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The benefits of regular preventive maintenance

What is one of the most cost effective ways to help ensure an extended service life for heavy-duty trucks and other large pieces of equipment? The answer: regular preventive maintenance. A rigorous proactive approach can assist in heading off operating problems before they occur or will help to minimize downtime of equipment if abnormal conditions are found early and then quickly corrected.

Regular preventive maintenance service intervals may be different for various types of equipment as well as varying service demands. Depending on the rigors of the operating conditions and field experience, a schedule for preventive maintenance inspections and service can be developed to fit in with active equipment operations.

Preventive maintenance inspections include visual checks to be sure there are no signs of unusual wear or movements of parts. The visual checks should inspect items such as the condition of the tires, brakes and chassis. Be careful to check for fluid leaks -- engine oil, antifreeze coolant, transmission fluid, gear oil, brake fluid, or hydraulic oil. It's also important to talk to the driver or operator for any observations of abnormal performance of the truck or equipment -- in fact, any such observations should be recorded in writing in a logbook or reported at the end of the shift for the record.

Preventive maintenance also includes inspection of the lubricants, such as the condition of the engine oil, transmission fluid, and gear oil. Visual inspection of the fluids alone does not give definitive information about the condition of the fluids. Physical and chemical analyses of the fluids are needed to determine how much useful life is left for the fluids and whether contaminants are present. Also, metals analysis results may indicate whether abnormal wear is occurring or not. In order to establish the proper drain interval, analytical results should be compared to the fluid condemning limits specified by the equipment manufacturer.

The condition of the engine oil is a vital aspect of successful long-term operations of vehicles or other equipment. First, the right oil must be used. The right oil is one that meets all of the requirements of the engine manufacturers. Currently, for four-stroke cycle diesel engines, oils that meet or exceed the American Petroleum Institute (API) Service Category CI-4, with an SAE viscosity of 15W-40, are widely specified. These oils give excellent protection for diesel engines that meet the latest stringent clean engine emissions requirements of today. Of course, API CI-4 oils will also provide excellent lubrication for older diesel engines.

For four-stroke cycle gasoline engines, API Service Category SL and International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC) GF-3 represents the newest category of oils available. Engine manufacturers generally recommend SAE 5W-30 or even 5W-20 viscosity oils for new gasoline engines. Today's API SL, ILSAC GF-3 oils also provide great protection for older gasoline engines, but be sure to use the engine oil viscosity that was recommended for the vehicle.

After the right oil is chosen, an oil analysis program can assist in detecting abnormal aspects of engine operations. Periodic oil analysis results should be analyzed for trends in the physical and chemical properties of the oil versus cumulative miles for the vehicle or cumulative hours of engine operation. Kendall Motor Oil's Kendall Lubricant Analysis System (KLAS) and 76 Lubricant's MaintenanceGuyª Oil Analysis Program, offered exclusively by ConocoPhillips and Dingo, a leading developer of maintenance software systems, are both comprehensive oil analysis programs designed to detect component wear and contamination levels in transmission, hydraulics, differential and final drives, as well as other components.

An effective program like these will also help to accurately tell you when you need to change your oil, or if you should reduce drain interval. Early detection of abnormal behavior in just one engine out of a fleet of many vehicles will more than offset the cost of an oil analysis program. The earlier a problem is detected, the more likely repairs will be smaller in scope, and downtime can be minimized or chosen at the convenience of the operator. Unscheduled downtime can be very costly, not only in lost revenue, but in loss of reputation as being reliable.

Another aspect of a preventive maintenance program is proper greasing. A truck or other heavy-duty equipment has lots of grease points. High quality grease must be used; therefore, look for a grease that lubricates well for the motions and operating conditions present. Resistance to water and heat are desired features. Greases with the designation National Lubricating Grease Institute (NLGI) GC-LB are excellent greases for wheel bearing and chassis lubrication. It is important to grease at intervals per vehicle manufacturer's recommendations, modified perhaps by the operating conditions of the application. Do not over-grease, nor under-grease.

Overall, there is one added benefit to preventive maintenance program, inspection, an oil analysis program and proper greasing: to ensure that the vehicle is operating properly before the warranty expires.

Download a PDF file of the Machinery Digest section from the Mid-February issue of Successful Farming.

What is one of the most cost effective ways to help ensure an extended service life for heavy-duty trucks and other large pieces of equipment? The answer: regular preventive maintenance. A rigorous proactive approach can assist in heading off operating problems before they occur or will help to minimize downtime of equipment if abnormal conditions are found early and then quickly corrected.

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