Customer-Centric Field Service Business
Arūnas Eitutis | 9 august 2023

How to Prevent Your Motor Grader From Breaking Down

The motor grader is a powerful machine commonly used in landscaping, and excavation. Its primary function is to shape and even out surfaces to prepare them for roadbuilding or a construction site. Motor grader operation usually involves work on rough terrain, where dust, debris, and other abrasive materials cause damage to the entire motor grader machine.

Motor graders perform optimally when workers follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and keep the machine in good condition. If you ever wondered, “how can I prevent my motor grader from breaking down?”, this guide is for you. With assistance from experts at Frontu, here you will learn everything you need about motor grader maintenance. These tips will help you ensure precision and operator safety throughout the entire construction process, where faulty heavy-duty machines can endanger motor grader operators and other workers.

Motor grader maintenance tips

This segment covers all maintenance tasks and servicing needs to make sure that your motor grader performs optimally. With the help of this protocol, your heavy equipment will continue producing precise work with minimal wear and tear.

Daily maintenance inspections

Daily maintenance procedures are mandatory inspections that are usually completed once or twice a day. Motor grader operators have an assigned set of instructions that lets them assess the overall health of the machine. Because they spend the most time at the operator station and are the best judges of equipment’s performance, operators are the most suitable workers for daily maintenance tasks. Here are the main components that require daily servicing and examination:

Machine’s air filters

Proper filtering is the key to optimal performance of a motor grader. Air filters are placed in two strategic areas – the engine compartment, and the operator’s cabin. The engine’s air filter needs to be frequently cleaned and checked for any damages, as rough grading can create dirt clogs and other contamination, causing the engine to burn more fuel. Other air filters ensure operator safety by maintaining breathable air in the cabin, as well as stopping the wear and tear of your motor graders.

Motor grader blade

A motor grader blade is the main component that comes in contact with your machine. Manufacturers recommend checking the blade and its cutting edge after every shift. This estimation is accurate, and some technicians recommend inspecting the blade’s edges at least twice a day, especially in situations where the cutting edges are always in contact with abrasive materials. Keep your blades at the right angles. Daily inspections focus on keeping the grader blade sharp and functional, and the manufacturer’s recommendations encourage frequent replacements of the motor grader blade. If the machine’s grade does not move smoothly through handled terrain, the rough grading will transfer the damages into the moldboard, for which replacement is a far costlier task.

Tire condition

Motor graders move through rough terrain a lot more than regular vehicles; thus the damage to its tires is usually more significant. To counter that, these heavy-duty machines come with bigger reinforced tires to guarantee precise movement with absolute minimum resistance. Grader tires have a different tread design, and the operator inspects them by checking tire pressure, and conducting a general overview of the tires and their state, making sure the tread is never below half an inch deep.

Fluid servicing

Motor graders have many mechanical parts interacting with each other, and lubrication ensures that the moving components are less affected by traction and abrasive materials. On top of that, the cooling system prevents the engine and electrical components from overheating. During daily inspections, the operator checks the level of the engine oil, coolant liquid, transmission fluid, and fuel levels.

Cleaning and other tasks

During daily inspection tasks, the operator cleans and quickly inspects all components, as well as makes notes for parts with similar wear and tear. This way, they can be replaced simultaneously in the future without causing further damage to other components. First, we start with the cutting blade and the moldboard, as these are the parts that do the heavy lifting. Make sure to keep your motor grader clean, and note any visible signs of damage to the machine’s frame, and main components. Also, quickly evaluate the state of electrical components, battery contacts, fan belts, and other parts, even in the operator’s cabin.

Preventive maintenance tips

Preventive maintenance procedures are closely related to daily inspections, where cleaning and evaluation help the skilled technicians plan other servicing tips. At first, these tasks focus on keeping the motor grader safe from contaminants; thus the state of your air filtering system always remains the priority. Aside from components described in the daily maintenance section, these are the key parts and aspects that keep the machine efficient and operational, where preventive maintenance strategies guarantee their optimal performance and swift replacement:

Clevis pins and hydraulic components

As a part that interlocks the hydraulic cylinders with your motor grader, clevis pins do not suffer as much abrasion as the cutting blade. However, if kept in poor condition, they can create a significant weak spot, causing significant damage to the internal components of the machine, which are often a lot harder to replace. Make sure to check these parts once every 1–3 months.

Blade slide

A blade slide is a component that allows more lateral manoeuvrability on a swivel track – an undercarriage section that lets you control the back wheels, ensuring sharper blade slide movement. Cleaning, lubrication, and frequent inspections create an optimal approach to their maintenance. Monthly maintenance procedures and quick daily inspections help operators identify these damages, so take them seriously before they start visibly affecting the grader’s performance. As you inspect the blade slide, do not forget about metal shim glides, and evaluate the state of each bronze or metal shim, mounted at four different points of your blade slide.

