Plane and Simple

It’s that time of year when road crews really get
cracking on street and thoroughfare repairs and construction. In the
cold winter climates, road maintenance and weather leads to surface
damage from constant freezing and thawing. Cracks slither across
pavement like treacherous vipers. Frost heaves emerge like green hills
in spring. And potholes gape open like starving mouths.

Cold planer attachments, especially on a skid steer loader, are perfect
tools for fixing road damage where just a limited area needs to be
milled. However, these attachments also are essential in road
construction for more intricate or confined applications where a large
dedicated planer would be inefficient.

The sole purpose of a cold planer is to remove layers of asphalt and
concrete. For repair purposes, the damaged area can be milled down and
then refilled back to the level of the road. In road construction, the
planer attachment is generally used in transition areas where the
pavement surface is tapered from the existing level to the lower,
removed level. This process is most common when creating butt joints in
the road at intersections or near curbs. The cold planer’s smaller size
makes it a perfect tool for getting around manholes and utility covers.
The attachment also can substitute for a dedicated machine in confined
areas where a large unit would not fit or where weight might restrict
operation. Some companies use the attachment to ut rumble strips or otherwise change the texture of the surface.

The benefit of using a cold planer attachment is that it removes the
asphalt or concrete in layers without fracturing the layers next to or
below the ones removed, says Tom Banner, Case Construction Equipment
product training and information manager. Removing road surfaces with
jackhammers and backhoes damages the other layers.

“When you do that you have a lot more replacement cost,” Banner says.
“A lot of times, you want to remove a few inches and put a new layer on
top. [A cold planer is] a very cost-effective way to renew pavement
surfaces.”

Cold planers
employ either a direct drive or a geared motor to spin a drum with a
series of cutting teeth, or picks, that grind the surface. The drum is
adjustable for depth control, generally as deep as 6 in.

Although skid steers are the primary tool carrier for cold planers, the
attachments also are available for compact utility loaders, backhoes
and compact wheel loaders. Backhoes are the least common platform in
the United States, but more common in Europe. The planer is attached to
the end of the boom and can be used for scaling walls.

Milling It Over

Cold planers are among the more expensive attachments on the market,
ranging from $8,000 up to $25,000, so you want to make the right
choice. Picking the right machine hinges on the type of work the planer
will be used for.

That does not mean just right now, says Coneqtec-Universal sales
manager Jeff Berger, who suggests looking at what jobs might come along
in the future. This will help you get the maximum use from your cold
planer.

Once the type of
work is determined, the size of the planer itself comes next. Although
the type of applications will help determine the width of the cold
planer, the hydraulic capabilities of the skid steer, or other tool
carrier, determine what you can and cannot use.

“The rule of thumb is about two hydraulic horsepower for each inch of
planer,” Berger says. Also, most cold planers require high-flow
hydraulics, between 30 gpm and 40 gpm for units more than 24 in. wide.

Cold planers are available in varying widths, from 12 to 40 in. for
skid steers and 2 to 12 in. for smaller units, such as a compact
utility loader. The 24-in. cold planer is one of the most popular
sizes, says Ron Peters, CEAttachments Inc. inside sales supervisor.
Most skid steers can operate this size, which requires approximately 32
gpm.

The most important
features that impact productivity are the hydraulic horsepower and
lifting capability of a machine, Banner says. Hydraulic horsepower
provides the drum speed and torque to perform the work while proper
lift capacity ensures that the tool carrier is able to lift the
attachment and remain stable.

There are two drum styles on the market — closed and open drum. The
most common is the closed drum, which is a solid barrel-like shaft onto
which the picks are attached. Coneqtec-Universal manufactures its
unique open drum to reduce the amount of material the planer regrinds,
owner and president Gary Cochran says.

The open drum resembles an auger, with a series of plates attached to a
thin shaft. The picks are attached to the outer rim of these plates.
More material is able to flow through the open drum, allowing for
larger aggregate and less dust, which Cochran says allows the planer to
be more productive.

The
closed drum style might be easier to manufacture, but it is not without
its benefits, Peters says. The pick pattern is easier to change on the
closed drum because there is simply more space to place pick-holders.
Additional pick-holders can be welded to the drum if need be or
pick-holders can be moved. In addition, the added bulk of a closed drum
can assist the planer in pulling through hard spots in material, acting
like a flywheel, Banner says.

Additional features to consider are the hydraulic controls. Some
planers require changes to depth, tilt and side shift to be made at the
attachment, while others allow the operator to control these
adjustments inside the cabin.

Some manufacturers, like Case and Caterpillar, build cold planers to
suit its specific tool carriers. Although the attachments can be used
on other manufacturers’ machines, the attachments might not run as
efficiently, says Roy Brookhart, marketing manager for Cat Work Tools.
The company’s XPS-Series machines and attachments are built to match
each other’s specifications.

“Since we provide the tool and the machine, it’s a
system,” Brookhart says. “It’s about how well the
controls integrate.”

Picky About Maintenance

In order to get the maximum life and productivity out of your cold
planer, maintenance must be a key issue. Cold planers are high-impact
attachments and require constant upkeep.

The most important and high-maintenance parts of a cold planer are the
picks or teeth. Because the picks perform the actual cutting, these are
what wear first and most often. Cold planers have anywhere from 40 to
80 picks on the drum, which wear out after as little as 15 hours
depending on the material and proper maintenance.

The teeth must be inspected every day to make sure that they are
spinning in the holders. In fact, most manufacturers Compact Equipment
interviewed suggested inspecting the picks more than once a day. A pick
needs to spin to stay sharp; otherwise dust from asphalt and concrete
can gum up the pick, which will wear a flat spot on one side and reduce
its effectiveness and life span.

Since
the picks need constant replacement, the parts should be easy to
access. Most planers have a top service door to get to the drum.
However, this door should be strong and secure so it doesn’t pop open
or allow debris to escape from the hatch when in operation. Employing a
water kit with a cold planer will help the picks stay cool and
lubricated, extending the life of the components.

In addition, the water will help suppress dust. Water kits can be added
to a cold planer for about $700.

Cold planers also need regular greasing and cleaning
of the drum and hydraulic fittings. Check the owner’s manual for additional maintenance.

Watch What You’re Doing

Cold planers require a little more technical skill than your typical
attachment. The machine requires the adjustment of many aspects at a
time: direction, speed, depth, tilt and side-shift among others.
Getting used to the operation will take a little more experience. Cold
planers must be operated at a creep, Banner says. Operation speed tops
out at about 10 ft per minute.

“Slow and steady is the name of the game,” he says. “If you go too
fast, you will stall out your drum.” Stalling the machine will hurt the
longevity of both the cold planer and skid steer, says Berger, warning
that cold planers are “easy to use, but not easy to use well.”

Brookhart urges that people read the operation manual before using a
cold planer. Not only will it help you learn how to use the attachment,
but how to use it safely. The machine should never be running while
lifted in the air. Operators should be aware of their surroundings
because cold planers kick up debris, which could injure others or
damage property.

One way to limit flying debris, Brookhart says, is to start the cut
with the drum fully retracted and slowly engage it to the surface. That
way, the frame of the planer is already lowered and will keep debris
down.

Bradley Kramer is editorial assistant of Compact Equipment.

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