Equipment

Refurbishing Off-Road Equipment

November 2012, Government Fleet - Feature

by Shelley Mika - Also by this author

At a Glance

The City of Ventura, Calif., saw the following benefits from refurbishing two of its wheel loaders:

  • Extended equipment life by at least 10 years.
  • Cost savings of $58,000 each unit compared to the purchase of a new unit.
  • The addition of new interim Tier 4-compliant engines, supporting the City's sustainability goals.


Replacing off-road equipment is a major investment for fleets, and in particular for government fleets facing ever-tighter budgets. With costs for new equipment falling well into the six-figure category, it may be impossible to replace equipment, even if it’s vital to fleet operations.

Fortunately, refurbishing equipment can be a viable option for fleets. With costs far lower than those of purchasing replacements, and environmental benefits as well, some fleets are looking to extend the life of their existing off-road equipment rather than purchase a brand-new unit.

The City of Ventura Makes Good on Refurbishing

The City of Ventura, Calif., is one such fleet. The City has 19 off-road pieces of equipment, including wheel loaders, backhoes, a skid steer

loader, a motor grader, an asphalt paver, gang mowers, pavement rollers, and forklifts. Over the past five years, the City has refurbished several pieces of equipment, including three portable water pumps and, most recently, two John Deere wheel loaders.

AFTER. Through refurbishment of a John Deere wheel loader, the City of Ventura, Calif., was able to extend equipment life by 10 years.
AFTER. Through refurbishment of a John Deere wheel loader, the City of Ventura, Calif., was able to extend equipment life by 10 years.

The City chose to refurbish the wheel loaders for several reasons. First, they were showing signs of wear — operators just hadn’t taken good care of them over the years. And, even though the units were underutilized, the City needed them for materials bins and emergency response, as well as street and water maintenance.

“We decided to repower the two wheel loaders using diagnostics, condition evaluation, and low hours usage,” said Mary Joyce Ivers, PWLF, CPFP, fleet and facilities manager, City of Ventura Public Works. “We contracted to replace the engine and complete refurbishment of the hydraulic and mechanical systems and repainting.”

Refurbishing the Bottom Line

As a result of refurbishing the wheel loaders, the City fleet saw several benefits. For one, it extended the life of the equipment by a minimum of 10 years each. But perhaps more significant were the financial benefits. 

A new wheel loader would have cost the City more than $150,000; refurbishing ended up costing just $92,000 for each unit, including in-house labor.

“The refurbishment was more costly than originally estimated due to unseen damage, but we believe it is a good investment to extend the life of the equipment,” Ivers said. “The refurbishment is less costly than a new piece of equipment since we are extending the life of the equipment and reducing maintenance costs. The cost of re-­powering/refurbishing two wheel loaders was $120,000 less than purchasing new equipment. And, we estimate extending the life 10 years and saving almost 50% of the cost of a new piece of equipment.”

In addition to a new engine, each wheel loader also has new hydraulics and controls and refurbished cabs, improving the user experience.

The Effects of Refurbishing on Emissions Compliance

In addition to the financial benefits, the City also took huge environmental leaps as a result of refurbishment. Equipped with interim Tier 4 engines, the City’s John Deere wheel loaders are equipped for California Air Resources Board (CARB) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) diesel emissions compliance requirements. In achieving these compliance standards, the City has also met its own environmental sustainability goals, including fuel conservation and a reduced carbon footprint.

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