Tips for Maintaining Specialized Equipment

Avoid job site breakdowns by consistently adhering to simple maintenance practices

Tips for Maintaining Specialized Equipment

An important piece of maintenance advice for directional drills is to rotate the pipe throughout the drill string to extend the pipe’s service life. By not starting with same piece of drill pipe every single item, you’ll ensure every piece of pipe gets even wear.

Proactive equipment maintenance should be a no-brainer. Equipment is worked hard out in the field and breakdowns can be costly to the company bottom line.   

Still, it remains something that can sometimes get overlooked, especially when a machine is humming along and there are no significant signs of trouble. For a refresher, here’s a compilation of maintenance tips for various pieces of equipment that may be part of your fleet.


Annually or about every 2,000 operating hours is a rough time frame for the replacement of filter bags on the blower of a hydroexcavator. But the best way to determine exactly when it’s time to replace them is running a restriction test.

Turn on the machine, pull free air through it without vacuuming any material and look at the reading in inches of mercury on the vacuum gauge.

A good rule of thumb is that if you’re pulling free air and it’s over half of what the rating of the unit is, then the bags need to be replaced.


Chain tension is an extremely important part of maximizing the life of chains on a trencher. Manufacturers say not having the chain tensioned properly is one of the top mistakes contractors make with trenchers.

Check chain tension at least twice a day — at the beginning of the day and at the end. Chain tension plays an important role in how the machine operates as a whole, and correct tension can ultimately prevent lost time and productivity on a job.

If the chain is too tight, then it’s going to be putting more load on the bearings, which will put more drag on the engine. If it’s too loose, you’ll be causing the engine to work harder to keep the chain working how it’s supposed to.

Directional Drills

One of the most wearable items on a directional drill is the pipe.

While it’s not extremely expensive in itself, it’s vital to keep it serviceable because it could make or break a directional bore. To extend the pipe’s service life, rotate it throughout the drill string.

By not starting with same piece of drill pipe every single item, you’ll ensure every piece of pipe gets even wear.

Water Jetters

Pump oil only needs to be changed out every 400 hours, but use earlier regular service intervals to check for any problems. For example, if the oil is turning milky, that means water is seeping behind the head of the pump — a sign that water seals are wearing out.

Electromagnetic Locators

Here’s an important maintenance tip for electromagnetic locators — be sure your locator needs maintenance to begin with. Interferences on a job site can distort the magnetic field, which will cause the locator to not locate directly over the utility or provide the correct depth.

A way to easily identify a legitimate equipment malfunction from a job site issue is to establish a test point. Find a utility at your home base and do a locate on it and get a depth estimate. Then expose it to confirm that the locate was correct and the depth was correct. If it is, you know your locator is working properly. Mark this location and you have a go-to point every time you need to test your equipment. Do a test at least once a month.

Pneumatic Pipe Bursting Systems

With a pneumatic bursting system, you’ll be running an air compressor to operate the bursting tool.

Make sure air hoses aren’t encountering any sharp edges or rubbing on anything that would produce a leak. It’s especially important on longer jobs, because the more air leakage you have, the less performance you’re going to get at the other end of the tool. 


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