Fit for many uses across wide-ranging industries, articulating cranes are some of the most versatile cranes on today’s jobsites. To maximize the increased lifting capacity and greater reach articulating cranes offer utility contractors, preventive maintenance must be a priority.
Working closely with machine operators and qualified repair technicians will ensure that articulating cranes are always in tip-top shape. It will also ensure the safety of the operator and those in the field and guarantee a crane that will be up and running when it’s needed. Fleet managers have many factors to consider, such as frequency, rigor and conditions of operation, when determining their maintenance schedule.
Who Checks What and When?
Thorough inspections and maintenance require a certain level of familiarity and technical expertise, but some require more than others.
Daily and monthly inspections should be carried out by a “competent person” — someone capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards on the crane and in the work area that might make operation hazardous to the operator and those on the job. This can include the crane’s operator, fleet manager or another individual familiar with the crane’s functions. These basic, but incredibly important, checks ensure uptime and are critical to safe and efficient operation of a crane.
However, quarterly and annual service, as well as any necessary repairs that come to light during daily and monthly upkeep, follow different protocol. Qualified technicians or mechanics with experience, training and expertise servicing articulating cranes should handle this maintenance. Putting more complex inspection and repair in the hands of skilled professionals ensure that no harm is done to the crane and that the fix will be long-lasting.
The Once Over
Before operating an articulating crane, inspect the booms of the crane to keep it performing efficiently and safely. From welds to mounts and stabilizers, checking the structural integrity of an articulating crane prior to each day on the job is a must. Identifying and addressing these issues quickly not only maintains the safe operation of the crane, but also comes at a much lower cost than letting the problem worsen.
Operators should conduct a daily inspection of the crane’s body and surroundings, noting:
- Cracks, breaks, rust or damage on the main booms and boom extensions;
- Cracks or corrosion of welds;
- Missing or malfunctioning stabilizer components;
- Missing or loose chassis mount pins;
- Low or flat tires; and
- Insufficient ground support that does not allow the entire chassis to be level.
In addition to these daily checks, on a monthly basis operators should spend time more thoroughly checking and repairing the body and structure of the crane. During these checks, operators should:
- Check and repair bent, broken or significantly rusted or corroded parts.
- Thoroughly examine all structural members, welds and pins for damage.
- Ensure that all bolts, fasteners and retaining rings are tightly installed and do not show signs of corrosion.
To supplement these daily and monthly checks, every three months it is important for a qualified technician to meticulously examine the machine’s crane structure, hardware and winch for deformation, cracks and corrosion. For fleets large enough, it is possible that such a technician is on staff — minimizing the time spent away from the jobsite. They should also carry out the more thorough annual checks.
Time to Perform
After ensuring the body of an articulating crane is ready for action, an inspection of the machine’s functional components ensures it performs to expectations. During daily inspections, operators should:
- Check the crane’s hydraulic systems, including hoses, tubes and fittings, for leaks and proper oil levels and address any issues that arise.
- Check all hooks, wire ropes and attachments for abnormal wear and distortion.
- Inspect electrical wiring for wear and obvious dirt or moisture accumulation.
- Ensure rails, rail stops, rail clamps and supporting surfaces are free of obstructions or aligned to ensure smooth and safe operation.
In addition to greasing the system every week, monthly maintenance involves a more thorough inspection of the hydraulic, electrical and motor systems. This includes:
- A visual inspection of the cylinders for leakage at the rod, fittings or welds and for damage to the rod or case;
- Repairing any holding issues with the valves, such as sinking or shaking;
- Inspection of control valves for leaks or wear;
- Reviewing the hydraulic pumps and motors to ensure tight fittings and prevent leaks;
- Repairing electrical malfunctions;
- Elimination of dirt or moisture accumulation in electrical systems;
- Replacing fraying wires; and
- Repairing transmission leakage, abnormal vibration or noise, alignment or torque issues.
During quarterly checks of an articulating crane’s functional components, qualified technicians should pay specific attention to the pressure within and condition of the hydraulic lines and valves. Any leakage, blistering, abrasion or cracks will require attention. Technicians should also check the hydraulic filters quarterly and replace them if necessary — twice per year. Any sticking spools, incorrect relief valve settings, relief valve failures or cylinder issues should be fixed. Loss of performance, heating or excess pressure in the hydraulic pumps and motors should be tested for and rectified. Lastly, if equipped with a winch, its components should be examined for wear or damage and repaired if necessary. Annual hydraulic fluid changes, rotational drive recalibration and loadline reattachment are necessary due to system wear. All the while, of course, operators should note and report any odd or defective components during work.
After ensuring that an articulating crane is structurally and operationally sound, it is time to hop behind the controls to safely execute the job at hand. Though they might not come to mind as necessary line items on inspection checklists, controls and safety features require maintenance, too.
During daily checks, operators should make sure that the:
- Control station is free of dirt, contamination or foreign materials;
- Windshields are clear and the line of sight unobstructed;
- Controls are not sticking; and
- Necessary electronic components are functioning effectively.
Articulating cranes are unique machines that provide fleet managers a versatile tool for executing a variety of lifting jobs. In addition to the basic inspection tips outlined here, it’s important to follow your crane manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedules to ensure your crane is ready to keep the utilities on.
John Field is the Product Manager of Material Handling at Iowa Mold Tooling Co. Inc.