Breaker Maintenance 101

Tue July 30, 2013 - National Edition
Greg Petherbridge


Some manufacturers offer a feature on their breakers that can reduce the occurrence of blank firing. For instance, Chicago Pneumatic’s RX breaker line offers the Power Stop function to help protect the tool.
Some manufacturers offer a feature on their breakers that can reduce the occurrence of blank firing. For instance, Chicago Pneumatic’s RX breaker line offers the Power Stop function to help protect the tool.
Some manufacturers offer a feature on their breakers that can reduce the occurrence of blank firing. For instance, Chicago Pneumatic’s RX breaker line offers the Power Stop function to help protect the tool. Proper maintenance for a rig-mounted hydraulic breaker is extremely important to guarantee the longevity of a machine, which will ultimately impact a company’s bottom line.

Proper maintenance for a rig-mounted hydraulic breaker is extremely important to guarantee the longevity of a machine, which will ultimately impact a company’s bottom line. When it comes to caring for a rig-mounted breaker, the approach should be two-fold:

  • Maximizing performance through proper use in the field.
  • Setting up a hands-on preventative maintenance schedule.

The combination of these two practices will lead to a long, productive life for a rig-mounted hydraulic breaker.

In the Field

Proper use of the tool in everyday operation can ensure that contractors are minimizing repairs later down the road. There are a few things that operators can do to make sure that they are capitalizing on their equipment investment.

It’s not uncommon for operators to use the hammer on the breaker to pry concrete or rock into a better position. This is one of the worst practices an operator can engage in when it comes to keeping the breaker in optimal condition. Using the hammer as a prybar causes serious damage. The tool can become misaligned, and rub against the bushing, causing unnecessary wear to important components.

Furthermore, operators should make it a common practice to ensure that their tool moves without obstruction in the bushing. If at any point during operation, it feels like the tool is not moving freely, the operator should immediately discontinue use and perform a visual inspection of the breaker.

It also is a good practice to encourage operators to get to know their equipment before taking it out to a job site. If an operator is comfortable with the breaker, there will most likely be fewer maintenance related incidents in the field. Inexperienced operators should take some time to learn about the equipment and how to use it before getting behind the controls.

Another important measure to take in the field is that the breaker should be used only in short bursts. Running the tool continuously for more than 15 to 25 seconds can cause extreme heat buildup and warp the tool, which ultimately decreases performance and productivity.

Additionally, if the target material is not breaking after 15 to 25 seconds, chances are that it won’t break without repositioning the material and/or the breaker tip. These few seconds of rest between operations are crucial to the integrity of the tool.

Seasoned operators also know that blank firing also is a common mistake in the field that can affect the longevity the breaker. Knowing how to avoid blank firing is something that can only be learned after many hours behind the controls.

Blank firing commonly occurs right after material is broken, and is basically the tool firing against itself since there is no material underneath. The force from that blow has to go somewhere, and if that power is not being absorbed by the rock or concrete, the breaker ends up absorbing the force. That can cause unnecessary wear to the components. Some manufacturers offer a feature on their breakers that can reduce the occurrence of blank firing. For instance, Chicago Pneumatic’s RX breaker line offers the Power Stop function to help protect the tool.

Establishing a Maintenance Plan

The second part of ensuring that a rig-mounted hydraulic breaker has a long, productive life is to establish a proactive maintenance plan.

Lubrication is hands-down, the most important process for maintaining a rig-mounted breaker. A lack of proper lubrication is directly related to a shorter overall lifespan of the unit. To help contractors protect their investment, many manufacturers offer an automatic lubrication system. In the case of CP, a feature called CP-Lube is available for all RX breaker models from RX14 and up.

Lubrication should be checked daily. While performing this daily visual check, an operator should also check the retainer pins to make sure they are in the proper position. The third step in an operator’s daily visual inspection should be to make sure that the tool moves freely in the bushing.

After 100 hours of use, the carrier’s hydraulic filter should be inspected and changed, if necessary. Clean hydraulic oil is key to maximizing the life of a breaker. At this 100-hour mark, it is also a good idea to perform a thorough check of the breaker, and remove the components for a closer look. After the inspection, be sure to tighten all bolts to the required torque.

The next point of inspection for a breaker should be at around 1,000 hours — at which point the carrier’s hydraulic oil and oil filter will need to be changed. This is also a good opportunity for contractors to check the flow settings and adjust, if needed. A number of manufacturers will suggest inspection and replacement of the seals at this point as well, however, CP’s line of RX breakers can typically last 1,500 to 2,000 hours without needing to replace the seals.

Sound Operation and Proactive Maintenance Equal a Productive Machine

A savvy operator and a comprehensive maintenance plan go a long way when it comes to maximizing the life of a rig-mounted hydraulic breaker. One practice without the other will not produce optimal results for the unit. It is the combination of proper use and proper care that extends the life of the breaker and ultimately puts more money back in contractors’ pockets.

Greg Petherbridge is the product manager for both the rig-mounted breaker line and the compaction equipment line for Chicago Pneumatic Construction Equipment.