What should you look for when evaluating used heavy equipment?
Recently, we posed this question to the a machinery auctions business. We wanted to get the opinions of construction equipment experts.
Here are some of the top answers:
The fluids you should be checking are the hydraulic fluid, coolant, transmission fluid, and engine oil.
Machine fluids can give you some insight into the machine's current condition and how well the equipment has been maintained throughout its life.
If the fluid is low or dirty, this should be seen as a warning sign. The previous owner may not have kept of with the machine's regular maintenance. Water in the motor oil may be a sign of a more significant issue.
When evaluating a machine's overall condition, the number of hours the engine has been in operation is one factor that should be considered. As with miles, this is not the only factor, but since this is simple information to obtain, it's a good starting point.
A diesel engine may only last for tens of thousands of operating hours. If the machine is pushing the upper limits of the operating hours, then you may need to be a cost/benefit calculation.
This calculation can help you determine if it's worth buying an older machine. The additional maintenance cost of caring for a machine that may break down may outweigh any savings you may obtain by buying the used equipment.
Remember regular maintenance should be considered. A machine that has 1,000 operating hours but was not well maintained may not be as good a buy as a machine that has 15,000 operating hours.
By looking at the maintenance records, you can ensure the machine was regularly maintained.
You should check to see how often small repairs were made and how often the fluids were changed. The records should show if anything has gone seriously wrong with the machine. These could be clues to indicate how the machine was used and how well the equipment was cared for.
Please note that records don't always move from one owner to the next. An absence of files is not an indication that maintenance was not done. If there are no records, ask the owner to provide as much information as possible.
A used machine should have signs of wear. You'll probably see scratches and dings.
However, you don't want to see rust, hairline cracks or any damage that reveals an accident or additional problems in the future. These are signs that you may need to do further repairs down the road. The downtime and extra cost may negate any savings you obtained by buying used.
The undercarriage on a tracked vehicle or tires is a good place to inspect for signs of wear. Remember both of these items are expensive to repair or replace. They can also give you a good idea of how the machine was used.
The best way to evaluate an engine is to start it up and let it run. How the engine runs from a gold start will help you assess how well it was maintained.
The color of the exhaust smoke produced by the engine is another tell-tale clue to the machine's condition. The exhaust can reveal some issues that you may not know existed.
For example: Black smoke is a sign that the fuel/air mixture is too rich with fuel. This smoke may be caused by several issues including a dirty air filter or faulty injectors.
White smoke shows that fuel may be burning incorrectly. There could be a compression issue, or the engine may have a faulty head gasket, allowing water to mix in with the fuel.
Blue smoke is a sign of burning oil. This exhaust may be caused by a worn seal or ring that might be created by filling the engine with too much engine oil.