Filter replacement is an integral part of construction equipment maintenance. It’s become so common that we often stop thinking about why we’re changing these filters and conduct repairs and replacements on autopilot. What role do filters play in construction equipment, and how have innovations changed the frequency with which we need to replace them?
Heavy construction equipment and the human body might seem incredibly different, but they have one thing in common. If they can’t breathe, they can’t function and will eventually fail. While equipment doesn’t have a pair of lungs like you’d find in your own chest, if a machine’s intake gets clogged, it will eventually stop working.
Air filters protect the delicate inner workings of internal combustion engines from dust, dirt and other debris you might encounter on the job site. Part of their job is to get clogged, and when they do, they require cleaning or replacement.
Clean air filters do more than protect your engine’s inner workings. They also improve fuel economy and decrease engine stress. These abilities improve functionality and productivity and can even increase the device’s life span.
A large piece of equipment burns 3-5 gallons of extra fuel every hour with a 50%-75% clogged air filter. Over the course of a 12-hour shift, that’s an extra 60 gallons of fuel. If you’re paying $4 or more for diesel fuel, the costs can add up quickly.
Air filters have a single task — filtering the air that moves through the engine. However, that isn’t the only thing that needs filtering. Fluid filters come in all shapes and sizes for each type of fluid. What role do these filters play in operating construction equipment?
The massive tanks that store gasoline and diesel fuel aren’t perfectly clean. Dirt, debris and rust build up in the tank and get stirred up each time a tanker truck arrives to refill it. Those contaminants can end up in your tanks, and without the aid of a fuel filter, can clog up the fuel system as well.
Oil filters remove contaminants from the oil that can damage the engine’s inner workings. Without the filter, this debris can wear away the engine’s interior over time, compromising its compression and power.
While not common on most types of heavy construction equipment, high-pressure oxygen systems require filters to prevent fires in vital components since oxygen can be highly combustible.
Equipment with automatic transmissions comes with transmission filters to remove any dirt and debris from the system that could damage the transmission’s delicate gears. Equipment with manual transmissions doesn’t have or need filters.
While not common on automobiles, coolant filters that prevent clogs and potential damages to the cooling system are frequently found on heavy equipment.
Never Underestimate the Power of a Filter
Filters play an invaluable role in construction equipment, protecting moving parts and crucial components from dirt, debris and other contaminants. Filters remove these problematic particles from systems before they can do damage, which would otherwise require costly repairs. In some cases, you might need to take a piece of equipment offline entirely, which causes your business to lose even more money and productivity.
Don’t overlook the work that these filters do in keeping your equipment running smoothly. The machinery on a construction site might look massive, but it relies on systems that function with so little clearance that something as simple as a pebble or handful of sand can take the entire system offline. Monitor your filters and change them according to manufacturer recommendations to keep your fleet functioning optimally.
This article was written by Emily Folk, a freelance writer covering topics in green technology and sustainability. You can follow her on her blog, Conservation Folks, or Twitter @EmilySFolk for her latest updates.