Manufacturers Offer Tips on Keeping Key Components Operational on Vacuum Excavators

Five tips for contractors to follow when it comes to key systems on vacuum excavators to keep them operational.

Manufacturers Offer Tips on Keeping Key Components Operational on Vacuum Excavators

Contractors can maintenance the chassis fluids without moving the boom on a GapVax unit.

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One of the most versatile pieces of equipment on a construction site is the vacuum excavator. Like most heavy equipment, this hard-working machine has many moving parts that require routine maintenance.

If a vacuum excavator is a vital powerhouse in your construction fleet, consider these five tips for keeping the hydraulic and electrical systems humming smoothly.

1. Keep It Simple

When evaluating the selection of vacuum excavators on the market, there are many features to consider, but choosing a machine that is simple to maintain should top the list.

“A contractor should look for a machine that is ultimately easy to service,” says Kevin Hewitt, warranty and service manager at GapVax, located in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. “Lack of routine maintenance will greatly shorten the life span of a hydroexcavator.”

He adds that when looking at a machine, you want to be able to have easy access to the grease and adjustment points. “If a mechanic or repair person has to fight to gain access to the grease points, you can bet that nine out of 10 times it won’t be greased.”

2. Less Is More

Keeping equipment options to a minimum can reduce maintenance costs and increase productivity.

“It is important to remember that any option you add to the equipment must simplify the operation and reduce the maintenance expense,” says Daniel Coley, president at Hi-Vac of Marietta, Ohio. “Adding an iPad to the truck may be trendy, but it doesn’t make life easier for the operator or maintenance personnel.”

If the electronics provide reliable operator interface that allow them to do more with the truck, such as save water or fuel, then it’s useful, Coley says. Wireless controls can also enhance the operation and control. Coley suggests that if a feature or option doesn’t bring value by enhancing productivity or simplifying the operation or maintenance of the equipment, then the contractor should consider an alternative.

Making selections that keep the hydraulic system less complex is also important. “The more complicated the hydraulic system, the more advanced the cooling and filtration systems must be,” Coley says. “Some of the complicated or advanced hydraulic systems can provide additional operator controls, but it’s best if systems are configured with a less complicated system.”

3. Perform Routine Maintenance

Performing routine maintenance and inspections can add resale value, minimize downtime, lengthen the life of the equipment, help control costs, decrease risks, and improve operator safety.

Referring to the recommended guidelines in the operator’s manual and establishing regular daily, weekly, monthly, semiannual and annual maintenance can go a long way in keeping equipment in peak operation.

“When you hesitate to provide regular maintenance, that’s when things get missed and these mistakes can be very costly,” Hewitt says. 

4. Maintain Accurate Records

Keeping complete and accurate maintenance records, and tracking inspections and repairs, can help preserve the life of the vehicles in your fleet.

Gary Robinson, general manager of Transway Systems, located in Hamilton, Ontario, suggests setting up a scheduled checklist for drivers and mechanics to check oil levels; observe the condition of filters by looking at the gauge on the filter when it’s operating and replacing it as needed; monitor the hydraulic oil for odor, viscosity and color; test all lights for proper operation; and inspect visible wiring for any pinch points or damaged wires.

Documenting every repair with the exact time and date of servicing and keeping a comprehensive record of scheduled and unscheduled repairs not only protects your investment, but it also helps to process warranty claims, reduces unscheduled repairs, and minimizes machine downtime.

5. Contact the Manufacturer

No one knows your equipment like the manufacturer who made it. It’s important to recognize when equipment is in need of routine maintenance and when it’s time to call a pro for repairs.

Coley explains that replacing hose seals and other routine maintenance is relatively easy and can be done in the field, while servicing transfer cases and hydraulic pumps might need to go to a dealer or experienced service professional.

All three industry professionals agree that if any question or concern cannot be answered in the operator or safety manual, contractors should never hesitate to reach out to the manufacturer.

Preventive maintenance key to optimal vacuum excavator performance

Due to the highly abrasive nature of vacuum excavators, it’s vital to establish a comprehensive maintenance regimen that includes daily, weekly, monthly, semiannual and annual inspections to keep the equipment operating properly and ensure operator safety.

Keeping equipment in top working condition can also increase productivity, prolong the life of its components, and help retain its value. The operator and safety manuals are a great place to start to determine the best maintenance regimen.

In general, daily checks should include inspecting any components that might impact the safety of the vacuum excavator, such as guards and vacuum protection devices. Drain points, oil levels, hose fittings and common wear items — like vacuum hoses and tubes — should also be inspected every day. Additionally, each moving joint needs to be periodically cleaned and greased to prevent binding. Semiannual inspections should include examining probes, sensors, belts and bolts, while annual preventive maintenance may involve flushing the hydraulic system.

Other major components that require routine maintenance include the hydraulic and filtration systems. The hydraulic system powers the unit’s moving parts, so it should be regularly cleaned and well-maintained. Filters should routinely be inspected, cleaned and replaced to keep foreign materials from entering and damaging the blower.

When in doubt, always refer to the operator and safety manuals. They are important tools that should be routinely referenced to establish the right maintenance regimen that’s specifically tailored for your equipment.


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