A backhoe loader is one of the most popular machines on modern construction sites. By combining flexible movement with the ability to excavate and transport material, their impressive work output speeds up tons of tasks in not only construction, but also mining, landscaping, excavation, and similar use cases.
However, all heavy equipment machines experience depreciation. When you have a machine running for the entire work shift, it might be the time to start paying attention to its maintenance. In this beginner’s guide, we will cover the basics of backhoe maintenance for efficient work and job site safety. Keep reading to learn valuable insights on core machine components, backhoe operators, and recommended maintenance plans, brought to you by experts at Frontu.
What are the key components of a backhoe loader
Before getting into maintenance and servicing procedures it is a good practice to brush up on backhoe loader basics. This section covers the key components of backhoe loaders, from complex hydraulic systems, to parts as simple as loader arms.
The engine is a central component for most heavy equipment machines. It is responsible for both the empowerment of the vehicle, and pressurisation processes that generate work output, which controls the bucket – a compartment unit attached to the loader arms that picks up and stores desired materials. Regular engine oil and filter replacements are necessary to make sure it remains efficient while working at peak power. Excessive wear on external machine components can lead to contaminants entering the engine compartment. Maintaining the heart of your backhoe loader will lead to productive fuel consumption and improved safety.
If the engine provides power to the vehicle, the hydraulic system uses this energy to pressurise hydraulic fluid. Just like veins and arteries carry oxygen across our bodies, this liquid gets delivered to pistons that empower all backhoe loader components that are responsible for producing physical work: the loader arm, bucket, and other attachments. Cleaning air filters and maintaining optimal hydraulic fluid levels will boost productivity and prevent the necessity of frequent repairs.
Loader arms are extendable contraptions that transform and reshape to reach an optimal access point to a desired material. By lifting and manipulating the position of an attached loader bucket, the arm forces it to seep into the surface for effective digging. Keeping the loader arm in good shape is crucial, as its sudden breakdown without available replacement parts will lead to costly equipment downtime.
If a loader arm is like a real arm with extra features, a loader bucket is your hand. While its main purpose is to pick up and carry materials, many underestimate the importance of bucket teeth. Without proper maintenance, the wear and tear of its edges will impair its digging ability, therefore frequent checkups and replacements are needed for effective digging, loading, and unloading.
How many hours will a backhoe last?
The average life expectancy of a backhoe loader can be skewed by many different factors: the machine’s model, workload, operator’s competence, dirt and other abrasive materials in the environment, plus other aspects. That being said, most backhoes stay within the range of 7,000 to 15,000 operation hours.
With frequent fluid level checks, gradual repairs, and assistance from special maintenance personnel will help you reach the high-end of this range, or even go higher. If you want to make sure that your machine serves you as long as possible, please refer to the owner’s manual, which will cover all components and their needs in great detail.
What is considered high hours on a backhoe?
If your backhoe loaders are kept in good shape and operators know how to handle such equipment, reaching 10,000 hours is already a great milestone that is usually a byproduct of a good maintenance plan. With frequent inspections for leaks, damage to hoses, tires, and overall state of the machine, your backhoe loader can reach these limits, or go even further.
What should you not do with a backhoe?
Backhoe loaders are sturdy enough to lift and transport all kinds of abrasive materials, but there are still mistakes and bad practices that occur during operation hours and cause significant damage to the machine. Exceeding the weight limit on a backhoe bucket is the most common mistake by operators that can quickly lead to total equipment failure and a wave of necessary repairs.
Also, the operation of an overloaded bucket is dangerous for both the operator and the safety of nearby employees. Lifting heavy weights will not only cause the arm and the bucket to break down, but also damage the entire vehicle with extra stress and balance changes.
How do I know when my backhoe needs to be serviced
Backhoe loader is a multi-functional machine whose versatility is rarely matched on a construction site. Due to a constant strain on equipment, daily maintenance procedures are necessary to keep the machine in operational state and minimise downtime.
A proper maintenance plan consists of various proactive procedures like daily visual inspections, fluid servicing and lubrication, and organised reactions to unexpected breakdowns, leaks, excessive dirt accumulation, and other influential factors.
There is no better time than now
For versatile machines and their maintenance, equipment servicing should be a continuous operation that dedicates tons of attention to servicing of main components, inspecting functionality of electrical components, and keeping moving parts lubricated. Fluid testing, cooling system servicing, grease application to pivot points, and other moving parts.
General maintenance tips and service steps
Before every shift (and after, if your machine clocks in a lot of operation hours) operators should conduct visual examinations, where they inspect the backhoe for leaks, poor fluid levels, and any other visible damages.
Cleaning is one of the key aspects in backhoe maintenance. Keeping main components free of dirt, debris, and various abrasive materials will stop damage to other components, while clean radiators and cooling components will prevent the vehicle from overheating.
Of course, daily maintenance tasks need to ensure that all safety tools work well, and warning labels remain visible to other employees. For more information on backhoe safety guidelines in the United Kingdom, please refer to excavator safety instructions from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Basic preventive maintenance program
Most equipment maintenance plans start with a simple checklist, and backhoe loaders are not an exception. To minimise the downtime for these machines, write down the essential servicing tasks in order by priority.
Then, establish appropriate maintenance intervals, and refer to recommendations in the backhoe owner’s manual. For parts that are integral to the functionality of a backhoe loader, maintenance tasks are organised as daily or weekly servicing procedures, while the state of auxiliary connections, battery terminals, tire pressure, and health of sturdier components do not have to be as frequent in your maintenance schedule. Also, these tasks are usually outsourced to skilled technicians, while daily procedures can be done by operators responsible for a specific vehicle.
While splitting essential tasks into time intervals will help you keep the machine in optimal condition, incorporating heavy equipment software to manage your backhoes and other machines is a great way to reduce the frequency of necessary inspections while keeping an eye on its state through an efficient management system. It simplifies record keeping and informs employees about sudden service needs a lot faster.
Heavy industrial machines are the backbone of most construction projects, and backhoes are responsible for a large portion of work output in digging, landscaping, and excavation. Keeping them in good condition is the key to avoiding hefty repair costs and minimising downtime.