Preventive maintenance “is a very broad term,” states George MacIntyre, Product Manager, CASE Construction Equipment. “It can be as formal as the critical practice of performing regular service, as prescribed by the manufacturer of the machine, throughout the machine’s life. Or it can be as simple as the daily walkaround you do of the machine at the beginning and end of each day to identify any potential issues that may impede safe and efficient operation.”
Preventive maintenance is routine/scheduled maintenance of machines done “to keep them running reliably to prevent premature costly unplanned downtime,” David Young, Product Application Specialist, Caterpillar, adds.
Regardless of the type of preventive maintenance program or machine, the desired result is improved safety and less downtime, plus the prevention of unnecessary costs, says Ryan Anderson, Product Manager, New Holland Construction.
“To keep your equipment performing at peak levels, it is critical that maintenance is prioritized accordingly,” stresses Justin Steger, Solutions Marketing Manager, John Deere Construction & Forestry. “While it is essential to understand how to operate your machine, it is equally, if not more important, to understand how to maintain each machine to extend the lifespan of the equipment and improve its resale value. Sticking to the OEM maintenance schedule allows contractors to predict owning and operating costs more accurately and fix maintenance costs. Ignoring machine maintenance will increase the operating cost.”
When to schedule preventive maintenance
It is imperative to have preventive maintenance schedules for backhoes to keep them well-maintained. When parts are checked regularly, issues can be identified and scheduled to be corrected before they result in unexpected repairs, downtime, and costs.
Types of preventative maintenance
Backhoe preventive maintenance can be based on many parameters, such as the calendar, runtime, and predictive.
- Calendar-based would include things on the “daily” or “weekly” checklist, Caterpillar’s Young, notes. Some of these items can be managed by an hours-based approach also. Like “daily or every 10 hours” and “weekly or every 50 hours.” Examples of this would include joint greasing, air filter checking, fluid level checks, tire pressure, water-in-fuel bowl drain, etc.
- Runtime-based maintenance usually is more than simply checking and doing a quick job if needed, he explains. This would include more involved service work like engine oil and filter change, transmission oil and filter change, fuel filter replacement, and hydraulic system oil and filter change. It also includes oil sampling from critical components like the engine, transmissions, and hydraulic systems. Runtime-based preventive maintenance should be followed as presented in the operator’s manual of the machine, CASE’s MacIntyre advises. “Since each machine and manufacturer are different, it should never be assumed that it is apples-to-apples from machine-to-machine. Then, based on the job, there are some forms of maintenance that are not merely prescribed based on time.
- Predictive maintenance is all about sticking to an oil sampling routine with the backhoe’s OEM dealer, Young adds. Do this as required to establish a trend on how parts within a major component are wearing.
“If a particular element is jumping up high in the particle count it could very well indicate that a certain part inside a large component is wearing out and that can be fixed before a major failure that could damage more parts within a component or destroy the entire component itself.”
“A backhoe operator who works regularly in hard Arizona caliche is going to have to replace backhoe teeth and bucket edges much more frequently than a utility contractor who digs in the rich topsoil of the upper Midwest. Those sorts of region and job-specific maintenance items will have to be determined by each individual fleet manager. It is critical that those efforts become a regular part of preventive maintenance activities because they can also lead to unplanned and unnecessary downtime.”
New Holland’s Anderson suggests that fleet managers include a company-structured daily preventive maintenance checklist for all employees to complete before operating a piece of equipment for each workday. The checklist should include a date and time and a signature by the operator for tracking ownership of the daily preventive maintenance schedule.
Make recordkeeping a top maintenance priority
Good recordkeeping and proper documentation are essential aspects of backhoe maintenance, a philosophy shared by each backhoe OEM.
“This helps ensure that all preventive maintenance activities are done in the timeframe they are meant to be done and that the machine will continue to work as intended,” says MacIntyre of CASE. “Telematics makes that easier than ever, alerting fleet managers to when service intervals are approaching and helping simplify recordkeeping and proof that preventive maintenance activities were performed as intended and on schedule.”
What’s more, adds Caterpillar’s Young, recordkeeping and documentation “ensure preventive maintenance is done on time, which is especially important for critical systems like the engine, transmission, and hydraulics. It also assists with predicting machine issues that are developing. For example, when oil samples are done as required, it can help determine if a problem is coming with a component.”
Recordkeeping and documentation can help support warranty-related repairs, he points out. It is also very valuable when it comes time to sell or trade in a machine, as it adds value.
