HE advances in design and technology of major engine powered plant used in the construction industry, such as backhoes, excavators, bulldozers and graders, continues to impress, with design improvements, gains in productivity and reductions in operating costs.

But, as those improvements capture our attention it is easy to miss the changing details, so far as fuels and lubricating oils are concerned. For example, with the reduction in exhaust emissions, there is a knock-on effect, that may result in an increase in particulates in the engine’s lubrication oil. Also, with the processes at oil refineries, to reduce the sulphur levels in diesel fuel, the seals in the fuel systems of some older engines can be at risk of deteriorating.

A good deal of technical information on fuels and lubricants is available from the oil companies, but to help put a practical slant on some of the issues, Construction Contractor spoke with Steve Burgiss, service manager with Case Equipment in Victoria.

Quality of fuel

Burgiss discusses some of the day to day issues associated with fuels, lubricating oils and associated maintenance. “New generation engines are much more enviro friendly, more so the on-road machines, with emission controls and reduced fuel consumption but, with that, comes advanced electronic systems which require their own special maintenance protocols,” he says.

“In the past, the quality of fuel was not so important, but today’s Tier 2 and Tier 3 engines have much lower tolerance levels for fuels than pre-2001 engines, even though service intervals have gone out from 250 hours to 500 hours in most cases.

“So, the message is, if you are not using quality fuels and effective filtration, you can expect to damage the engine’s fuel system with the risk of reducing efficiency and, of course, productivity. Sensors now detect under-performing engines and let you know maintenance is needed. They can even shut down an engine and you would not want to be caught out when on a job.

“It is still surprising that many people feel they can stretch out the intervals between engine services and oil changes. We can say, from day to day experience here, that 500 hours means 500 hours. One of the common problems we see, is that with engine oil changes every 500 hours, there is the tendency not to apply the standard daily / weekly maintenance functions and checks. If owners / operators would follow the recommended checking procedures detailed by manufacturers, we would see a significantly reduced need for expensive repairs and, in the worst case, engine rebuilds.

“It can be such a costly exercise when major repairs are necessary, with the cost of the repair as well as loss of income. Even if a rebuild is avoided, resale value can be decreased,” says Burgiss.

Excessive wear

There are several key issues relating to lubrication and typical problem areas from a servicing point-of-view. “First,” says Burgiss, “is a lack of greasing and the number one area we see for excessive wear is around the ground engaging tools on excavators and dozers, the lower parts of the blade on graders and dipper arms on backhoes and the loader frame on wheel loaders.

“If you are changing oils and servicing the machine according to the manufacturer’s schedule, keep the service book and records up to date as such records can make the difference between a good disposal sale or no sale, or on the other hand an improvement in resale price of around ten per cent. Keeping service records up to date sounds fundamental but is surprising how many people fall short in this area.

“Another point with fuels and lubrication of the latest machines is that the correct specs are one hundred per cent critical – there’s no room for creativity – the wrong oil could, for example, wipe out a diff. Oils are designed for particular jobs. Do not risk a $250,000 machine for $200 worth of oil and breach your warranty,” advises Burgiss.

One of the innovations that is helping with the correct lubrication of equipment is the purchase of a maintenance programme factored into the purchase price. When servicing and maintenance costs are factored in and financed with the purchase price, dramatic cost spikes are eliminated and operating costs become predictable.

Source: Construction Contractor