Compact Wheel Loaders: A Healthy Dose of Maintenance Goes A Long Way
With many attachment options, compact wheel loaders (CWLs) play a versatile role on jobsites. These durable machines are easy to maintain, but a proactive approach can be the difference between a productive day and an expensive repair.
Prior to starting the machine, do a quick visual check of the CWL, including these items:
- Make sure the machine is free from debris in vital areas like the radiator, AC condenser and exhaust. If there is a large accumulation of debris, use compressed air or high-pressure water to remove the debris prior to operation.
- Search for visible oil leaks.
- If applicable, drain the fuel and water separator.
- Look at tire pressure and condition. Punctures or gouges, metal showing or inadequate tread depths are all signs of poor tire condition.
- All vital fluid levels should be checked and refilled if necessary, including engine oil, engine coolant, hydraulic oil, fuel and windshield washer fluid.
- See if all driving and warning lights are functional.
Not all manufacturers will have low-level warnings, so it is a good practice to perform a visual check often.
If everything is OK, it is time to start greasing. All pivot points will need to be greased before of after the shift, depending on operator preference. Greasing also includes the articulation point, which is commonly forgotten.
It is important to clean the grease fitting prior to greasing the joint. Failing to do so will push the accumulated dirt on the fitting into the pin boss. The dirt will contaminate the grease and act like sandpaper inside the pin boss between the bushing and pin, resulting in premature wear.
Final areas to address are all related to the operator’s safety. Before climbing into the cab, the operator should clean the mirrors and windows, especially if they used pressured air or water to clean debris. Once in the operator’s seat, the final check is to ensure the brakes are functional and the backup alarm is working. After a little daily preventative maintenance, the operator can get to work.
Weekly or roughly every 100 hours, the machine should be thoroughly greased at the pivot points, bushing and bearing. Other than additional greasing, maintenance tasks for this interval require a deeper dive than daily tasks do. This includes:
- Check the lug nuts on each tire and tighten to the appropriate torque.
- See if the electrical connections, cables and plugs have any issues.
- Clean and securely attach the battery contacts.
- Make sure there are no blown fuses or loose connections in the fuse panel.
- If dirty, clean the radiator and oil cooler from the inside out with compressed air or high-pressure water. However, tread carefully to avoid damaging anything in the process.
- If necessary, clean and replace the engine air filter. This is especially true for operators working in dusty environments like demolition applications. Do not use high-pressure compressed air to clean the air filter or hit it against anything as this can result in damage.
It is important to log hours while utilizing a CWL because there are additional tasks to take care of when the machine reaches 250 and 500 hours.
250 Hours: Depending on the manufacturer, the engine oil and fuel filters should be changed every 250 hours. Most manufacturers require an initial engine oil change after the break-in period. Following this, oil change intervals are usually 250 to 500 hours. The oil level in the front and rear axles, power divider and all four planetary drives should be checked. Initial service for the planetary assemblies after the first 250 hours is also recommended.
500 Hours: The oil in the front and rear axles, power divider and all four planetary drives should be changed within the initial 500 hours. Following the initial period, these will only need to be replaced every 1,500 hours. Lastly, axle breathers should be replaced, in addition to checking battery posts for corrosion and cleaning if necessary.
Your Annual Checkup
The next big service intervals are 1,500 and 3,000 hours. At this point, the oil in the axles and hydraulic system is nearing the end of its service life and should be replaced. Thorough checks of the machine should also be made to ensure there are no loose or worn parts.
1,500 Hours: The oil in the axles, power divider and planetary drives need to be replaced. Additionally, change the hydraulic oil and service the brake system.
3,000 Hours: Every 3,000 hours, replace the hydraulic oil, air filters and breathers. This is a good time to ensure all bolts and screws are tightened to the proper torque specifications. It is important to look at hydraulic hoses for fatigue, cracking or leaks, and replace them as needed.
Eliminate the Threat of Machine Failure
CWLs are usually breakdown free if maintained properly. Most failures can be avoided with proper maintenance. Here are a few items to pay special attention to.
Greasing the machine is vital to longevity with the large amount of articulating and pivoting components. The articulation joint is constantly moving and under a lot of stress. To eliminate premature wear of the pins and bushings, the articulated joint needs plenty of grease. Along with this area, the steering cylinders and loader pivot points need adequate grease daily.
Other considerations include operator turnover. It is common for operators to arrive on the jobsite and assume that the next user will perform routine maintenance. In the end, equipment can go days without being properly greased or having any of the vital fluid levels checked.
When it comes to maintenance, the best place for information is the operator’s manual. Having an understanding of proper operating and maintenance practices will play a key role in keeping a CWL in peak condition.
Keith Kramlich is the National Product & Training Manager at Takeuchi-US.
RELATED: Specifying Wheel Loader Buckets Tags: Maintenance, September/October 2020 Print Issue, Takeuchi-US, Wheel Loaders