Read the manual, stickers, and warning labels
Backhoe manufacturers recommend that maintenance personnel always refer to the backhoe owner’s manual to familiarize themselves with all the manufacturer-recommended maintenance procedures and intervals. “All of the information to properly perform maintenance is located in the manual,” says Deere’s Steger.
Anderson of New Holland adds: “Manufacturers have designed and engineered these machines to perform and be serviced. The owner’s manual provides a basic checklist and identifies the location of the service points on the machine.”
“The easier it is to perform maintenance, the more likely it is to get completed properly,” Steger notes. To increase the likelihood of proper maintenance, on every piece of John Deere equipment, a periodic maintenance decal is located inside the service compartment. It includes key maintenance information such as oil specifications and refill capacities and is color-coded for specific intervals. On backhoes, the periodic maintenance decal is typically located in the toolbox on the left side of the machine and includes the location of all the daily grease points.
Additionally, backhoe manufacturers advise maintenance personnel and backhoe operators to read the warning labels, stickers, and other important information posted around the machine.
It starts with the backhoe operator
The backhoe manufacturers agree that good preventive maintenance starts with the backhoe operator performing an inspection of the entire machine before putting it to work.
“The operator should know that particular machine fully to understand what to check, and more importantly, be able to identify when something doesn’t look right or might need attention based on the inspection,” says Young of Caterpillar. “Also, it is about having and understanding the maintenance interval schedule for their machine and following that schedule as closely as possible. Cat dealers can help by providing documents that help track and understand the maintenance items.
CASE’s MacIntyre says of the inspection is so important, that the company has done entire educational sessions on the topic, see North America: The Daily Equipment Walkaround, and written extensively about it; The Equipment Walkaround.
“The pre-and post-inspection walkaround that an operator does is a critical part of any fleet management routine,” he observes. “It is in those moments that you will identify issues that could grow into larger issues and cause downtime during the workday. If you catch something at the end of the day you can call in your dealer or fleet mechanic to fix it before the start of business the next day. Making that part of your routine will help you catch issues that can be addressed proactively versus addressing them after something has turned into a downtime incident causing you productive working time.”
Telematics is another place – besides the machine – that will inform the owners and operators about error codes or about sensor readings that are outside of the normal range, notes MacIntyre. Access to telematics data can also be shared with dealers and manufacturers to provide a second set of eyes on equipment performance.
Do not skip daily walkarounds
“Performing daily walkarounds is key to ensure your machine meets its productivity potential and to minimize potential downtime,” stresses Steger of John Deere. “When examining a machine, it is crucial to get into not only a regular routine, but complete the checks in the same order.”
Every time an inspection is done, the operator should start in the same spot and complete the inspection around the machine ending where they started, he recommends. This routine makes it easier to spot what is normal vs. abnormal and makes sure nothing gets missed.
When performing the walk-around, visually inspect the machine’s appearance and look for damage, check fluid levels and look for leaks, and take a close look at worn items that could prevent the machine from efficiently doing its job, advises Steger. Key inspection points will vary between machine forms, but the concept is the same.
“Spotting potential problems early is beneficial on multiple fronts,” he says. “Not only do inspections help maintain production and prevent unplanned downtime but routine inspections also often result in opportunities in other areas of the business such as planning maintenance, operator efficiency, and training.”
New Holland’s Anderson provides the below checklist for the typical backhoe walk-around inspection:
- Check all tire pressures.
- Check all fluid levels including engine oil, hydraulic oil, fuel, and coolant.
- Check all filters including air intake and cab filter.
- Inspect all structural components such as loader arms for any stress fractures or weldment failures.
- Ensure cab doors and seatbelt are in good working order.
In addition, it is important that all operators verify the backhoe’s safety features are working prior to operation and that all the controls are clearly labeled.
End of workday tasks
It is crucial for backhoe operators to perform a walk-around at the end of the workday as well,” emphasizes Anderson of New Holland, “because machine condition at the beginning of the day is usually not the same as at the end of the day. Machine damage may have occurred, fluid levels may have changed, and other parts of the machine may have additional wear and fatigue.
“Also, it is a good practice to leave the machine in the same or better condition as you found it at the beginning of the workday.”
“At the end of the day, operators should also make sure that the work tool, such as bucket teeth, are intact and not dull,” adds John Deere’s Steger. “For auxiliary attachments, make sure that pressures and flows are set correctly to avoid damage to the attachment or machine.”
In addition, he encourages warming up a machine at the beginning of the day and cooling it down at the end of a shift as this is an important step in protecting key engine and hydraulic components.
“It is also very important to consider how the machine’s features can be advantageous to improve the efficiency of the machine and lower its operating cost. It is also essential that operators use the machine and its features to the full potential to be more productive.”