Scheduled Maintenance Tips For Heavy Equipment

Well-maintained equipment has less downtime and improves productivity

If a heavy piece of equipment has an unexpected breakdown, it can quickly become a major problem for your budget. Poor equipment productivity caused by downtime and maintenance issues is a leading contributor to increased and unexpected project costs.

A contractor can expect about 800 to 900 productive hours annually from a typical piece of equipment. Based on a 40-hour work week that translates, at best, to a productivity rate of only 62 percent. That means most pieces of heavy equipment have a productivity rate improvement window of nearly 40 percent, which can have a big impact on your bottom line.

One of the easiest and most impactful ways to improve heavy equipment productivity, reduce downtime, and increase revenue is to implement and adhere to a preventative maintenance schedule for each piece of machinery.

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What is Preventative Maintenance?

Preventative maintenance occurs on a pre-determined schedule, regardless of whether the equipment shows problems operating or not. It allows you to identify and address any defects before they can evolve into more expensive and large-scale issues.

The exact maintenance tasks you’ll need to perform will vary according to the vehicle and the original equipment manufacturer’s recommendations. However, most pieces of heavy equipment have engines that need similar checks performed on them, including:

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Engine Oil

Use top quality engine oil and other lubricants. Although engine oil represents just a small fraction of your total maintenance costs, it can have a big impact on your bottom line. Skimping on quality or selecting the wrong type of engine oil can lead to more serious issues and costly repairs, along with more downtime and lower productivity later on. Find the right high-quality oil for your vehicles and keep your equipment running smoothly.

Fluid levels

Check the coolant, transmission, brake, fuel, and other fluid levels. Frequent drops in fluids indicate a leak that must be identified and repaired. As with engine oil, make sure you are using correct type of high-quality fluids to prevent costly repairs.


Do all of the machinery’s parts move as smoothly as they should? Do the controls respond appropriately? Problems with these elements could indicate issues with the accessory operators on the equipment.


Cleaning the equipment and performing a visual inspection to look for anything that appears out of place can make finding problems easier.

Why Is Preventive Maintenance Important for Heavy Machinery?

Maintaining your equipment is critical for avoiding downtime and job interruptions caused by equipment failure. Most – 80 percent – of equipment failures happen randomly, outside of the break-in and wear-out periods. Implementing a preventative maintenance schedule can minimize these breakdowns.

Regularly inspecting your vehicles and performing routine maintenance helps ensure that a piece of machinery will not have to have an issue or breakdown before it receives attention. While scheduled preventative maintenance won’t stop all breakdowns from occurring, it can significantly reduce their number. With so many factors that can cause lost time on projects being outside your control, such as inclement weather, maintaining your fleet is a proactive approach you can take to reduce equipment downtime and improve productivity.

Isn’t Preventive Maintenance Expensive?

You’ve heard the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The same idea holds true for heavy equipment maintenance and repair, and it’s called the 1-10-100 rule. According to this rule, if preventative maintenance costs you $1, on-time defect correction will cost 10x that, and a total equipment failure would cost 100x that.

While some people still consider preventative maintenance for heavy equipment to be a burdensome expenditure of time, money, and resources, that’s the wrong perspective to take. On the contrary, neglected, poorly maintained equipment will have more breakdowns, more downtime, and more safety issues, along with a shorter lifespan.

It’s true that preventative maintenance will take a vehicle out of operation for a short time. But scheduling maintenance ahead of time allows you to control when each vehicle is serviced based on project needs, ensuring that each vehicle is ready to work exactly when it’s needed.

When you consider these factors, it’s easy to see that preventive maintenance is really an investment in safety, efficiency, cost-efficiency, and productivity that delivers a measurable return on your investment.

Here are some benefits you can expect from preventative maintenance:

Money savings

Studies show that equipment maintenance can save up to 40% of cost overrun on construction projects with reduced downtime and improved productivity. Also, a properly maintained engine has better fuel efficiency, leading to lower fuel costs.

A safer worksite

Regular maintenance keeps equipment and safety mechanisms working correctly, protecting workers from getting hurt on the job.

Improved efficiency

Stopping work to make repairs or to fix a breakdown uses precious project hours, increasing the total time to complete the job and reducing efficiency.

Preservation of warranty

For some warranties, neglecting basic service tasks could void the protection of the policy.

Insurance coverage protection

Depending on the details of your fleet’s insurance policy, damage caused by neglecting maintenance may not be covered.

Equipment Maintenance Guide

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