It’s no secret that attention to wheel loader maintenance can help keep operating costs down, but don’t forget the little things.
“Good maintenance is the key to lower operating costs,” says Gary Bell, VP/general manager at KCM Corporation. “Good fuel quality, proper oils, and timely maintenance are critical. A machine that is well maintained will operate the cheapest in the long run.”
With so much emphasis on maintaining the engine and fluids, it can be easy to overlook items such as tires.
“Reducing the consumables as much as possible will help keep hourly operating costs to a minimum—two of the biggest are fuel and tires,” says Craig McGinnis, product marketing manager, wheel loaders, Komatsu. “Reduce tire spin by using the traction control settings, and reduce idle time to reduce fuel consumption. Less idle time also means fewer hours on the machine, which helps resale value.”
Maintenance records are important, too. “Another important part of keeping wheel loader operating costs down is completing regular—daily, weekly, or monthly—maintenance tasks and recording them,” says Mike Stark, wheel loader product specialist for Doosan.
That includes all the tire pressure and condition of all four tires.
“Something as simple as maintaining the proper tire pressure also can contribute to keeping operating costs down, and if a wheel loader has a problem and isn’t working, the owner is losing money while he or she waits until the machine is fixed,” Stark says.
“Stress the importance of minimizing wheel spin to maintain tire life,” advises John Chesterman, product marketing manager, production class four-wheel-drive loaders, John Deere Construction & Forestry. “Cost-saving features such as differential lock and rimpull control will also help keep operating costs down by increasing traction and minimizing spin damage. We also encourage our customers to track tire pressure as part of their maintenance programs.”
Deere has a tire pressure monitoring system available via its JDLink telematics dashboard that allows managers to track pressure on a daily basis.
“Managers can also utilize telematics systems to get up-to-the-minute reports on a machine’s operating parameters—engine rpms, idle time, fuel consumption, and a variety of other parameters can be monitored in real-time, and this information can be used by personnel to help manage operating costs,” says Andrew Dargatz, brand marketing manager for Case. “Telematics systems can also help fleet managers more easily manage maintenance intervals.
“And the most important consideration for keeping costs down on the job is daily maintenance,” Dargatz says. “Operators should do a basic visual walk-around inspection every day before work begins, checking the engine oil, brake fluid, hydraulic oil, other fluid levels, and all other daily checkpoints.”
Manufacturers continue to make daily checks easier and faster with every family of new machines.
“The G Series wheel loaders are designed for groundline serviceability, meaning that all routine service and maintenance items are placed within easy reach of the ground,” Dargatz says.
“Time is money, so any features on the machine that save time—whether it’s running or not running—have a value,” says Will Turner, product manager—wheel loaders, JCB North America.
“For example, daily checks for all wheel loaders should be done to monitor the machine’s health and reduce costs with preventative maintenance. Greasing should be a regular occurrence; auto-greasing systems can be a cost-effective solution for certain applications and users,” Turner continues.
“Conventional wheel loaders require a full walk-around with an inspection under the engine hood for fluid levels,” Turner says. “This may take 15 minutes a day on a conventional wheel loader. With the new generation of JCB wheel loaders, it takes about five minutes and is very easy because most of the checks are automated through the in-cab computer. There’s no need to open the engine hood or contact fluids, thereby removing the risk of contamination. There are two external sight gauges, but all the rest is ‘off the key.’
“This may save 10 minutes per day, but when you multiply this by a 300-working-day year, you see a savings of 3,000 minutes, which is 50 hours. If your operator is paid $20/hr, this saves theoretically $1,000 a year,” according to Turner.
“After all, an operator who has to manually check fluids using dipsticks is more likely to skip or forget these checks when it is -20°F, blowing a gale, and the engine hood is frozen with ice and snow.”
For more on wheel loaders, particularly models 200 horsepower and above, look for the Buying File in the February issue of Construction Equipment.