Operation and Maintenance Tips for Front Loader Machinery

Operating and maintaining front loaders correctly will help keep them running efficiently and safely, and ultimately extend longevity and improve productivity.

Conversely, misusing the functions or operating machines in a way that will cause premature wear of components will increase user risk and can impact significantly on efficiency and productivity.

This is why it is so important for operators to be properly trained, even if they have a great deal of prior experience. A common criticism from manufacturers is that operators don’t realize how new machines have changed technologically and they continue to operate them the way they did decades ago. In addition to training, all operators should also familiarize themselves with the manufacturer’s manual that outlines the correct techniques that should be followed when operating the loader. Manuals also describe ways operators can increase their own comfort and improve productivity.

Tips to Improve Operation and Maintenance

Even though loader functions do differ between brands, these six top tips will help ensure front loader machinery is operated and maintained in the best possible way.

  1. Maintain buckers correctly

front-loader-xotr-tiresBuckets take a beating during operation, so it is vital that they are correctly maintained. For instance, if buckets aren’t greased regularly, the front pin is likely to wear much too quickly. Wear plates on the front should also be turned or replaced regularly to extend the life of the bucket.

It is also important to use the right bucket for the job. When operators use the “wrong” bucket, for example one that doesn’t easily enter the material they are loading, this puts unnecessary stress on the front pins and bushings and can easily damage the bucket and even add to fuel costs. Using buckets suited to materials and applications enables a more efficient operation and minimizes wear of front-end components.

  1. Use brakes properly and declutch

Most loader brakes work with friction that generates heat, so if the brakes are over-applied, they are likely to overheat and wear out more quickly. This can also cause premature break failure. To avoid this, operators should learn to slow down before they plan to stop and let the weight of the heavy machine slow it down before they apply the brakes.

Operators should also be trained to declutch effectively instead of driving through the brakes as they would when driving a truck or hopper. This is another cause of excessive wear to brakes. Instead, operators need to realize that declutch neutralizes the transmission and enables them to work the hydraulics so the machine doesn’t pull against the brake.

  1. Save the clutch

Using the clutch instead of the brakes also causes unnecessary wear and tear. Commonly operators use high-speed shifts using the transmission and torque convertors to change direction and then the accelerator to move forward. Because they avoid using the brakes, these expensive components often overheat and fail prematurely.

Some front loader machinery has safeguards that override operators. For instance the Volvo Optishift larger loaders automatically apply the brake when operators perform these high-speed shifts. Essentially the machine takes care of the problem and protects itself – but not all machines do this. John Deere loaders are protected against overheating to prevent further damage. Other so-called “intelligent” loaders are able to warn operators when there are problems, before there is any damage.

  1. Warm up before operation

When athletes skip warm-up before racing or competing, they often end up with injuries. The same applies to front loader machinery that needs to be warmed up according to the manufacturer’s instruction before use. It isn’t rocket science to realize that warm oil lubricates and travels better than cold oil. Also, hydraulics and axles only warm up once the machine starts working, so it takes a little while for it to achieve full performance.

  1. Follow good shutdown procedures

Proper shutdown is as important as warm-up. If large diesel engines are not allowed to idle and cool down for at least two to three minutes before shutting down, the turbo will still be spinning really fast, but oil won’t be going to the turbocharger. This will generally result in a whole lot of unnecessary and often costly wear and tear, especially as the bearings can easily run dry.

  1. Take care of tires

There are several factors that can lead to both premature wear and even the failure of front loader tires. One of the most common factors is caused by operators who spin the tires without using the differential locks to ensure power is distributed to the two front tires instead of just one of them. Tire spinning can also be the result of using the wrong type of tire on one or even on all the wheels – either the vehicle or the surface the loader is being driven on. For instance a dirt surface requires a much more aggressive and tractive treat pattern than asphalt or concrete.

Incorrect inflation is another factor that commonly results in excessive wear and tear. Low air pressure in radial tires results in heat buildup, because the tires will overheat if the sidewall isn’t kept stiff. This results in the rubber compound degrading, and the tires generally have to be replaced prematurely.