Words and Photos: Mitch Fedie, Product Manager, Pettibone/Traverse Lift LLC
Machines have made our lives easier for years in every walk of life. This is especially true in construction and masonry applications, where the level of improvement isn’t just a matter of enhanced convenience but of being exponentially more productive with equipment than without it.
The telehandler is a perfect example, with its ability to deliver the lifting power necessary to move heavy loads to elevated heights in a safe and efficient manner. But like many machines, a telehandler needs regular maintenance to be most effective. It’s critical to stay on top of the simple things to maintain your telehandler, both for uptime and profitability on individual projects and for the overall longevity of your equipment investment.
Daily and Periodic Maintenance
Equipment owners can keep operating costs down on their telehandlers by ensuring their operators and service technicians follow OEM recommended service intervals and making sure equipment is getting daily pre-operation checks.
The user’s manual for a telehandler outlines comprehensive lists and instructions for routine maintenance, safety, and troubleshooting. Attention to detail is imperative for the equipment to operate as intended for a long time. Simple daily procedures like checking engine oil, transmission fluid, air filters, and keeping the machine greased greatly help ensure the longevity of the machine and avoid more serious and costly repairs.
The boom should be lubricated every 30 hours or every week. There are several grease points for the boom, all of which should be greased to prevent friction that can wear out pads more quickly. Without adequate grease, the boom gear can become sticky or noisy, and the load may not move efficiently.
Everyone who operates a telehandler needs to be trained to do visual inspections before starting work. Be alert to leaks, rust, damage, fluid levels, safety guards, secure clamps, and anything that doesn’t look right. Tires should be inflated to the proper PSI and inspected for damage.
Even something like filling the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tank – for telehandler models that require it – is still occasionally overlooked by the user. Make sure to keep this tank filled with fresh DEF because without it, the machine can shut down, and a service tech will need to be called in to re-flash the ECU. Such a delay on a jobsite can be very costly.
In addition to daily checks, perform regular maintenance and simple visual inspections between jobs. Make sure the wear pads are in the correct spec to ensure smooth boom travel. Check hydraulic hoses for leaks. Maximize your investment and ensure it’s always safe to use by keeping it in good working order.
Like it has within many equipment categories, telematics has emerged as a key technology for telehandlers. This is an important development for monitoring anything service-related on the machine, providing equipment owners with readily available data that they can use to assess daily or long-term maintenance needs.
With real-time access to the status of a telehandler, many potential issues can be caught and avoided before they can become serious issues. Maintenance alerts can cover anything from notifying you that it’s time for a 2,000-hour inspection to checking battery voltage to remotely diagnosing an engine error code. Equipment owners can also simply check to ensure their machines are located where expected.
Certain issues can actually be troubleshot remotely using the telematics dashboard on a computer or smartphone app. This is particularly advantageous when a telehandler is on a faraway jobsite. Instead of service technicians driving out to check on an unknown issue, the problem can be potentially diagnosed and solved with a few taps on a screen.
In other situations, an equipment problem may require an on-site service call, but the field technicians responding will have more information about the problem. In fact, depending on the affected components, telematics can even let you know the exact part number that needs replacing. Techs can then ensure they have the necessary replacement part before heading to the jobsite to make the repair.
It’s not always possible to have the most skilled and experienced operator in the cab, so having a machine break down as a result of operator error is another issue that can be minimized. Having telematics in place to provide alerts to operators is a good proactive measure toward ensuring short-term uptime and the long-term health of your telehandler.
The easier and faster maintenance can be completed, the better. Telehandler designs that account for easy service access are naturally better suited to being attended to regularly.
Telehandlers with a side-mounted engine compartment offer good accessibility for daily service checks. It’s important to grease telehandlers regularly, as well as to check the boom’s wear pads to ensure they’re at the proper tolerance, so having easily reached greased points is very helpful.
A telehandler boom with a bottom-mounted external extend cylinder location is great for allowing service access to internal boom components. Certain designs can help significantly reduce the load on wear pads, so they don’t have to be changed as often. Telehandlers with wear pads that don’t require fasteners provide another advantage toward simplified service.
Certain jobsites are more likely to experience dirty or dusty conditions that dictate cleaning equipment from time to time. If the telehandler cab features an all-steel dash, then all that’s needed is to simply pressure wash any mud or dirt out of the interior without fear of damaging cab components.
Warranty and Bottom Line
Another maintenance consideration for telehandlers is the warranty offered by the manufacturer. Many warranties look similar on the surface but keep in mind that some may cut off after a certain number of hours of use, while others are good for the full warranty term regardless of how much the machines have been run.
Most masonry and construction contractors are very cognizant of the money that stands to be lost when a telehandler isn’t properly maintained. Do the little things on a daily or monthly basis, and your maintenance program will go a long way toward ensuring uptime and a tremendous return on investment.