Hammer Maintenance

From the cabs of compact excavators, skid steer loaders and backhoes everywhere, machinery operators worth their salt are making a big impact to their companies’ bottom lines. These same operators know that a comprehensive maintenance plan is crucial to the wellbeing of any piece of equipment, including rig-mounted hydraulic breakers. When you boil it all down, contractors can increase profitability with every job by making sure their crew is educated on the importance of maximizing performance through proper use in the field and by implementing a preventative maintenance plan. If done correctly, the combination of these two practices will lead to a long, productive life for a rig-mounted hydraulic breaker.

From the Cab

Correct usage of the tool in everyday operation can ensure that contractors are minimizing repairs later down the road. There are a few things that operators can do to make sure that they are capitalizing on their equipment investment. Anyone who has been around a jobsite for a considerable amount of time will tell you that it’s not uncommon for operators to use the hammer on the breaker to pry concrete or rock into a better position. This is one of the worst things an operator can do when it comes to the health of the breaker. Using the hammer to pry material causes serious damage. In fact, the tool can become misaligned and rub against the bushing, causing unnecessary wear to important components.

Additionally, operators should make it a common practice to ensure that their tool moves without obstruction in the bushing. If at any point during operation, it feels like the tool is not moving freely, the operator should immediately discontinue use and perform a visual inspection of the breaker. It is also a good practice to encourage operators to get to know their equipment before taking it out to a jobsite. If an operator is comfortable with the breaker, there will most likely be fewer maintenance related incidents in the field. Inexperienced operators should take some time to learn about the equipment and how to use it before getting behind the controls.

Another important measure to take in the field is that the breaker should be used only in short bursts. Running the tool continuously for more than 15-25 seconds can cause extreme heat buildup and warp the tool, which ultimately decreases performance and productivity. Additionally, if the target material is not breaking after 15-25 seconds, chances are that it won’t break without repositioning the material and/or the breaker tip. These few seconds of rest between operations are crucial to the integrity of the tool.

Seasoned operators also know that blank firing is also a common mistake in the field that can affect the longevity of the breaker. Knowing how to avoid blank firing is something that can only be learned after many hours behind the controls. Blank firing commonly occurs right after material is broken and is basically the tool firing against itself since there is no material underneath. The force from that blow has to go somewhere, and if that power is not being absorbed by the rock or concrete, the breaker ends up absorbing the force. That can cause unnecessary wear to the components. Some manufacturers offer a feature on their breakers that can reduce the occurrence of blank firing.

To the Drawing Board
The second part of ensuring that a rig-mounted hydraulic breaker has a long, productive life is to establish a proactive maintenance plan. Lubrication is hands-down, the most important process for maintaining a rig-mounted breaker. A lack of proper lubrication is directly related to a shorter overall lifespan of the unit. To help contractors protect their investment, many manufacturers offer an automatic lubrication system. Lubrication should be checked daily. While performing this daily visual check, an operator should also check the retainer pins to make sure they are in the proper position. The third step in an operator’s daily visual inspection should be to make sure that the tool moves freely in the bushing.

After 100 hours of use, the carrier’s hydraulic filter should be inspected and changed, if necessary. Clean hydraulic oil is key to maximizing the life of a breaker. At this 100-hour mark, it is also a good idea to perform a thorough check of the breaker and remove the components for a closer look. After the inspection, be sure to tighten all bolts to the required torque. The next point of inspection for a breaker should be at around 1,000 hours ­— at which point the carrier’s hydraulic oil and oil filter will need to be changed. This is also a good opportunity for contractors to check the flow settings and adjust, if needed. A number of manufacturers will suggest inspection and replacement of the seals at this point as well.

Optimizing Breaker Performance
A savvy operator and a comprehensive maintenance plan go a long way when it comes to maximizing the life of a rig-mounted hydraulic breaker. One practice without the other will not produce optimal results for the unit. It is the combination of proper use and proper care that extends the life of the breaker and ultimately puts more money back in contractors’ pockets.

Greg Petherbridge is product manager for rig-mounted breakers at Chicago Pneumatic Construction Equipment, based in Independence, Ohio.