Bright Ideas: Off-Road Equipment Maintenance 101

Maintaining off-road equipment is not an easy feat, but with these tips, managing the equipment can be a much easier, not to mention cost effective, task.

July 2009, Government Fleet - Feature

by - Also by this author

In charge of a diversity of equipment, serving many different user departments, public sector fleet managers may find maintaining off-road equipment difficult. At times, the real problem simply comes from not having enough funds for the upkeep of the fleet. However, there are practices that can aid in maintaining off-road equipment. Take a cue from several fleets whose off-road equipment units range from approximately 800 to 2,000.

An Effective Maintenance Program Can Save Money
Even prior to the current economic downturn, money was always an issue in maintaining a fleet. If a fleet program does not have the funds to update off-road equipment, it is extremely important to keep equipment in the best condition possible to avoid the cost of expensive repair and replacement.

Because large off-road equipment is expensive to repair, a progressive preventive maintenance program (PM) is essential. As fleet managers and operators inspect off-road vehicles, the following steps are best practices:

  • Wash and clean the vehicle, particularly in winter, to ensure the windows, lights, and door mirrors are clean.
  • Check and top-off fluid levels such as engine coolant, engine oil, and brake fluid.
  • Check tire conditions for damage, air pressure, and tread.
  • Confirm all lights work properly.
  • Ensure wiper blades are in good condition and the windscreen washer fluid bottle is full.
  • Verify the exhaust system is in sound working order.

Additionally, fleet managers should print monthly PM reports to keep vehicle maintenance up-to-date. According to Bill Burns, fleet operations manager for the City of Columbus, Ohio, printing such reports allows a fleet manager to pinpoint which division requires the most “fleet intervention.”

By determining which divisions and equipment need the most care, potential problems in most of the equipment can be spotted before becoming too big. According to Michele Wetherington, activity project manager for Volusia County, Fla., a good oil sample program should be the backbone of every PM program to provide an accurate indication of equipment and lubrication condition.

“An engine on large off-road equipment can cost [as much as] $50,000 to rebuild from a catastrophic failure,” she explains. “By utilizing an oil sample program in conjunction with our PM program, [we] have saved tens of thousands of dollars, and it has prevented minor repairs from turning into catastrophic failures.”

Installing an auto lube system on front-line equipment also helps with maintenance issues. The lube system ensures all grease points get proper lubrication on a constant basis. Additionally, this system prevents the operator from missing scheduled appointments or grease points.

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