging.

Unfortunately, that is a habit that can take its toll on the performance of your machine and, ultimately, impact your productivity. Daily preventive maintenance is important because your machine needs it.

"Routine daily maintenance and good pre- and post-use inspections on a wheel loader are critical to keeping safety first and productivity high. By following a routine daily maintenance schedule that methodically examines seven key systems and components from the ground up, you can ensure that you will not only prevent many issues from developing, but you can also extend your machine’s lifecycle." said Aaron Kleingartner, Doosan Infracore North America marketing manager.

#1: Properly Trained Operators

There is no routine maintenance plan that will be effective if fleet managers, service technicians and operators aren’t educated on current maintenance methods and procedures. If you are going to perform a majority of your wheel loader’s maintenance yourself, seek the recommendations of your manufacturer’s maintenance manual for intervals and check lists. Ideally, you’ll also want to obtain maintenance training and assistance from your equipment dealer on proper techniques.

#2: Attachment Cutting Edges

Regardless of the application, loading and unloading material all day can create excessive wear on a loader’s ground-engaging tools. To ensure these high-impact tools stay in peak operating condition, fleet maintenance managers need to perform daily visual inspections of buckets, looking for loose, cracked or missing teeth, and repairing or replacing compromised components as soon as possible.

Wheel Loader Maintenance
Wheel Loader Maintenance
Wheel loader operators should grease the machine on a regular basis.

A wheel loader’s attachments such as buckets and pallet forks are some of the most popular and hard-working tools, and should receive the same attention as the machine itself. Visual checks of these components should include hoses and tilt and lift cylinders to determine if wear is developing or damage has occurred.

There are other items on bigger buckets that have a working life as well. Examine the condition of wear plates and bolted-on cutting edges, as well as attachment pins to make certain they fit snugly and properly.

#3: Tire Treads and Inflation

Undetected leaks or improper inflation can lead to premature wear and potentially tire failure over time. Owners, fleet managers and operators need to be familiar with their wheel loader’s maintenance manual’s recommendations for proper psi and inflate the tires accordingly. In addition to maintaining the correct pressure, routine maintenance and inspection of tires also requires a thorough visual inspection to detect sizeable chunks of tread that may be missing and to ensure that the bead line and the rim are intact.

#4: Driving and Parking Brakes

Well-maintained and properly working brakes are one of the most critical routine maintenance procedures required on a wheel loader—at all times. Many construction applications will contain congested work sites, often with grades, and multiple pieces of equipment and vehicles. In addition to normal loading procedures, there can be a lot of quick stops. For these reasons, operators must be able to halt their equipment, but also hold it with the machine’s parking brake whenever necessary.

Wheel Loader Maintenance
A reversing cooling fan helps keep the cooling system clean and free of debris.

#5: Driveline Seals and Axles

Working in wet conditions can create a material build-up along the driveline that may mask a potential problem. Keeping that area of the machine clean will allow for a better inspection to identify leaks at the seals and the axles. Diligent checks of those components can eliminate a catastrophic failure.

#6: Fluids, Oils, Filters

Moving up to the engine compartment, fluids such as engine oil and coolants are among the most important routine maintenance elements. Using dipsticks and sight glasses will provide accurate guidance for these checks, as will referring to the operator’s manual for instructions on filling the machine at the recommended intervals with the appropriate fluid in the correct increments.

Wheel Loader Maintenance
A daily maintenance check list should include inspecting the engine oil level.

Owners, operators and technicians should also stay on track with fluid checks and resist the temptation to use non-OEM specified filters. It is important to make sure you’re monitoring the same quality performance over the course of recommended maintenance intervals and achieving the best filtration properties.

The majority of new wheel loaders entering the market have been engineered with engine after-treatment systems designed to clean diesel engine exhaust and meet the EPA’s emission standards for Tier 4-compliant engines. While each equipment manufacturer has a slightly different emission strategy, it’s more important than ever to follow their guidelines for maintenance and service. Whether a manufacturer’s diesel aftertreatment system is a cooled exhaust gas recirculation (CEGR) or the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology—or a combination of the two—these new technologies require advanced fluids to avoid costly repairs.

For instance, all machines using the CEGR with a diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) and a diesel particulate filter (DPF) must use American Petroleum Institute (API)-rated CJ-4 oil (sometimes referred to as low-ash oil) to help reduce the amount of particulate matter in the DPF. Also, since sulfur is a significant contributor to diesel exhaust pollutants, the catalyst system used with Tier 4-compliant engines is dependent on ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD). It has significantly less sulfur compared to prior diesel fuels.

#7: Cooling System

Finally, several types of worksites generate enough dust to become a factor for wheel loader cooling systems. Many manufacturers have also incorporated variable-speed reversible fans to help clean the cooling system. If you don’t use a reversible fan in dusty conditions, somebody in the maintenance department is going to be working on the cooling group more than they need. Equipment managers should be sure to use an engine pre-cleaner to protect the engine-cooling group.

Develop Good Habits

Approaching daily maintenance with the same diligence as you do your other daily routines will help develop good habits that will eventually become standard work. A comprehensive seven-point plan that starts from the ground up and is based on your manufacturer’s specific recommendations will impact your overall business—and the good health of your wheel loader depends on it.

Here's daily maintenance advice:

1. Prestart checks
A walkaround inspection before you start helps determine if there are any damaged, loose or worn parts, fluid leaks or other problems. It’s a good idea to develop a checklist of things to look for each time you use the equipment.

2. Warm it up
Letting the engine run for 5 to 10 minutes upon start up — even in hot weather — allows the oil pressure to build and lubricate the engine’s moving parts. A warm-up also allows the cooling system to reach proper operating temperature. If you hear anything unusual during engine warm-up, shut down and try to find the problem. After the warm-up, make sure the fuel tank is full and the fuel gauge is functioning. Also make sure the electric system is charging, and that oil pressure and temperature both read in the safe zone. As a final step before starting work, test the brakes and move the bucket through a series of normal operations.

3. While you work
Be sure to continually monitor equipment performance during operation; listen for unusual noises, check all gauges and be aware of any changes that may appear on the operator’s display. Maintaining proper bucket capacity eliminates overloading the machine, helps control spillage which minimizes tire damage, and will certainly benefit your productivity.

Try to park the machine on level ground, lower the bucket to the ground, and apply the parking brake. Let your engine idle for about 3 to 5 minutes before shutting down to allow the turbo charger to cool down correctly.

Source: Doosan Infracore Construction Equipment America. All rights reserved.

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