Experts: Attachments Need Frequent TLC to Thrive

Mon December 23, 2002 - National Edition
Darryl Seland

Nowadays, many manufacturers do more than just provide an operator’s manual with a maintenance schedule to their attachment customers and dealers.

Owners, operators and technicians are kept abreast of the latest preventative maintenance measures through hands-on and traditional training and certification classes, providing tips and explaining the upkeep of various attachments.

Knowing is Half the Battle

“The single absolute most important item in a preventative maintenance program for hydraulic breakers is to educate the operator on the proper operation and maintenance of a hydraulic breaker,” said BTI regional managers Terry McKague, Harry Brandt and Russell Walton. “Proper operation is vital to the life of a hydraulic breaker.”

Companies such as BTI and NPK said they provide a substantial amount of training for their dealers and customers. They offer training options including hands-on job site training as well as classroom-based structure and function, maintenance and operation training.

According to NPK, it “has always strongly promoted training for both dealers and users. It is felt that anytime a customer or dealer will take the time to allow training that it becomes a win-win situation.”


Although NPK has no certification criteria for preventative maintenance, dealer personnel attending the yearly service conferences held at NPK’s Cleveland headquarters receive extensive training on the latest preventive maintenance practices.

According to McKague, Brandt and Walton, service personnel at BTI’s dealer locations are given a one-day course on attachment maintenance, operation, and trouble-shooting. This course includes installation techniques and setting of hydraulic circuits. A more in -depth training is offered yearly at our factory, which is widely attended by our dealer organization.”

Complete certification and training also are part of the program for such manufacturers as Toro Dingo, Tramac John Deere and Allied.

Keys to Success

According to many manufacturers, the key elements to a successful preventative maintenance program include paying particular attention to greasing, regular visual inspection and keeping equipment clean.

“Grease should be considered to be a ’part’ in a hydraulic breaker, the unit should not be run without the proper type and amount of grease,” said McKague, Brandt and Walton. “Reduced wear, corrosion protection, resistance to water and oxidation, good release and extreme pressure properties, and wide working temperature range are all benefits of selecting an appropriate chisel paste and using it diligently,” they added.

Many manufacturers recommend greasing frequently, every two to eight hours – or every hour in some cases.

When it comes to inspection, Geith follows the adage of “fix [it] before it’s broken.”

According to NPK, proactively addressing wear that occurs in areas that take the brunt of the punishment can ward off extensive and costly repair and replacement.

“Neglecting [worn] parts often causes other components to fail, resulting in a much greater long-term expense,” said Brad Paine of Toro Dingo.

In addition, McKague, Brandt and Walton also mentioned that excessive signs of wear reveal if attachments are being used improperly or in the wrong application.

Regularly cleaning equipment can also aid in visual inspection, as John Deere pointed out. “This will allow the operator to know if something needs to be fixed for the next day,” according to John Deere. “Additionally, cleaning it every day keeps the attachment in better condition for longer life.”

Attachments v. Heavy Equipment

According to NPK, depending on the attachment, the degree of preventative maintenance and frequency of this maintenance varies greatly. “A hydraulic hammer in a quarry application that is operated primarily in the vertical position with an automatic greasing unit continually greasing the tool bushings will not require the tool bushings to be replaced as frequently as the same unit being hand greased,” said NPK. “This is mainly due to the automatic greaser keeping a constant and qualified amount of grease in the bushing area to not only lubricate but to keep debris flushed from the bushing area.”

Another good example is a processor used to cut steel scrap.

“New blades are very efficient in processing thin light material,” said NPK. “However, as the blades begin to experience wear the efficiency is greatly reduced when cutting light material to the point that the blade wear allows thin material to become jammed between the blades, thus locking the jaws in an unmovable situation that can cause unexpected and costly downtime.”

Using the processor on larger material, such as beams and structural steel, after they have worn increases the utilization of its blades. “This type of monitoring will increase production and enhance the customers use of the attachment,” added NPK.

Generally attachments are simpler than maintaining heavy equipment. They typically do not have engines, transmissions or axles. However, according to Jim Koch of Sweepster, “One issue to address is the impact that the attachment has on the vehicle it is mounted on. For example if a sweeper is mounted on a wheel loader, the air filter on the loader may have to be changed more often. Or if a vibratory roller is mounted on a skid steer, checking and tightening fasteners on the boom structure may have to be done more often,” said Koch.

According to Koch, the attachment and vehicle have to be maintained and viewed as a package, with the impact of the attachment on the vehicle addressed in the vehicle maintenance.

“It is important to remember that the attachment is a parasite, if the host carrier is ill, then the attachment will suffer from these deficiencies also,” said NPK. “This could be seen as sub par performance and lower than expected productivity, all of which translates in to dollars being spent that should be otherwise seen as profits.”