Think of the primary fluids in heavy equipment—particularly engine and transmission oils, coolants, and hydraulic fluids—as the machine’s lifeblood. As you know, these liquid components serve important purposes. Still though, not everyone’s as vigilant as they should be about monitoring fluid levels and conditions.
When something’s off with any of the fluids, the machine’s performance suffers. That means efficiency and productivity at the job site drop. Plus, there’s likely undue wear going on internally that shortens the equipment’s lifespan and puts it at increased risk for going down and needing repairs.
The time it takes to be proactive about fluid management is well worthwhile to help support optimum productivity, avoid unnecessary maintenance expenses, and maximize the return on your investments into heavy equipment. So take a look at the following tips about smartly managing machinery fluids.
Fluid Management Best Practices
- Refer to each piece of machinery’s operator’s manual to determine the right fluids and capacities, as well as the recommended service intervals
- Never use out-of-spec fluids or fluid mixtures
- Change fluids according to the schedule in the equipment manufacturer’s manual
- Adhere to the manual’s oil viscosity grade recommendations based on current atmospheric temperatures
- Ask your dealer for input about fluid management that’s personalized based on your usage, as well as anything you need to know about how your warranty can be affected
- Maintain a spreadsheet that identifies the oils needed for each type of equipment in your fleet
- Keep all the oils and other fluids your machines require in stock and label them for which equipment takes them
- Clearly label which machines or components take any specialized fluids you have on hand
- Store fluids in appropriate bottles, drums, tanks, or other containers as advised by the manufacturer to avoid any type of contamination of degradation of quality
- Pay close attention to storage instructions for diesel exhaust fluid, as it must be carefully protected against contamination, evaporation, and extreme temperatures
- Assign the responsibilities of regularly checking levels and topping off fluids to specific people at specific times
- Ensure all operators are fully trained in the hydraulics systems they use, including maintenance procedures for hoses, seals, funnels, and any leaks that occur
- Flush machine coolant systems three times before changing coolants, as different types or brands of coolant should never mix
- Only use de-ionized or distilled water when mixing coolant from concentrate to keep it performing at peak capabilities
- Keep track of all fluid consumption and keep an eye out for irregularities
- Contact your dealer or maintenance service provider promptly about changes to fluid consumption or conditions
- Ask your dealer or service provider about periodic fluid sampling tests that analyze the condition of liquid components; these can give early warnings about problems in a variety of systems and spare you major downtime and repair costs