Arūnas Eitutis | 20 July 2023

Monitoring Roadheaders: How Can I Prevent My Roadheader From Breaking Down?

Roadheader machines are essential tools in coal mines, construction and excavation sites, as well as other places where work progress depends on the rock-cutting process. As industrial-grade excavation machines, their power is detrimental to ensuring safety and efficient labour in underground structures.

However, excavating equipment does not come cheap, hence monitoring and servicing these machines is crucial for effective roadheader performance. Cutting power, wear resistance, compressive strength, and other parameters dictate machine performance that can go bad quickly if machine components are dirty or unmaintained.

In this guide, you will learn how to monitor roadheaders and determine proper servicing intervals. These machines are among the largest units in mining and excavation, therefore keeping them in top condition will help you avoid high costs for repairs or machine replacement. Follow the steps below to reduce the damage to roadheaders and maximise their operating hours.

Also, keep in mind that the general recommendations also apply to different excavation machines. Check them out to learn more about coal mining, rock properties, the effect of excavated material, and other important factors that can affect your entire machine.

How do I monitor roadheaders?

Roadheader performance depends on effective and efficient monitoring of cutting heads, hydraulic system, and other main components. Also, maintenance costs can differ greatly depending on mining and excavation conditions: harmful vibrations, rock strengths, cutting parameters, operating weight, and other factors that affect the wear rate. Here are the main properties to look for:

Cutting performance

A rockheader machine lives and dies by the cutting performance. Different cutter head types can have different wear resistance, specific energy consumption, and depreciation when in contact with rock formations. Before continuing work in mines and underground caverns, modern companies focus on rock cutting test results. They estimate the wear down for each cutterhead design, as well as how the process affects the functionality of other mounted equipment. Roadheader weight can also affect the rock cutting process, as the bigger unit with unconfined compressive strength allows the machine to cut through hard rock better during mining and tunnelling operations.

Roadheader equipment comes in a large range of sizes to suit different underground conditions. The most common one is the boom-type roadheaders that use an adjustable boom arm to cut rock with a mounted cutting head. The rock header machine needs a well-maintained boom hand to work efficiently and avoid accidents. Their cutting performance and performance prediction depend on cleaning, lubrication, and other servicing tasks that keep the boom hand effective. If done correctly, it allows the cutting head to reach the rock face and interact with the material safely, ensuring fast and efficient removal of material during mining or tunnel excavation.

Rock mass properties

Because the excavated material comes in different shapes sizes and parameters, understanding the rock mass properties helps companies predict the wear and tear of cutting heads and other roadheader components, as well as make adjustments to pick the safest and most efficient tools to interact with the tunnel face and other surfaces

Rock cutting tests

Rock cutting tests help allow us to make servicing and repair predictions and prevent equipment failure. Interactions with different surfaces and a deeper understanding of rock mechanics let you make the necessary adjustments and eliminate uncertainty. That being said, remember that tunnels and other excavation sites are still dangerous and unpredictable working sites.

Tests and performance measurements are valuable parameters for measuring depreciation. However, most successful companies still perform regular servicing and maintenance checks to keep the site safe and ensure roadheader efficiency and longevity.

How often should I service my rock cutting equipment?

Roadheder monitoring and servicing intervals can vary depending on the working conditions, operating hours, and interactions with surrounding materials. To keep the process simple and predictable, most companies use these strategies:

Follow manufacturer’s recommendations

No one knows a roadheader better than its manufacturer. User manuals provide detailed information on the average lifetime of a machine, as well as the expected weardown of specific components. The manufacturer provides rough estimates for roadheader monitoring, which usually take the low-end number for additional safety

Schedule regular maintenance checks

Construction, mining, and excavation companies routine checkups to avoid surprises and clean, fix, or replace the component just in time. For that, there is no better foundation than the information provided by the manufacturer. Equipment managers use their basic guidelines to structure the priority of maintenance checks, as well as make more accurate weardown prediction models.

Work with operators to detect gradual failure

While a company may possess a few different models of a roadheader machine, no one knows the ins and outs of an individual machine more than its operator. The success of preventive maintenance checks and repairs depends on the mindful operation and reports from these workers.

After each shift, or before a routine checkup, an equipment manager may conduct a quick survey on any strange noises, damages, and odd interactions with the roadheader that could signal an underlying issue and signs of gradual failure. If a bigger issue surfaces before the component reaches its expected lifetime, a company can stop the further damage to the tool, and make adjustments to the maintenance schedule if other machines follow the same trends. That being said, keep in mind that these factors may vary greatly depending on your working conditions, and any environmental changes can bring new challenges for your mining and excavation machines.

Visual inspection of roadheader components

Alongside reports, operator managers run visual inspections of their roadheaders to determine any signs of damage before starting the shift and racking up additional operation hours. Boom hands and cutting heads receive the most attention, as their accuracy and functionality can mean the difference between life and death in underground tunnels. A quick rundown of other parts, as well as less frequent inspection of the undercarriage also helps determine the overall state of the machine and its ability to connect all components together.

Service interval recommendations

Alongside regular maintenance procedures that occur before every shift or at least once a week, most companies run a deeper inspection every 300 to 500 hours. These procedures focus on hydraulics, electrical parts, and other components less affected by dust, debris, and direct contact with excavated material.


Roadheader servicing and monitoring procedures can spiral out of control if company employees do not follow strict guidelines. A well-maintained machine ensures the safety of workers within the site and greatly speeds up the work while reducing repair and maintenance costs. By following the steps described above, modern businesses get the most value out of expensive, industrial-grade machines.

Arūnas Eitutis
Founder & CEO

Arūnas is spearheading the Frontu efforts as the company’s CEO but still finds the time to share some of his knowledge, expertise and experience in the FSM sector through our blog.

Bring simplicity to your field service operations.

Frontu makes running a successful field service business effortless. Try for yourself.

Get a Demo