A Compact Wheel Loader Maintenance Routine to Manage Downtime

Wheel Loader Wherewithal

Compiled by CE Staff

We believe the compact wheel loader market has a very bright future. It took about 10 years for mini excavators to catch on in North America, but today they are on every job. Compact wheel loaders have certain operating cost advantages over skid steer loaders, specifically in applications on hard surfaces because of tire wear and, in many cases, because of better fuel efficiency.

Competitive pressure forces contractors to constantly re-evaluate their approach, and many will find out that a wheel loader can get more done for less money in certain applications and thus provide a competitive advantage to the contractor. Of course, that’s only if you can maintain your hardworking compact wheel loader.

When it comes to wheel loaders, preventative maintenance follows the 50-hour rule. Every week, a light in your head — and possibly your dashboard — should illuminate, reminding you that measures must be taken as soon as possible to keep your wheel loader running smoothly. In addition to PM tasks every 50 hours, wheel loader owners must schedule further inspections every 100 hours, every 500 hours and every 1,500 hours. Of course, there is also a daily schedule of preventative maintenance, consisting of checking and refilling fluids and giving the machine a good cleaning after the day’s work.

50 Hours (Weekly)

The first 50-hour check will likely take place following the first week of the machine’s use. These tasks are recommended every 50 hours or every week. Much of the maintenance required at 50 hours is similar to your daily work. You need to check the engine and hydraulic oil and brake fluid, refilling if it’s low. Another daily task you’ll need to do more thoroughly every 50 hours is cleaning the dust valve on the air filter housing.

New maintenance jobs that must be completed every 50 hours include checking the engine and hydraulic oil coolers. You’re looking for contamination. The V-belt needs your attention at 50 hours as well. In addition to its overall condition, you need to check the tension, tightening if necessary. You must also drain the water from the fuel/water separator and clean the filter insert on the fuel pump. It may require replacement.

Lubrication is your next 50-hour task. You’ll want to lubricate the bearings located in the following areas: driveshaft, steering cylinder, articulation joint, lift arm linkages, tilt rod, tilt lever, lift cylinder, tilt cylinder, quick-hitch and all hinges, joints and fittings (e.g. door arrester).
Every 50 hours of operation, it’s recommended that wheel loader users check the function of the service and park brakes, steering system, lights and electrical system and the tires for damage, air pressure and tread depth. Additionally, all connections need to be examined for leaks. Make sure you check each of the following components: air intake line; engine lubrication points; fuel lines; and the cooling, steering, hydraulic and brake systems.

100 Hours

After 100 hours of operation, a compact wheel loader should receive its first formal inspection. The oil and filter components will receive particular attention during this once-over. You must change out each of the following components: engine oil and oil filter, fuel filter and the hydraulic oil filter insert. Inspection of several areas must take place at 100 hours. Brake pads must be checked and replaced if needed on both the service and park brake systems. The axle oil should be checked for contamination in all locations. Wheel loader operators must also check the screw connections throughout the machine for tightness. Some areas that you will need to pay close attention to include the engine bearing, steering and hydraulic systems, loader unit (pin locking), axle mounting, counterweight, driveshaft and the cab. The electrical system should also be examined. You’ll want to check the electric and ground connections, as well as chafing on the wiring harness and battery terminals. Just don’t forget that all of your 50-hour PM jobs must also be completed at this time too.

500 Hours

At 500 hours, wheel loaders will receive their second inspection. First-time PM tasks during this assessment include replacing the air filter insert, changing  the axle oil, both at wheel end and center of axle, for the front and rear axles, draining the condensation water in the hydraulic oil tank (if using biodegradable oil), checking the battery for a good charge and checking the engine timing via the valve tip clearance. These assignments must be repeated every 500 hours. And of course (don’t forget again!), your 50-hour PM jobs must be a part of your 500-hour inspection.

1,500 Hours

Remembering what tasks take place during every 1,500-hours inspection is simple — everything. That’s right. Every task mentioned in this article must be completed at the 1,500-hour assessment. All oil and filter changes must be completed. All inspection work must take place. All lubrication service must be done. All components must be tightened, and, of course, all 50-hour, weekly assignments must be carried out. There are a few additional tasks that must be completed for the first time during this inspection and every 1,500 hours thereafter. They include changing the hydraulic oil and the breather filter in the hydraulic oil tank and cleaning the dust filter on the heating system.

Every task mentioned in this article must be completed at the 1,500-hour assessment.

Every task mentioned in this article must be completed at the 1,500-hour assessment, so once you hit that benchmark, set some time aside for lots of wheel loader TLC.

Winter Is Coming

Wheel loaders are great machines for year-round use. So when the seasons change, do some of the maintenance procedures. In extreme cold weather situations, it is important to check the antifreeze and washer fluid more often than on the printed schedule to be sure that it is full and not frozen. Also during cold conditions, the use of an engine preheater system can be helpful for top quality performance. The preheating system warms the engine fluids and hydraulic tanks before starting to ensure proper and smooth flow through the machine. Adjustments also need to be made for the fluids in extreme operation conditions. For example, in cold weather, thinner grade oil may be required to properly lubricate engine and hydraulic systems. In extremely hot weather, conditions call for thicker oil. Lastly, temperature changes can be harmful to the batteries, which should be checked periodically.

Anytime wheel loaders are used for applications of de-icing salts in cold climates or for hauling or spreading fertilizer, the loader is subject to a highly corrosive atmosphere. Under these conditions, preventing rust should be a top priority. Salt and fertilizer can eat away at metal parts of the wheel loader causing premature corrosion. Rubber components like hoses and tires will experience a more rapid pace of deterioration. Application of an aggressive media protection, like a spray-on corrosion inhibitor, should be applied to all main metal components that are susceptible to rust. Also, one of the best and easiest ways to protect your asset is to wash the wheel loader every day when used in these applications.