Maintaining a Well-Conditioned Fleet: 6 Tips to Improve Compact Excavator Uptime


As the construction utility industry continues to grow, so does the demand for compact equipment, specifically compact excavators. Machine enhancements have made today’s compact excavators more productive, and customers enjoy operating these machines because of their performance and versatility in a variety of applications.

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Therefore, it is crucial for compact excavator fleet owners and operators to understand the general maintenance of compact excavators. By following these six maintenance tips, equipment owners can improve uptime protection and keep compact excavators on the job.

Tip No. 1 :

Review the manufacturer’s Operation & Maintenance Manual.

The first thing compact excavator owners should do is familiarize themselves with the manufacturer’s Operation & Maintenance Manual. This allows for a better understanding of the excavator’s safety features, instrumentation, controls, service schedules, maintenance points and much more.

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Tip No. 2:

Create a planned maintenance schedule.

Skipped maintenance can result in unplanned downtime and a loss of revenue. To avoid unnecessary downtime, consider creating a planned maintenance (PM) schedule. This is an easy-to-follow plan that documents all machine service intervals.

Recording service intervals allows equipment owners and operators to easily make sure each item is completed weekly, monthly, quarterly or as scheduled.

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Tip No. 3:

Inspect fluid levels and filters.

Fluids – including engine oil, coolant, hydraulic fluid and drive motor lubricants – need to be checked on a regular basis.

Match machine fluids to the proper ambient temperatures and to the manufacturer’s recommendations. For instance, synthetic or synthetic-blended oils are formulated with additives that can promote longer component service life. These oils have better cold weather starting and lubricating performance, as well as additional wear protection during high-performance operation.

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Fuels should also be assessed at this time. A No. 1 or No. 2 ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel is the most common specification in the industry. No. 2 grades should be used at temperatures above 15 F; however, it is recommended to use a blended or No. 1 diesel fuel and/or anti-gel additives when temperatures drop below 15 F.

Proper fluid and filter increments can be found in the manufacturer’s Operation & Maintenance Manual.

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Tip No. 4:

Maintain the battery and charging system.

The electrical system of most compact excavators uses a 12-volt battery and fuses for the purpose of protecting this system in the event of an electrical overload. Always replace failed fuses with like kind and amperage rating. Battery cables should be tight and clean. Inspect for corrosion on the cable ends and the battery terminals. Prevention can typically be remedied with an appropriate dielectric grease.

Tip No. 5:

Inspect and maintain the tracked undercarriage.

One of the most obvious wear items on the excavator undercarriage is the track. The majority of compact excavators use rubber tracks, and the life expectancy of the track largely depends upon the environment they are subjected to and the user’s operating habits. Examine tracks on a daily basis to look for cuts, tears or areas that expose the steel imbeds. Any perforations could allow moisture or contamination to enter the track.

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The most important undercarriage interval item to monitor is track tensioning. A loose track is likely to de-track and will be detrimental to its useful life. The operator’s manual will indicate ideal track tension ranges and the correct way to position the excavator for making adjustments.

While other undercarriage components may not need a daily inspection, regular monitoring of components like idlers, rollers and sprockets can help identify potential problems. Accelerated wear on the sprocket is not common; however, it should still be checked periodically by examining the teeth. A good sprocket tooth has a rounded end, while a worn tooth is more pointed. This is especially important to check when installing a new set of tracks.

If compact excavators are being operated in colder climates, then mud, dirt and other debris may freeze and start to rub on the bolts, loosen the guiding and seize up the rollers. Routine and proper cleaning of the undercarriage helps to prevent unplanned downtime and reduces potential wear later on.

Tip No. 6:

Maintain attachments.

Attachments are an important part of a compact excavator and require the same attention to maintenance as the machine itself. It is important to perform visual checks of the hydraulic hoses, cylinders and guards on the attachments, which can help determine if damage or wear has occurred. Everything that engages with the ground, from bucket cutting edges to flail mower teeth, for instance, should be looked at for wear and damage.

Compact excavators can be one of the most important investments for a contractor. With their increased versatility and proper maintenance, they can generate revenue more hours of the day and more days of the year. committing to a manufacturer’s routine maintenance plan, equipment owners can add more useful life to the machines they operate.

This article was contributed by the Bobcat Company.

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