Heavy Equipment Preventative Maintenance Checklist

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Benjamin Franklin’s statement is as true now as it was more than 230 years ago. It’s a saying that refers to many situations in life, including how to take care of your construction equipment. If you’re a construction manager or equipment owner, your engines are some of your most vital assets. If you want to keep them running long-term to support your various applications, consider the importance of heavy equipment maintenance.

Wheeler Machinery Co. developed a list of maintenance tips for heavy equipment to keep your machines in optimal condition. We guide you through various suggestions to help boost your profitability and productivity.

What Is Preventative Maintenance?

There are important distinctions when it comes to routine vs. preventative maintenance. Routine upkeep includes checking your machines according to a specific timeline. While every step in regular maintenance should be in a preventative program, the latter is where mechanics predict potential issues instead of finding them.

It’s more of a consistent team effort as opposed to periodic checking. You can refer to your manufacturer’s manual while also trusting the expertise of people within your company — operators, managers and mechanics. Each person should be checking the fleet before and after use to ensure everything is up to the highest standards.

Preventative maintenance is proactive instead of reactive. It’s a way for you and your crew to make fixes before anything severe happens. It’s an unscheduled tactic that’s more cost-effective, too. Rather than waiting for a unit to break down, technicians can conduct a comprehensive and thorough inspection to find mishaps before they happen.

Applying the best practices for machine preservation is necessary, even for legendary Cat® equipment. Everything on your worksite requires regular attention if you want the technology to deliver long-term solutions. It helps you forecast when failures may occur, allowing you to avoid severe and expensive issues.

It’s vital to check each component on each asset. You don’t want to run the risk of missing or overlooking critical issues. When a massive failure occurs on an engine, it can cause a chain of catastrophic events, resulting in other damaged parts and halting your work.

Your heavy equipment maintenance checklist should include everything from engine components, fluids, tires and tracks to the undercarriage and technical monitoring.

The Importance of Preventative Maintenance for Your Heavy Equipment

The primary benefit of preventative maintenance is that it keeps your machines running long-term. It also saves you from investing in replacement and repair parts more often than necessary. Preventative maintenance is an economical strategy that involves adding minor updates to your engine, undercarriage and cab components.

Advantages of Preemptive Upkeep

By preventing total system failures, you gain benefits such as:

  • Avoiding sudden component failure
  • Boosting fleet availability
  • Diminishing downtime
  • Extending the lifespan of units
  • Improving reliability
  • Increasing resale value
  • Lessening the investment in expensive replacements
  • Preventing excessive wear on parts
  • Reducing operating costs
  • Working with safer equipment

How It Relates to Your Business

Preventative upkeep is essential in making sure your machines are available at all times. If a sudden breakdown occurs, it can leave an operator with little to do and an asset that’s unable to perform.

Because breakdowns are never expected, your finances may not be ready to cover an extensive repair, either. When you apply best practices to your budgeting schedule, you can anticipate the costs of maintenance and repairs. Without inspecting your machines, you can undergo expensive costs and experience lost income. For example, a 1% drop in equipment productivity can lead to almost a 3% drop in profits.

When an asset is reliable, it’s safer for your operators to use, making them feel more confident in their work. Knowing their unit is dependable can give them peace of mind and the assurance to perform diligently. Operators will also have more respect for their machines and conduct proper maintenance when necessary.

Upkeep can increase the longevity of your machines and helps if you want to sell or trade in your equipment. Keeping the integrity of your assets up to par boosts their value.

Although maintenance helps to prevent breakdowns and damage, accidents can still happen on jobsites. If someone on your team becomes injured, liability and litigation may come into play. But if you have a record of your inspections, repairs and overhauls, showing you’ve done your part in producing a safe environment, it’s better than being at fault.

Understanding how to keep your construction equipment in good shape can advance your company with a unique competitive advantage. You’ll see less downtime, fewer expensive overhauls, reduced operating costs and other pros.

How to Maximize the Life of Your Heavy Equipment

Before you check out our construction equipment maintenance tips, it’s essential to know how you can maximize heavy equipment life.

Start by understanding the size of your fleet. It will help you know when to invest in new additions. Many heavy equipment machines can perform multiple tasks with the installation of attachments, so think about what applications you have at hand and which engines can perform a multitude of tasks. A large fleet will demand more technicians, while a more compact taskforce may rely only on internal support.

You can also look into making bulk purchases of common parts like belts, tires and filters to keep in stock. When you pair your fleet with a preventative maintenance program, it pays to prepare.

Here are eight ways to maximize the lifespan of your fleet:

1. Commit to a Program

Your actions should revolve around inspections, replacements, modifications, performance testing and analysis. Committing to a preventative maintenance schedule does more than just regular upkeep because it’s an all-inclusive approach.

2. Determine the Reasons for Breakdowns

When you identify what causes typical failures in a machine, you can save money and time. Three types of equipment failures exist — sudden, intermittent and gradual. Sudden is when your unit stops without warning, and intermittent is when failure happens at random, making it challenging to identify the problem. Gradual failure is preventable via inspections.

