Ask a Mechanic: Maintenance Tips for Heavy Equipment & Trucks

Uncover the secrets of proper heavy equipment and semi-truck maintenance with tips straight from the seasoned mechanics and operators who know them best.

“What do I need to know about heavy equipment or commercial vehicle maintenance?”

Whether you’re about to take your excavator, bulldozer, semi-truck, or dump truck on the job or you’re getting it ready to sell, you’ll want to make sure to stay on top of maintenance. A failure to do so can result in everything from a head-scratching pickle to something potentially life-threatening.

To help with this task, we reached out to professional heavy equipment mechanics for their sometimes less-than-conventional wisdom on heavy equipment and commercial vehicle maintenance. 

Table of Contents

Embrace the Power of Grease and Filters

Allow us to begin these tips with the two most often repeat pieces of information we received from mechanics: "Grease often" and "Change your air filters". 

Grease is the Word

A little grease goes a long way in extending the life of your pins and bearings. 

“Grease is cheap and it will extend the life of your pins and bearings more than you realize.”

Filters: The Respiratory System of Your Gear

And air filters? Treat them like a fresh set of lungs for your engine. Dust clogs up the system, leading to long downtime and a hefty repair bill.

Treat Fluid Leaks Like Red Flags

If you started leaking, you’d probably want to do something about it. The same goes for your equipment. Checking your fluid levels is as important as checking your pockets before laundry day. Ignored leaks can drain your system, forcing metal to grind against metal. That's a recipe for an expensive disaster.

“If you run a system dry, you end up destroying almost everything in the system once you start circulating metal through pumps and gears.”

Pssstt, DJ Operator: Be Smart with Your Accessories

In the age of aftermarket goodies, remember to wire your fancy additions—like radios and other gadgets—with a fuse. Fire safety isn’t just for camping. 

“We get a lot of torched machines because a CB wire shorted out and didn't have a fuse, so it just lit the machine on fire.”

So, either pack fuses or pack some marshmallows. 

Beware of Common Operator Oversights

Unless you just want to give your entire paycheck over to a mechanic, there are three phrases to erase from your vocabulary: 

  • “I didn’t have a chance to check it today but it was fine yesterday.”
  • “Let’s get going and we can fix it later.” 
  • “It’s always done that.”

Instead, treat your machine like you'd treat your prize-winning hound. Give it a once-over at the start of the day—grease up the joints, check the fluids, and look for any damage. A little time now saves a heap of trouble down the line.

Understand the Importance of Regular Cleanups

Keeping your equipment clean isn't about vanity—it's about performance. Blow out the dust regularly; a dust-clogged engine overheats quicker than a griddle cake on a hot skillet.

“A dusted engine can put your machine out for weeks or months depending on parts availability.”

Cool Down Your Machine, Protect Your Investment

Just like you wouldn’t go from a marathon straight to bed, don't immediately shut off your equipment right after a full-throttle sprint. There are steps to take to protect your equipment from damage due to temperature variation. Throttle down, let it cool down, then switch off. It prevents mechanical stress—just like avoiding cold water on a hot pan saves your cookware. Be smart!

Respect Tire Pressure: The Silent Saboteur

Don't be fooled by uniform tire thumps. Just because they all “thump” the same doesn’t mean they haven’t all lost a similar amount of pressure. For this reason, it pays to be diligent with checking pressure with an actual gauge. Make checking tire pressure a habit. Checking your tire pressure can save you everything from mileage to tread wear or even from a potential accident due to a blowout or bad traction. 

The Hidden Danger in Hydraulic Lines

Because of their function, hydraulic lines aren’t something to mess around with. If you can feel the wire on the outside of the hydraulic hose, change it. A leak under pressure can wreak havoc, injure you, or put the machine out of service. Take hydraulic safety about as seriously as you can. 

Upskill Yourself: Learn the Mechanical Basics

The road to self-reliance is paved with knowledge. Not only will it save you in a bind but it may also save you some serious cash if you happen upon a less-than-honest mechanic looking to take advantage of your dire situation. For this reason, it pays to learn the fundamentals—adjusting brakes, replacing air lines, checking and bypassing sensors, and more. Each skill you acquire is a potential breakdown averted.

Learn from Experience: Diagnostics and Repairs

Finally, remember that experience is the greatest teacher. When something goes awry, ask questions, watch, and learn. Also, don't be afraid to peek over the mechanic's shoulder during a repair if you can. Knowledge is power—and in this case, it's the power to keep your machine purring like a well-fed cat.

Ready to Sell Your Equipment? 

Are you looking to learn how to list your commercial truck or heavy equipment for sale? Getting your truck, equipment, or parts listings in front of more buyers is easy with help from your friends at My Little Salesman. 

Learn how to create heavy equipment or truck listings today.

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About Ken Lane
Ken’s affinity for the heavy equipment industry was fostered as a curious youngster—becoming happily lost on his grandfather’s tractor sales and service lot (his favorite color is still Allis-Chalmers Orange). Since then, he’s perfected the art of turning black coffee into helpful buyer resources and marketing materials for My Little Salesman.
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