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Heavy equipment – checking the oil and other fluids

Preventive maintenance and checking the oil is the life of all heavy equipment; heavy equipment relies on its operators to regularly check the oil levels and moving parts. Also, your employer is counting on you to look after his machine while you’re the operator. Below is information that will help you maintain the equipment you operate and make your employer very happy.

In the morning or whenever you start your machine it’s good to be in the habit of doing a visual inspection as you walk toward the heavy equipment. Is it in the same place you left it yesterday? Look for oil leaks, look for anything that doesn’t look right. Look under the equipment for wet spots, if anything has an oil leak it will be on the ground for you to see. Try to remember to place the equipment on level ground before you shut it off, it’s the only way to check the fluids properly. If you’re operating an excavator, remember to leave the machine in the best position for getting out of the cab onto the track and for climbing up on the machine to check the oil and other fluids.

Always use a three point contact when you’re climbing up on any machine and always come back the same you went up. (Backwards) when coming down. I could tell you how to check the fluids for each machine but that would take a week….the best way for us to approach this is for you to find the owner’s manual of the machine you’re going to operate and get acquainted with everything about that machine. The owner manual is normally located behind the seat or one of the compartments behind the seat.

The main thing to know here is that you must be clean when checking the oil, always carry a rag in your pocket for wiping off covers and dipsticks. Wipe the handle of the dipstick off before you pull it out, after you pull it out…wipe the oil from the end of the dipstick and then replace it again. Count to 5 and then pull the dipstick out, don’t hold the dipstick upside down after you pull it out…hold it level so the oil doesn’t run up the stick. I don’t know why but oil will remain on the dipstick all night even though the oil level is low. A lot of operators will pull the dipstick out…see the oil and put it right back in again….WRONG….that’s called laziness and dangerous.

Heavy equipment   checking the oil and other fluids

Please note…some engines will find their own level, you can add oil everyday and every day the oil will be at the same spot the next day. Monitor the fluid levels; get to know your machine and how it acts. If you have to add oil, locate the fill cover, wipe it off and place a funnel in the fill hole. Pour a litre/quart at a time; wait until you think all the oil has drained then check it again. The oil doesn’t have to be filled to exactly the full mark, but close and never overfill an engine. Remember to wipe the oil from everything before you put it away, especially the funnel. Wrap the funnel in a rag and place it in the tool box. For the best results, keep the motor oil in a warm place, it pours so much nicer than when it’s cold.

If you really want to go to the head of the class…check your oils after work. When you’re done work at the end of the day the machine has to idle for a few minutes. While the machine is cooling down you should grab your grease gun and grease the machine. After a few minutes, climb in the machine and shut it off and remove the key. Return to greasing the machine; make sure you wipe off every grease nipple before you place the grease hose over it. The grease nipple is spring loaded, when the grease passes through and around the little ball the spring pushes the ball back out so the grease can’t come back out. The dirt can also pass through the nipple and jam the spring allowing the grease to flow backwards. When you’re done greasing the machine, wipe the grease gun off and place it back in the tool box.

In the summer I keep the grease in the tool box and in the winter I keep the grease in the warm cab with me. Greasing in the winter is a tough job so keeping the grease in a warm place will make your job go a lot smoother, I’ve even kept my grease gun in the cab with me, and my grease gun is always clean. After you’re done cleaning up, check the oil. If the machine needs oil, warm oil will pour so much nicer into a warm engine. You’re ready for morning and way ahead of everyone else.

More on oil and fluids while you’re operating.When you’re operating, pay attention to the ground you’re working. If something starts leaking while you’re operating and becomes dry and you keep operating, there will be expensive damage done. Oil spots are usually quite easy to see, the ground looks different and that should tell you something. Oil spots are really visible on a sunny day, the oil will have a glitter affect almost like a trickle of water. When you learn what all the fluids are, learn also how they smell. I’ve been alerted numerous times while operating by the smell of the fluid that was leaking. Engine oil is very difficult to smell because the engine vent gives off a steady smell of oil that the operator gets used to. The only time you can smell motor oil is immediately after an oil change, the smell comes from the motors vent pipe.

I was caught off guard a few times, I can smell fresh oil right a away….it will last about a day. It’s nothing to worry about either, it’s natural. Learn the smells of engine coolant, hydraulic-oil, diesel fuel, and rear end grease or frequently called gear lube and or 80-90. Transmission oil smells a lot like hydraulic-oil and now a days there is one fluid that does both. If you smell hydraulic fluid, shut your equipment down immediately, if you smell diesel fuel…stop the machine and investigate where the smell is coming from….the machine may have to be running to see where the leak is. Once you locate the leak, shut the machine off and place an oil absorber under the leak if possible. If you’re operating near a water course and if possible, move as far away from the stream as possible.

As I mentioned earlier, check the owner’s manual for exact locations of oil fillers, dipsticks and site glasses. Engine coolant reservoirs would normally be found on the inside of a door panel or somewhere close to the engine. Engine coolant reservoirs will have two level lines, a cold line and a hot line. If the engine is cold then the coolant will be at the cold level mark of course and you know where the coolant will be if the engine is hot! You don’t ever have to remove the cover from the radiator especially when the engine is hot.The hydraulic oil level is seen through a site glass located inside a door or in a place where it can’t be damaged. Transmission levels are much the same now on newer equipment. Dipsticks and site glasses change from machine to machine, and especially the older machines. It’s best to read the manual to know for sure.

Other oils

Other oils you must pay attention to are in the undercarriage area.

The bottom rollers roll on top of the chain and they take an awful beating, especially the back two sets…because they are in direct contact with the loose gravel that is being churned up from steering left to right.

The front idler not only keeps the track straight but also keeps the track tight. Just behind the idler should be a small compartment and inside will be a grease fitting, a grease gun will tighten the track. Don’t over tighten the track, it puts a lot of pressure on all the components causing them to over heat and cause unnesecarry wear.

The track does exactly that, it carries the track and if the track is to tight the carrier is pushed down causing tremendous pressure and heating.

Usually if oil leaks from anyone of these components it will be visible on the track, or you can smell it. The front idler, top roller and bottom idlers can be checked with the touch of your hand. Anytime through the day if you’re stopped for a break or a stretch, walk around the machine and place your hand on each moving part. Each component will be warm but not hot if it has the proper amount of oil in it. If you never see oil leaking and the components never get hot, everything should be good.

Sometimes these components have oil fill plugs and also for checking the level of the oil. The final drive is another story, it’s the part that turns the rear sprocket. The check plug for the final drive is at the back of a dozer, just inside the track and on the excavator it’s on the side of the final drive facing outward. I’ve put pictures on so you can understand what I’m talking about. Study the photo’s and then locate the components on the machine and know what their purpose is.