3. Know Your Machines

Product knowledge is necessary if you want an effective maintenance schedule. You can find what you need by referring to the engine’s manual. Anyone working on the equipment should understand the handbook. It relays information on the unit’s service intervals, what products to use, typical operating conditions and troubleshooting.

4. Train Your Operators

When you employ adequately trained equipment operators, they are often more productive and know how to diminish wear and tear. Workers who look after their engines are also safer on the jobsite. Operator training should be part of your preventative maintenance strategy. Your workers are the frontline in reporting machine warning signs and provide insight for future buying decisions.

5. Adhere to Maintenance Intervals

Check your equipment’s recommended maintenance intervals, then apply your company-specific situations, like climate, operating loads and site environment. Following the manufacturer’s suggestions protects your warranty, helps keep records and encourages economical operation.

6. Document History

Recording preventative maintenance and repairs is proof you did so according to professional recommendations. Having a machine’s history aids you in knowing what was done and when. Document the services, history and runtime information of a unit to help you complete effective equipment management.

7. Monitor the Unit’s Condition

When you partner with an advanced equipment company, you get access to technology to help you proactively monitor your fleet. Various tools and methods aid you in understanding the conditions of your assets.

8. Analyze Fluids

Your heavy equipment’s fluids are a tell-tale sign of your engine’s health. Their condition also helps you predict potential damages — fluid analysis can support you in detecting problems, improving the resale value, scheduling downtime and developing a service history.

After preventative and regular maintenance, some machines may not be up to par anymore. Analyze its cost per hour and labor costs to determine if it’s worth repairing. If it’s not, consider selling, trading or reconditioning the equipment. When the engine is costing you more than it’s worth, it may not be a valuable asset anymore.

In 2018, the preventative maintenance market was valued at about $2.8 million. By 2026, it’s predicted to reach about $23 million, growing by a compound annual growth rate of about 30% from 2019 to 2026. As operations continue to rely on preemptive upkeep, it’s vital to know how to implement the right approaches for your business.

Tips for Preparing a Heavy Equipment Maintenance Checklist

If you’re looking to create a heavy equipment maintenance checklist, you need a committed team — it’s not a one-person task. Upkeep demands dedication to checking each machine’s specific requirements. You want the program to be as thorough as possible to include all anticipated problems. When you develop the right plan for your fleet and team, you can boost the ROI on each asset.

A check sheet with itemized “to-dos” helps you recall tasks during an inspection. It allows you to plan for what you need like replacement parts, filters and fluids. The checklist can include daily, weekly, monthly and yearly milestones.

Start by reviewing the following heavy equipment maintenance tips.

What the Program Should Cover

Establish a preventative solution that includes:

  • Condition-based maintenance — CBM
  • Fluid analysis
  • Safety
  • Training

The foundation of your program should at least cover mandatory tasks like oil and filter changes, along with lubrication and fluid analysis. Then, conduct visual inspections. Preemptive maintenance is a proactive step to uncover problems you might miss with only routine upkeep.

For example, if a mechanic notices certain parts have excessive wear, technicians can replace them before the failure happens. It’s also helpful to stick to a single manufacturer in your fleet to keep the specifications similar across the board. Working with various brands can make your inspections more challenging.

When Upkeep Intervals Should Occur

Your fleet’s maintenance schedule is dependent on your particular applications and other factors, such as the conditions in which you work, seasons and the environment. For example, if your machines work on flat, grassy areas, they may demand less stringent upkeep compared to ones that operate on rough gravel on an incline.

When you combine your conditions with the manufacturer’s recommendations, you can determine the right intervals for your fleet. Most intervals occur according to the following characteristics of a machine.

  • Age
  • Condition
  • Running hours
  • Traveled distance

The Person Overseeing the Schedule

You will want to administer the preventative maintenance schedule based on the size of your operations. A smaller company can rely on hands-on support from the principle to implement the upkeep. But larger businesses can delegate the task to a manager or technician. Depending on your situation, choose someone who understands your fleet. The leader will ensure the right precautions are taken to increase the longevity of your heavy equipment.

Recording Accurate Documentation

Technology, such as computer programs and interactive software, can help you keep track of your preventative maintenance. Various forms of technology can monitor your equipment’s internal workings to predict when it needs servicing, as well as reference an engine’s history.

Some equipment may be more prone to particular mishaps than others. Recording any reoccurring damage and creating accurate reports during inspections can help you predict disasters. For each examination, the mechanic should record the date, time and who made the maintenance checks.

Where You Can Find the Right Information

Because every make and model of equipment has different components and features, refer to the equipment’s manual. It will provide a schedule and specifications for that particular machine. Industry organization sites are also helpful when you’re searching for the right information on how to maintain your fleet.

The best way, however, is to start with your workers. Involve everyone in the program — operators, technicians and managers. They can help you develop a comprehensive checklist for each piece of machinery. Relying on others can give you insight into particular problems each asset faces.

Your maintenance checklist will require the support of everyone on your team, an administrator, proper documentation, the right intervals and detailed information.

Your Heavy Equipment Routine Maintenance Checklist

One of the most crucial maintenance tips for construction equipment is to develop an inclusive list that covers all areas of the unit, including both the critical and non-critical points. Having a checklist will help you understand what needs doing and when. From there, you can anticipate problems to counteract failure.

