Does your equipment suffer from MDD?

Have you ever heard comments such as, “Why should I check to see how the unit runs or what's needed? I get paid whether my equipment is running or not!” Or perhaps, “It's not mine, I didn't buy it. Why worry about whether it works right?” On occasion you may hear, “If the owner or manager took better care of this equipment, I would get my job done faster!” Some of these statements may be correct. But in today's operations, whether a golf course, commercial contractor or municipality, the important issue is to let your employees and managers realize the importance of their role in efficiency or profitability.

Operating power equipment you are not familiar with can lead to MDD (Maintenance Deficiency Disorder). This occurs when owners or operators of power equipment do not fully understand the potential of their equipment or the need to maintain peak efficiency to be profitable. If you remain unaware of your equipment's maintenance needs, you can expect unnecessary downtime and inefficiency.

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Involving your employees in profitability doesn't mean letting them look at the profit and loss statements. It could be as simple as getting them to realize their importance in the operating routine and service scheduling needed to keep equipment running at top efficiency.

It's a brutal world for engines

To better appreciate the need for proper maintenance, it helps to consider what an engine actually goes through. We want zero-turn capability, self-propulsion, great cutting power and many other capabilities. And all the while, we expect excellent fuel economy and dependability. For the most part, engine manufacturers have met these demands. However, you must realize that for engines to maintain their abilities, you must provide periodic maintenance.

Look at how much stress and strain a particular engine component goes through. Almost all engine manufacturers rate the engine horsepower at 3,600 rpm. For each revolution, the rings, which are attached to the piston, must move up the bore once, stop, turn around and travel back down the bore. That means the rings travel up and down the bore 120 times a second at 3,600 rpm. Imagine what a piece of dirt or some other abrasive foreign substance can do to your engine parts when they're moving that fast. That's what can happen as a result of improper air filter maintenance (see photo, page 32) or not changing the oil often enough (see photo, page 32). Your engine cannot meet the demands you place on it and will lose its ability to maintain its peak efficiency without vigilant maintenance.

Take the initiative

The first step is to learn the maintenance intervals of the engine and the equipment. It is as simple as taking time to read the owner's manual. Then follow up by asking the equipment and engine manufacturer any questions you may have.

If you place high importance on routine checks and service intervals, the equipment will always be ready for service and downtime will be minimal.

  • Daily checks

    What are the routine, daily checks? These should be obvious, but let's review them:

    • Check the oil level and condition. Check the oil to make sure it is at the proper level and not dirty or burned.

    • Check the air filter. Make sure the pre-cleaner is clean and the element itself is clean and not damaged or plugged.

    • Check the fuel filter. Does it appear clean? Are the clamps holding the filter tight and not leaking?

    • Is the grass screen clear and not clogged? (See photo, left)

    • Check the coolant. Is it at the proper level?

    • Are the cylinder fins (for air-cooled engines) clean and unobstructed?

    It should take you less than 10 minutes to perform these checks. If they reveal any needed maintenance or repairs, do them before you place the machine into service.

  • Weekly checks

    Weekly checks and procedures depend on the amount of use the unit has seen during the week and the number of hours that the unit has accumulated. Typically, however, weekly maintenance includes:

    • Change the oil and oil filter. Changing the oil and filter at the recommended intervals will help keep contaminants from wearing the engine prematurely. Use the type of oil that the engine manufacturer calls for. For example, air-cooled engines require oils with anti-foaming agents. If you use the same oil for the trucks that haul the equipment, you may be causing premature wear.

    • Air filter and pre-cleaner. Changing these at the recommended intervals can only prolong productivity. You can wash the precleaner and dry it out — just make sure you re-oil the foam element. Replace the paper element whenever it is clogged or dirty. Give it a quick check by holding it to the light or placing a light on the inside of the element. If the light does not shine through, you need to replace it. Do not use compressed air! This can cause pinholes in the paper element, rendering it useless.

    • Spark plugs. Check and replace as needed. Heavy carbon build-up can cause hard starting and poor performance and, in turn, hurt your fuel economy. You should also take note of the condition of the spark plugs. Is there heavy oil residue or soft carbon build-up? It could be an indicator of a problem.

    • Blower housing and shrouds. This could be a daily or weekly routine depending on the severity of use. Remember, air-cooled engines must have an unobstructed flow of clean air.

  • Annual checks

    Annual checks are more involved and should be performed by a certified service technician. Either give your technicians the proper training or develop a solid relationship with the local service center that you trust. These shops have the correct parts and proper service tools to make sure your engine and equipment can be returned to top operating condition.

Don't put it off

Keeping the machine as close to top operating condition as possible makes your work easier, more efficient and less stressful. See if optional accessories are available that will prolong the operating intervals, such as oil coolers, heavy-duty air filter systems, muffler guards, low-oil warning systems and clean out-ports (easy access to the cooling fins) for the blower housing. This will help keep your machine running at peak efficiency, which should increase your productivity and profitability.

Set up a schedule for oil changes and minor service procedures at the end of the day. Talk to local service centers about performing on-site maintenance. During the off-season, have an authorized dealer or certified technician available to do a complete evaluation of the equipment and original service parts. You may think the off-brand air filters and service items may be a cost savings, but in reality they may cause your unit to run inefficiently and shorten the life of the engine and equipment.

The investment in purchasing your equipment was likely made only after careful research. It only makes sense that your service parts should also receive proper consideration. Service parts are designed to help keep your unit running properly, so the investment in them should not be taken lightly, especially considering the cost of major repairs and replacing equipment.

Make sure equipment operators listen to the engine and encourage them to report unfamiliar noises. Bring this to the attention of the service center or your head technician. Catching something early could mean tremendous savings and reduced downtime.

You may recall the 3,600 rpm I mentioned earlier. If rings travel 7,200 times a minute and 432,000 times in an hour, that means that in an 8-hour day, they will have traveled 4,356,000 times! That's a lot of opportunity for contaminants to damage your engine. Keeping dirt and debris out by changing oil and filters when necessary will help prolong your equipment and help keep MDD from affecting your profitability.

Dave Worden is a training development specialist at the Kohler Factory (Kohler, Wis.).

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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