7 Tips for Simple Wheel Loader Maintenance
Quickly loading up a truck, deftly filling in a trench, or expertly moving heavy materials across a site – a wheel loader is a powerful workhorse on any worksite and, even though most wheel loaders are built to stand up to the toughest conditions, a little care and simple maintenance can be a surefire way to make sure this tough machine will keep working at its best for the long-term.
To help you keep your wheel loader in its top form, we’ve put together these short tips on wheel loader maintenance.
Page Through Your Machine’s Operators Manual
It might seem counterintuitive to suggest you read something else while you’re already reading something, but the wealth of information in your operator’s manual can’t be understated. You’ll find maintenance schedules, insight on your machine, and often simple suggestions on how to most efficiently run your machine. The next time your machine is idle or you have a few extra minutes, crack out the manual and spend some time with it and you’ll often find the practical instructions within will extend the life of your machine and keep it running its best.
Walk Around and Watch for Wear
If you’ve worked on construction sites long enough, you’ve probably seen an operator who walks around his machine with some kind of special problem dowsing stick that he believes helps spot an issue before any mechanic could. Magic sticks aside, a good walk around the machine, a few taps here and there, and some keen eyes can often spot a small issue before it turns into a real problem.
When your machine is idle and parked in a safe spot, take a few minutes to inspect the machine and give a good look (and maybe a little tap) to places known to work themselves loose like nuts and bolts or other parts prone to vibration and check the level of wear on cutting edges and teeth. Often the smallest wear will escalate exponentially and worn parts will force the entire machine to work harder.
Check Your Levels, Your Lubrication, and Your Lights
From the levels of your hydraulic and engine oil to how much air is in your tires, routinely checking your levels will extend the life of the parts on your machine and, in turn, the life of your entire wheel loader. You already know that low oil in either your engine or your hydraulic system can lead to quick and catastrophic failure, but often the damage of dirty and overused oil can lead to issues just as quickly.
While it might seem like a tire that is “just a little low” isn’t an issue, an underinflated tire will wear faster and can lead to increased wear on your axles and other parts and even safety issues in braking or carrying a load. A few minutes with a tire pressure gauge can often make sure the smallest problem never becomes bigger.
Lastly, give your lights a test even if your machine only works when the sun shines. Periodically checking your lights when you don’t need them is a simple way to make sure they’ll work when you do.
Don’t Let Trouble Hide
Spotting a problem or diagnosing a cause can often seem like a game of hide and seek, but you can give yourself an advantage in that game by eliminating the spots where a problem can hide. Nearly everyone has discovered a leak or crack had expertly hid itself under a layer of mud or grease, but you can make that less likely by keeping especially trouble-prone areas of your wheel loader clean and clear to view.
Keeping the entire machine clean is the ideal, but paying extra attention to hydraulic connections and articulating and moving part connections will help you spot issues that can escalate quickly. A frequent wipe down of grilles and covers can also keep air flowing easily and prove to be a ten-second task that prevents a ten-day breakdown.
Familiarize Yourself with Your Wheel Loader and Bring in Fresh Eyes Occasionally
Many of the Doosan wheel loader manuals put it most succinctly: Know Your Machine. While often this means knowing the maintenance schedules and working limits of your machine, actual familiarity with a particular machine can be just as important. An expert operator can often spot a small problem intuitively during routine work and will be able to help a mechanic diagnose an issue and implement a fix fast.
Whether you run one machine everyday or you oversee a fleet of machines, making sure more than one person is evaluating a machine is a simple way of spotting issues that might have gone missed. If you’re checking on your fleet, take a minute to sit in the cab and run the wheel loader through a few simple tests to make sure the machine is working optimally and nothing is out of order.
Since some issues can build gradually, it can often be harder for a daily operator to notice that a problem has gone from “barely noticeable” to “needs immediate attention”. You also might find that a quick solution that was implemented on the site (maybe a little tape to hold something together) should be the focus of a better long-term fix.
Keep to a Greasing Schedule
A well-built wheel loader can stand up to the toughest tasks, day in and day out, but you can often extend its life simply by keeping it greased on the schedule in your operator’s manual. Even though it’s been designed to last, areas of movement need properly greased environments to ensure connections don’t wear out or even cause extra strain on the entire machine.
A few important spots to focus on for your greasing are:
- Pins and Pivot Points
- Articulation Fittings and Linkage Connections
As previously mentioned, your operators guide should be your go-to resource for your greasing schedule, but if you don’t have it in hand but your grease gun is, step back and look at your wheel loader for any points of movement or pivoting or where two moving points meet and you’ll likely find the grease zerk you need. And before you grease, be sure to give it a little swipe with the rag to be sure you’re not pushing anything bad in with your new, fresh grease.
Keep Your Cab Up and Your Operator, Too
Keeping your wheel loader up and running today can often be about more than just making sure the wheel loader is well taken care of – the person in the cab is just as important. On a construction site, you’ll often find a “get to work and don’t complain” attitude and while nobody can knock it, sometimes it’s on to you to make sure that nothing gets overlooked and one spot that is often skipped is the cab.
A cab can nearly be a second home for some operators and taking time to make sure hinges are lubricated, buttons aren’t worn out, and safety features haven’t stopped working can be a good way to make sure you’re paying attention to one of the most important pieces in your work – your people.
Hopefully with those simple tips you’ll extend the life of your wheel loader and make sure its working at its optimum. As an industry-leader in salvaging wheel loaders, often we see how far the impacts of a good maintenance plan can go in extending the life of a machine. In the end, though, no part lasts forever and if you do find yourself in need of a replacement wheel loader part, we’re here to help with that. Our Parts Specialists are always happy to help in your search and to connect you to the perfect part that will get you back up and running quickly.