Auger Maintenance Matters

Labor-saving auger work tools have spared many a sore muscle, making
quick work of digging holes for footings, fence posts, trees and
anything else that needs to go into the ground. Attached to small,
maneuverable machines such as mini hydraulic excavators, these
efficient tools can be used by contractors in small enclosures on a
variety of jobsites. To keep these durable diggers in top condition, a
few simple measures are in order.

Every-Day Inspections

Worn parts can negatively affect productivity. Worn teeth do not
penetrate as efficiently, requiring more force and more time (and
thereby greater expense) to accomplish a task. The ground conditions in
which the auger is digging can also contribute to accelerated wear.
Operators working in harsher environments may notice wear sooner than
those working in softer ground.

Daily inspections are an important aspect of equipment maintenance, as
they often pinpoint wear along with minor repairs. By attending to
these small tasks early, contractors maximize work time by
circumventing a potential breakdown. Walk-around inspections for
machines and work tools help operators monitor wear and damage to
augers and the machines running them. Before conducting an inspection,
operators should clean off the machine and work tool, removing any
debris.

Inspect the Auger Bit Teeth:
Check the auger teeth for any wear or damage. Replace teeth before any
damage occurs to the bit, mounting bolt or nut. Rotating the auger
teeth after each day of operation from the outside of one side to the
inside of the other will help prolong the life of the tool.

Inspect and Lubricate the Bracket Pivot Pin:
Check the upper angled plates for bending or damage. Check the holes in
the lower angled plates for damage, bending and wear. Apply lubricant
to the fitting for the pivot pin of the mounting bracket and drive
housing to ensure smooth operation.

Inspect and Replace the Pilot Tooth:
Check the pilot tooth for wear and damage. As one of the first points
of ground contact, the auger pilot tooth will experience significant
friction and, therefore, wear. Replace the tooth when the flutes are
completely worn off (before damage oy0ccurs to the auger bit). The
pilot tooth can be replaced easily. Remove the bolt securing the worn
tooth, replace the new tooth at the same angle as the old one and then
replace the bolt to secure it.

Check for Exposed Wires and Damaged Hoses: These
pose a safety hazard to the operator and others on the jobsite.
Electrical wires and hydraulic hoses on the machine and work tool
should be monitored for fraying and wear and they should be replaced
before the outer coverings are chafed and cut.

Safety Tips

Maintenance technicians should ensure that the work tool is properly
supported when performing maintenance tasks. Never walk under an
unsupported work tool on a machine with its arm raised.

The proper handling of fluids is important for not only the personal
safety of operators and maintenance technicians, but also to comply
with local regulations for hazardous material disposal. Special care
should be taken to avoid spilling fluids during inspection,
maintenance, testing and repair of the equipment.

All maintenance technicians and operators should familiarize themselves
with the operation and maintenance manual before operating or working
on the machine and work tool. These books contain information specific
to the machine model and include operating capacities, tips for
operating and detailed safety information.

Optimum Operation

Before digging, operators should ensure proper orientation. The auger
should be completely away from the mounting bracket. Once the work tool
is away from the bracket, the operator may raise the auger and tilt the
auger forward until the work tool can swing forward, backward and
sideways freely. The auger should be vertically oriented before and
remain so during digging. It may be necessary to reposition the machine
to maintain this orientation.

If so, the operator should raise the auger from the hole before moving
the machine, replacing it afterward to continue digging.

Before digging, operators should check the auxiliary control to ensure
clockwise rotation. With the auger tooth piercing the ground about 2
in., the operator should apply enough downward pressure for the work
tool to penetrate the ground, but decrease pressure if the auger slows
drastically or stalls. Operators should not use the machine to pull up
an auger bit that has become stuck. Instead, reverse rotation and
slowly raise the work tool from the ground. Once the bit is free,
resume digging.

Raise the auger bit
from the hole after every 2 ft of digging to remove dirt from the hole.
After reaching the desired depth, allow the bit to rotate a few seconds
at the bottom of the hole in order to clean the hole, then slowly raise
the bit from the hole. Move the bit away from the hole and activate the
auxiliary hydraulic control to clear the dirt from the work tool. Do
not allow the front of the machine operating the auger to lift off the
ground. The resulting decreased ground contact compromises the
machine’s stability.

Preventive Maintenance

In the case of a new auger work tool, the planetary oil should be
changed after the initial 50 service hours. After the next 50 service
hours, the planetary oil level should be checked, and it should be
changed after every 1,000 service hours from then on.

Maintenance contracts are often available through equipment providers
like dealers or rental providers such as The Cat Rental Store. These
agreements can cover as many or as few machines and work tools to meet
a contractor’s individual needs. If a work tool is acquired through a
rental agreement, maintenance may be included in the agreement.

Transportation and Storage

When the auger is attached to a machine, operators should carry the
work tool approximately 15 in. off the ground when changing location.
To keep the tool from swinging, travel at low speeds, avoiding rapid
changes of direction and sudden stops.

Auger work tools should be stored off the ground on an appropriate
pallet. Tie the hydraulic hoses to the work tool in order to keep them
off the ground. Covering the quick-connect coupler hoses with
caps will keep dirt out of the couplings. Alternatively, connect the
two quick-connect couplers together.

Always load on a flat, stable area. Remove the work tool from the
machine and place the tool on a pallet in order to better protect its
components. Use the designated lifting points and tie-down points
detailed in the operation and maintenance manual.

Secure the hydraulic lines to the work tool and use
protective caps or connect the hose couplings to each other to keep dirt out.

Gustavo Valecillos is a work tool sales consultant for Caterpillar Inc., Peoria, Ill.

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