Don’t Let Your Skid Steer Hit the Skids

Here’s a Regular Maintenance Routine to Manage Downtime

By Amber Reed

A  skid steer loader’s productivity can be positively impacted by following a preventive maintenance routine. According to Terex regional sales manager Jonathon Ferguson, a skid steer loader maintenance routine is based on the number of hours on the machine: daily or about every eight hours of work, 250 working hours, 500 hours and 1,000 hours. “Even if it’s not always convenient to take the time to perform routine maintenance duties, it’s worth every minute if the skid steer loader continues to perform productively in the field,” he says.

Daily Duties

1) The main daily fluid level checks include the hydraulic oil, engine oil, fuel and windshield wiper fluid, and to refill if necessary. When refueling a Tier 4 engine, fuel quality can definitely affect the performance of a skid steer loader — ultra low sulfur fuel is required. “Dirty fuel does not burn as clean and can plug fuel injection nozzles,” says Ferguson, “as well as the DPFs more quickly — potentially increasing operational costs and losing productivity due to downtime. “Operators and equipment owners need to be knowledgeable about fuel and oil selection to prevent downtime issues.”
2) Do a walk-around of the machine daily, checking for damage from the previous day. A visual inspection should also include inspecting and replacing any damaged machine decals, like safety signs, as well as other safety equipment. Also, check for leaks and make sure all the machine’s systems, including the fittings at all the pivot points throughout the machine, are lubricated and functioning properly. “Always have a grease gun handy to lubricate as needed,” advises Ferguson. “An important area to grease is up and down the loader arms.”
3) Check the fan and A/C belts for tension, condition and presence.
4) Inspect the quick-attach system for wear to the bushings. Recommended maximum wear on the bushing is 50 percent. Replace if necessary.
5) Inspect the air filters/cleaners and vital components that remove contaminants from the air. Replace if damaged or clean if heavily soiled.
6) Tires are one of the most important components to inspect daily on a skid steer loader, advises Ferguson. “Tires need to be checked frequently for tread depth, wear, damage and pressure,” he says. “Keep tires properly inflated at all times to ensure machine stability for safe and efficient operation.”
7) At the end of each day, while a skid steer loader is still warm, it is important to wash down the unit — removing any materials that accumulate in the chassis and engine compartment and could cause contamination the machine. Operators can use a Shop-Vac to remove any water and debris in the hard-to-reach areas, and they should use a pressure washer or compressed air nozzle to blow debris out of the radiator and oil cooler. In addition, operators need to drain the water separator, which removes water from the fuel supply as the engine runs.

Engine Check-Ups

Skid steer loaders equipped with Tier 4 engine technology need to be maintained daily according to the engine manufacturer’s recommended guidelines. Lower combustion temperatures in Tier 4 engines reduce NOX but result in an increase in particulate matter. Terex skid steer loaders, according to Ferguson, are equipped with EGR engines and DPF exhaust systems. All EGR engines with DPF exhaust systems capture soot until they fill up and create too much back-pressure. At that point, the DPFs use one of two approaches to regenerate (clean) themselves: active or passive.

Passive regenerating cycles usually happen without the operator knowing about it. The vehicle’s duty cycles, temperature and pressure output at the DPF initiates this cycle by changing the fuel to air mixture during the combustion cycle to increase the temperature across the DPF, causing a minor burn off of the DPF. Active regeneration cycles give indicators to the operator through an operator interface to make the driver aware that the unit is about to undergo an active regeneration cycle. At this time, the operator should inspect the DPF area for contaminants before the active regeneration occurs.

Ferguson adds, “Although more sensitive to duty cycle and temperature, once installed, these DPF systems are considered to be more user-friendly, as they do not require fuel additives, have no moving components and only need to be serviced for annual cleaning.”

Keep a Regular Schedule

Longer-term maintenance tasks must also be a priority, advises Ferguson. Regular oil changes are necessary to maintain a strong running engine. At the 250-hour mark, the engine oil and filter should be replaced. It is important to check the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines for engine oil specifications. Hydraulic fluid filters should also be replaced after 250 working hours on the machine. The fuel filter, which removes contaminants from the fuel as it enters the engine, should be changed at least every 500 hours to prevent plugging and loss of engine power. The hydraulic oil and radiator coolant should be changed every 1,000 operating hours.

Proper chain tension should always be maintained to minimize wear and prevent damage to the skid steer loader’s final drive system. The chain tension should be checked every 500 hours and adjusted as necessary. The chain case oil should be changed every 1,000 hours to maintain proper lubrication and minimize component wear. Ferguson’s final advice: “Maintain a regular maintenance schedule and follow the manufacturer’s prescribed action items to keep the loader up and running for a long time.”

Amber Reed is a technical writer for Signature Style PR, based in Huntersville, N.C.

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