Loose blade handles

Even for the cutting edge and blade angle in optimal condition, loose blade handles can cause a lot of damage to the motor grader due to inaccurate movement and handling of the materials. Make sure to always keep an eye on components connected to the motor grader blade.

Scarifier shank

A scarifier shank is only used in special cases, but it still needs to be cleaned, as the buildup of contaminants can seep into other components.

Remember – cleaning is the ultimate preventive maintenance strategy that will increase operation hours for your machine. The biggest benefit of these procedures is the simplification of the repair process. By documenting the state of components and comparing it to the expected lifespan in the manufacturer’s manual.

Work conditions

While most motor grader maintenance tasks have an approximate servicing interval, with procedures split into daily, weekly, and monthly schedules, these estimates can shift depending on the grader’s working conditions. Here are the 4 main levels of landscaping and excavation severity that will help you evaluate your situation and set up an appropriate maintenance strategy.

Minimal grading and terrain maintenance

The lowest level of difficulty, minimal grading primarily focuses on small changes and landscaping to prepare a workable surface for construction. In these work conditions, a motor grader has an even surface to operate on, and the tasks require little manoeuvrability. Minimal grading causes far less damage to the grader blade, which means less time spent on inspection and repairs.

Moderate grading and handling of abrasive materials

Moderate grading includes working with rocks and uneven surfaces that could strain the machine and damage its internal components. Hard and compact materials are more difficult to move and manipulate, and contact with the grader blade will slowly cause it to chip away. In such cases, an operator has to be trained to deploy a scarifier shank and minimise the contact between cutting edges and hard materials

Intense grading and uneven surfaces

The next level of stress for motor graders, working on uneven surfaces really puts the manoeuvrability of heavy equipment to the test, and more intense grading tasks create even more depreciation for the machine’s components. Intense grading tasks need a lot more lifting and handling of hard materials, which damage the cutting edge and the moldboard faster.

Extreme grading and harsh weather conditions

Extreme grading tasks really put your motor grader maintenance tasks up to the test. Even a well-serviced machine can struggle and demand frequent repairs after intense digging and excavation. To make things more complex, seasonal changes can create horrible weather conditions. At this point, it is near impossible to perform intense earthmoving tasks in intense rain, mud, or snowmelt slush without causing more damage to the machine. If possible, try to avoid working your motor graders in these situations if you want them to last longer.

Landscaping and excavation tasks can be dangerous. To protect yourself and the health of your employees, make sure to follow excavation safety tips provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Motor grader servicing schedule

Motor grader maintenance intervals depend on the wear and tear of its components. Here is a quick breakdown of a recommended distribution of servicing tasks:

Daily maintenance: Visual inspection of the motor grader blade, electrical components, fluid levels and overall handling of the machine during operation. Make notes on the state of parts to replace them before total equipment failure and clean the equipment to prevent clogging and contamination from seeping into internal parts.

Weekly maintenance: Check your hydraulic system, replenish fluid levels, inspect the tyre tread and pressure, adjust loose blade handles, and schedule replacements of depreciated parts to minimise downtime and save money.

Monthly maintenance: Change air filter parts, replace fluids and other damaged components, inspect the state of parts and compare them with life expectancy in the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Again, keep in mind that your servicing interval may deviate from the average due to unexpected damages and harsh working conditions. Use this template, or any other maintenance checklist online to find the suitable variant for your machine and intense work conditions.

Operator training

To successfully use and service motor graders, operators should go over basic training that will help them perform daily inspections, make timely adjustments, and take initiative without the frequent intervention of skilled technicians. By providing them with helpful motor grader maintenance tips, optimal handling suggestions, and signs of damage to look out for, you can prevent your motor graders from breaking down and compromising the workflow.

Heavy equipment software

Digitalisation provides valuable assistance to parties that want more control, threat detection, and automated maintenance warnings for motor graders. The newest, high-end machines can use heavy equipment software, electrical components, and internal sensors to automate the tracking of vulnerable grader parts. With designated equipment managers deploying and maintaining the software, the decisions and actions within the work site become a lot more efficient.

Summary

A tight and adjustable equipment maintenance schedule is the key to keeping your motor grader in top condition for as long as possible. Combined with skilled operation, scheduled repairs, and automated tracking, a well-handled machine will outlast its expected lifespan and save you a lot of money through efficient fuel consumption.

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.

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