Checklists help make sure you don’t skip over any components and aid mechanics in paying attention to the minute details and pain points. You should have an agenda for each unit. Most preemptive lists are broken down into sections.

Inspect From the Ground Up

  • Attachments: Work tool attachments are as vital as the equipment itself. Inspect the accessory for proper attachment to the equipment and sharpen any teeth as necessary.
  • Body: During a walk-around inspection, look for damage to the unit’s body such as rust, dents, chipped paint and scratches. Although the exterior condition doesn’t affect the performance of an engine, it’s essential to keep a record for future reference in case you ever want to sell or trade.
  • Brakes: Examine the equipment’s brake line fluid levels, filters, connections and pressure. The brakes are one of the most critical areas to look at. Also, check the health of the brake pads, drums, discs and shoes. Observe the parking brake and fittings.
  • Electrical lines: Mechanics should conduct tests for the voltage and amperage of the equipment’s electrical lines while examining the cables and fuses. Look for exposed wires and ensure the insulation is intact.
  • Fuel: Ensure the fuel delivery system is functioning correctly. Otherwise the machine won’t run. Investigate the fuel lines and pumps, look at the fuel tank for dents and make sure the cap is on.
  • Hydraulic oil: Look at the hydraulic oil level and top-up when needed. Check the hydraulic lines, cylinders, hoses and fittings for leaks.
  • Lift arms: If a machine has lift arms, check for leaking hydraulic lines, weak points and rust.
  • Lubrication: Consistent lubrication of the joints and sleeves is essential. Greasing the machine will lead to smooth operation and lessen any damage. Check the grease lines for leaks, too.
  • Suspension: Examine the springs, shocks, struts and undercarriage of the machine’s suspension system. Take note of its condition, looking for corrosion, wear and damage. Inspecting the suspension is especially imperative in areas where salt is common.

Check the Machine’s Primary Components

  • Exhaust: Keep an ear out for odd noises. If the exhaust is giving off an abnormal sound, it can be an indication of poor engine performance. Look at the exhaust’s connections — hangers and clamps — and check for smoke.
  • Steering: Check each part of the steering system during the inspection, including the wheels, tie rods, idler arms and ball joints.
  • Tires: Document the tire tread depth, wear and PSI. You will also want to look at the balance and alignment of the tires. Check the valve stems, axles, drive shafts and the rim’s lug nuts.
  • Tracks: If your equipment runs on tracks, check for wear. Scrutinize the idlers, cleats and treads, rollers, sprockets, shoes and links. For rubber tracks, look at its torsion axles and tension.

Examine the Engine

  • Batteries: Study the battery cell for corrosion, rust and grime. Keep the terminals clean and inspect the unit for leaks and cracks. Have your checklist include the battery’s age, expected lifespan, acid ratio and voltage retention.
  • Belts: Most heavy machinery relies on belt-driven components. Check the rubber elements for cracking, fraying and discoloration. Also, make sure the belt has the appropriate slack and tension.
  • Coolant fluids: The radiator and transmission both rely on coolant to keep the engine from overheating. Check the fluid for appropriate levels and colors. When you conduct regular analyses, they help you see what’s happening internally.
  • Filters: Review each filter within the system — oil, air, fuel, cabin and hydraulic. Clean and replace them when necessary, checking for dirt and contamination.
  • Fluids: Inspect the engine’s oil, transmission, windshield, hydraulic and brake fluids. When you perform fluid analyses, they will give you a clear idea of what’s occurring inside the machine. Top-up liquids when necessary and inspect for leaks.
  • Hoses: Document the condition of the tubes and whether they have leaks, dry rot or wear.
  • Injectors: Include the cleaning and replacing of injectors on your checklist. If the pieces are clogged or not working, it can affect the engine’s power. Diesel engines depend on functioning nozzles to deliver fuel.

Look at the Cab Compartment

  • Handrails, steps and grab bars: Ensure each grab point is secure with no rust or damage.
  • Lights: Review the brake, warning and headlights. Look for dead bulbs and replace them as necessary.
  • Safety devices: Your checklist shouldn’t only include functioning parts but also the safety components inside the cab, such as the lights, seatbelts, horn and locks. Make sure the alarms, pedals, gauges, controls, hazard warnings and fire extinguisher work well.
  • Windshield: Inspect all the glass areas, including the windshield, mirrors and lights. Look for chips and cracks.

A checklist is a comprehensive guide on what parts you should maintain and repair. It’s not a detailed “how-to,” but your technicians, mechanics and operators should be well-versed in machine upkeep.

Contact Wheeler Machinery for Your Preventative Maintenance and Service Needs

At Wheeler Machinery Co., we provide fleet maintenance to industries across the board that rely on heavy equipment solutions. Our team strives to help you become more productive and support your operation’s bottom line.

Reach out to us online or call one of our representatives at 801-978-1403 for additional information. You can also visit one of our convenient locations. Based in Utah, Wheeler Machinery Co. extends our services past the point of purchase so that you can stay on top of preventative maintenance.