Keep your excavators running their best with this pre-start checklist
As an excavator owner and/or operator, you know it’s not wise to just hop in the cab in the morning and start working right away. While time is money on most of your jobs, not taking a few minutes to do an inspection can hurt your uptime, cause unnecessary damage and wear to your machine, and compromise safety.
I typically train operators to do the following when performing an excavator walkaround:
- Start in the same place every day. For me, I always start at the front of the cab. That way when I end my walkaround, I end at the cab as well.
- Make your inspection routine. Look in non-obvious but critical areas.
- Look up, down, left and right. Be as thorough as you can.
- Report your findings verbally to your supervisor, and provide a written version using a prestart checklist sheet.
For the actual inspection, here’s a basic checklist your crew can use each time before they fire up and operate their excavators:
- Visually inspect all compartments to see if there’s any leakage or damage to components, then take the necessary action if anything is wrong. Proactive inspections typically result in increased uptime.
- Walk around the machine and make a visual check. Take a close look at the boom and arm for cracks, especially if you’re working in extremely harsh conditions or in very cold climate zones. Areas to inspect that will ultimately save you both time and money in unnecessary repair costs include:Boom and cylinder mounting (leaks and damages to the boom arm and bucket cylinder)
- Arm and cylinder mounting
- Bucket and cylinder mounting
- Main pump compartment
- Battery compartment
- Swing drive and main control valve
- Track drive
- Track chain and shoes (inspect the track pads for damage and loose bolts, and check the track chain for any frozen links)
- Lower frame damage
- Superstructure damage
- Side doors and cowl frames
- The electrical box and the engine air filter are located behind the cab. If the system is indicating “full water separator,” drain it in a safe container.
- The cab air filter is also located behind the cab. Make sure the filter is clean, especially if operating in a dusty environment.
- Check the radiator and coolers for any damage. If you’re working in a confined environment, check that the coolers are not clogged — clogged coolers and radiators could result in poor performance or overheating. Be sure you’re following the maintenance intervals carefully.
- Check the hydraulic lines for leaks — a damaged line can create heat in the system or severe oil leakage.
- Check all hydraulic connections, pipes and hoses for any external damage.
- When an excavator is new and the engine has run only a few hours, it’s a good idea to take a look at the engine oil level. This check can be easily carried out from the cab by looking at the display. If you prefer to do it the traditional way, open up the two latches and the engine hood, which has a self-locking upper position. Check the oil and always use a clean paper towel to avoid any contamination on the dipstick. The oil level should be between the min and max levels.
- Remove dirt or small pieces of rock in the bucket linkage.
- Finally, turn on the main battery switch before entering the cab — no power can be distributed until the main battery switch is on.
There are also a few things you should do at the end of a shift to ensure the next day’s work starts off right:
- Be sure to fill up with fuel at the end of the day’s shift — this will reduce the risk of condensation developing in the tank overnight. While filling up the tank, fill up on AdBlue® as well.
- Always disconnect the main battery switch.
- Park the excavator with the digging equipment fully extended. In this position, the piston rods are protected.
- Clean the undercarriage to reduce strain on the components, especially during wintertime. If you fail to do this, the mud in the chain can freeze to the undercarriage and you may be unable to move the machine the next day. Not cleaning out the undercarriage will greatly reduce its life and likely add unnecessary expenses.
You should always consult your operator’s manual for more information on this topic. Many excavator owners pair their machines with haul trucks, so don’t forget to follow the proper prestart checks for your haulers, too.
(“Keep your excavators running their best with this pre-start checklist” was used from “https://volvoceblog.com/keep-your-excavators-running-their-best-with-this-prestart-checklist/” on 6/11/20.)