The reliability and life expectancy of any backhoe loader is largely influenced by regular care and maintenance. “To maximize the life of your backhoe loader,” says John Semosh, Product Support Manager for Terex Construction Americas, “invest in a preventive maintenance program, as directed by the manufacturers’ recommended guidelines in your owner’s manual.”
According to Semosh, a lot of problems can be caught or prevented if operators simply take 15 minutes before start-up each day to check the fluids and general condition of the machine. This includes inspecting for loose or missing nuts and bolts, as well as greasing all lube points.
Specifically, it is important to check the hydraulic fluid, engine oil, antifreeze and fuel, and to refill fluids if necessary. The next step is to walk around the machine, checking for any leaks or damage from previous use. This visual inspection should include checking common wear points, such as hydraulic hoses, tires, the bearing bushings and the pins/bolts, and making sure all the machine’s systems are lubricated and functioning properly.
Semosh recommends checking the loader’s safety features such as the brakes, lights and mirrors, as well as the condition and air pressure each day. “If there is a tire problem, you may feel that the machine is not tracking correctly or has a rhythmic bump when driving,” he says. “The fix is to replace the tire. When replacing a tire, it is very important to check the rolling radius of the tire — tires must be matched side-to-side or you will cause issues with the loader’s drivetrain.”
Weekly maintenance checks are the ideal time to make sure all ground-engaging points, such as the extend-a-hoe, bucket leveling and return-to-dig, are properly adjusted and in good working order.
“On the extendable dipper stick, you need to check the bushings and pins to make sure they are not showing excessive wear,” says Semosh. “And on the backhoe, make sure the components on the center mount are not loose or worn out.”
Regular engine maintenance is also very important. Air filters should be inspected daily and changed weekly if the backhoe loader is working in extreme environments.
Another key point of engine maintenance is the fuel system, says Semosh. As engines have become more advanced, the fuel systems have become less tolerant of water or other contaminants. If the fuel system does get contaminated, operators will need to drain the fuel tank, clean fuel lines and then put new fuel in the machine.
“To prevent contamination in your fuel system,” says Semosh, “always make sure the top and opening to the tank are clean before removing the cap, fill up the tank and securely fasten the cap each night to keep condensation from forming.”
Preventive Maintenance Tasks
Every quarter, check the oil on the front and rear axle differentials and inspect the planetary outboard. Change the oil and repair or replace any worn or damaged components as needed.
All fluids should be changed, including the hydraulic oil, according to the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines. Engine oil should be changed every 250 or 500 hours depending on fuel sulfur level, brake fluid should be changed every 500 hours and hydraulic oil should be changed every 1,000 hours. When changing the hydraulic oil, always refer to the owner’s manual to make sure the oil’s viscosity is compatible with the backhoe loader and the operating environment, including the temperature.
At the year mark, it is a good time to look at the backhoe loader’s maintenance records to spot any patterns. It is important to look at what components are failing and to determine why, how and when they failed, as well as to know which components are holding up over time and to analyze those trends.
“Everyone in contact with your machine is accountable for the success of its preventive maintenance program,” says Semosh. “Fleet managers need to confirm with the field supervisors and operators that the machines are being maintained each day, as well as what repairs have been done or are needed. All of this information should go on file with your company, as well as with your equipment dealer.”
Amber Reed is a Public Relations Consultant for Signature Style, based in Huntersville, N.C.