Proper operation, maintenance and inspections are vital to machine longevity, as well as making sure your machines are appropriately equipped for the job they are doing.
By Martin Mattsson

It is more important than ever to keep equipment running efficiently and reliably to protect your uptime and your bottom line. Heavy equipment in landfills, transfer stations and MRFs encounter some of the toughest conditions a machine can handle. That is why proper operation, maintenance and inspections are vital to machine longevity, as well as making sure your machines are appropriately equipped for the job they are doing.

Keeping Your Equipment Up and Running
Below are some tips on inspecting and maintaining your equipment—whether new or used—so you can keep it in the field and out of the shop.



For wheel loaders in waste and recycling, solid tires are preferred over foam-filled pneumatic or standard pneumatic tires in transfer stations and MRFs. It is also important that the tires are matched correctly and not uneven. Check for mismatched tread patterns, uneven tread depth and sidewall/tread cuts. Similar to loaders, articulated hauler tires need the same evaluation.

Most transmissions will last 12,000 to 16,000 hours before you have to start making repairs. Always check for leaks and operate the machine to make sure it is shifting the way it is expected. If a transmission does not shift out, it could be that the differential lock got disengaged. Sometimes, it is just a bad sensor and the computer needs to be recalibrated.

While you can easily get 16,000 to 20,000 hours out of an engine, it is usually at around 8,000 or 12,000 hours that you start having to perform some repairs. Again, always check for leaks and be sure to look for signs like coolant in the water or metal in the oil.

A Volvo EC250E crawler excavator fitted with a long boom cleans up trash.

The expected life of an excavator’s undercarriage will vary greatly depending on how it is used. For example, excavators working on a slope tend to produce more wear on one side than the other. Be sure to check for corrosion and pitting on roller frames and the undercarriage—over time, corrosion will make the metal more brittle. Note: When possible, the most accurate way to evaluate
undercarriages is to measure them. You will need the conversion charts for each brand to convert them to percent worn. Additional things to inspect are:

• One telltale sign that the undercarriage is starting to wear out is the sprocket—the thinner the teeth get, the more wear they have. If they get to a point where it looks like you could shave with them, then they are shot. And if they are, that is usually a pretty good indicator that the rest of the link assembly needs to be replaced—not always, but usually. Note: You can put new sprockets on used rails, but you cannot run worn sprockets on new rails.

• Be sure to measure the pins and bushings to see if they are stretched out. Bushings have both internal and external wear. External wear can be felt by running your hand over the bushing in between the links. Internal wear can be visible by looking at the position of the track adjuster. Eventually the bushings and pins will stretch so much the track adjuster will no longer remove any slack for the rail. You should also check for any external cracking and waving. If one has a wave, that means the bottom of that link has a lot of wear. You can also count the links to see if one was removed from the link assembly in an effort to tighten the undercarriage. If someone has made it too tight, that will spell trouble in the near future.

• Check the condition of the bushings. Typically, bushings are under considerable load at the sprocket’s six o’clock position, and that wear will distort bushings over time. Feel if the bushings are U-shaped versus circular. If you feel past the bushing and feel or see the pin that is in the center, they are shot.

Drop Box
You can expect to get 9,000 to 12,000 hours out of a drop box. Check for any leaks and excessive noises like grinding. You will hear grinding or popping when a gear inside starts going bad. A new drop box can cost around $40,000 or $50,000, so it is worth a thorough inspection.

These will usually last 16,000 to 24,000 hours before you start having any problems. The biggest issue you could have is external cracking, holes and leaks. With planetaries on articulated haulers, there is a mark that states where it is level to make sure they are not overfilled with oil, which can indicate accidental overfilling or a failing seal causing a break leak.

Condition Monitoring
While you can physically and visually check for a lot of factors that influence the life expectancy of equipment components, one of the most important data sources is the oil sampling. Having a strong monitoring program will help you take action at early stages of possible failures and could significantly extend component life, which will help keep your total cost of ownership down.

Most equipment produced since 2007 is equipped with some level of remote monitoring, which allows you to track fluid levels, temperatures, pressures and more. Combined with a good inspection program, this will prevent emerging issues from becoming catastrophic failures, making telematics a priceless tool for uptime.


Additional Considerations for Used Equipment
When it comes to maintaining used machines, it is helpful if you can find out how and where it was previously used. Machines used in scrap, waste and logging tend to incur more abuse and wear, so you will want to keep a close eye on components like the tires and transmission. Sometimes you can also get usage data from a machine’s telematics to get more insight.

Finally, partner with OEMs you trust and purchase machines that are purpose-built for waste and recycling applications. Look for machines that come with service details upfront, so you know exactly what you are getting. Options like heavy-duty guarding packages, on-board weighing, radar, fire suppression system, cab filtration and application-specific boom and arm designs are best-in-class. | WA

Martin Mattsson is the Director of Key Accounts for Volvo Construction Equipment in North America. He has been with Volvo since 2005 in various product, application and commercial roles. He has been in his current position since 2014. He is responsible for key accounts in the waste and recycling industry as well as Volvo CE’s product portfolio in waste and recycling. Martin was a recipient of the Waste Industry 40 under 40 award in 2017. He is engaged in the industry supporting both NWRA and EREF. He also serves as the Chairman of the EREF Auction Committee. Martin can be reached at [email protected].

Tips on properly inspecting the tires on wheel loaders:
The tips for an excavator walkaround that will help you properly inspect the undercarriage on an excavator: