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Some of you may be apprehensive about buying construction equipment during COVID-19 — and that's understandable. The desire to avoid face-to-face contact, plus varying state travel restrictions, can make it tricky. It's one reason why online purchases, which have been on the rise for years, have boomed in 2020. Pair that with contractors increasingly looking for more affordable options, like you can see the opportunity that's there for online used equipment purchases.

The automobile industry is already seeing an uptick. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, "used [car] sales actually exceed pre-pandemic levels by approximately 20%" — used machine sales are likely to rise as well.

Volvo Certified Used Equipment
Used Equipment listed on VolvoUsedEC.com.

Even before the current pandemic took hold, more and more contractors were buying used equipment online — and in our fast-paced world, I believe online equipment transactions will increasingly become the norm, with customer preference given to those who provide the most convenient and streamlined process.

In fact, the recent outbreak of COVID-19 has completely changed how we interact with customers. While they used to travel to inspect machines, travel restrictions and health concerns now make this less common. Companies can take advantage of this shift by adapting how they offer their products. At Volvo, we do this with our Certified Used and Inspected Used machines. Both are advertised online with a guaranteed inspection report, eliminating the need for customers to travel onsite to inspect machines.


To help you feel more confident with inspecting and purchasing used construction equipment online, I've provided some tips to help you properly evaluate used construction equipment when you can't evaluate machines in person — these tips apply no matter where you intend to buy.

  • Always know your construction equipment seller. Large dealers and OEMs usually have inventory in different states, so the right machine may not always be close by. When evaluating machines that aren't nearby, know the seller and do business with companies that can knowledgably speak about the machine and its condition, plus provide you any other requested information in a timely manner. My advice is you should restrict your online purchases to sellers that can be verified and who have a solid reputation.
  • Start with an inspection report. You should always understand the quality of the machine within your budget. While there are nice, clean, high-hour machines, lower budgets require older machines with more hours, and the likelihood of major component failure and other issues naturally increases. Inspection reports can give you real insight, and whether there are several items on the report or just one, find out why they weren't repaired.
  • Ask for a repair quote. There are two reasons a seller hasn't repaired something: 1) either the cost was too expensive or 2) the seller didn't want to invest more into the machine than they had to. Both are understandable, but you have to make sure the price of the machine is consistent with its present condition.
  • Request all service records and oil samples. If service records can't be provided by the seller, give the serial number to an OEM dealer and request they give you the records. I've found most OEM dealer service departments are more than willing to assist. Oil samples are critical because they give you the internal vitals of the powertrain.
  • Excavator Wear ComponentAssess the wear components on the machine. Anything that moves has the potential to fail. Major components cost the most to replace or rebuild, but there are times when the smaller repairs can eat up the budget faster. For example, having to replace a seat belt, wiring harness, a set of steps or fenders usually isn't a big issue. However, if all four need to be replaced, you can easily spend close to $10,000.
  • Look at the sheet metal, the paint and the undercarriage — and request a video of the machine operating. Look at the age and hours of the machine. Machines that are hammered usually give themselves away through the cosmetics (dents, scrapes, etc.). Pay close attention to the paint as well. It isn't uncommon to see used machines repainted. You just need to know the difference between painting to clean up and painting to hide. There are certain signs of the paint job that can give you clues. If you can't tell the condition of the paint job with the online photos and video, ask the seller to send you close-ups of areas you think look questionable.
    • Quality paint jobs meant to clean up a machine give an honest presentation that shows someone took pride in their machine or that they simply wanted to further represent that the machine is in good shape for its age/hours.
    • Example of a poor paint job.
      Example of a poor paint job.

      Paint jobs with runs, flakes, the wrong color or incorrectly painted items indicate a rush job, the desire to hide something or simply that the owner didn't know what he was doing. Either way, if a bad paint job is detected, proceed with extreme caution.

  • Get a guaranteed condition report. If a company doesn't offer a guaranteed condition report, I still recommend traveling onsite and inspecting the machines when possible.


Virtual walkarounds are becoming more popular — and if done right, can actually provide the visual information you need to make a well-informed decision about a piece of used equipment.

Most virtual machine walkarounds I've seen use recorded video. Many dealers offer this service to customers. The process starts with a specific visual request by the customer. Some use video calling or prerecorded video and physically walk around the machine and address each specific item. For me personally, I use software that allows me to connect a potential buyer with one of our Volvo Certified Used facility techs to conduct the workaround. This process involves me sending a connection link via text to both parties and then I can physically record the walkaround (if requested) while they watch via their cell phones. The software we use is robust, providing several advanced features like two-way screen annotation for real-time collaboration, remote access and control for simpler troubleshooting, and content/media sharing to provide specific information in the form of video, documents, and photos.


Most online auction companies have a searchable catalog of present and future machines to be auctioned. In most instances, you're allowed to go to the sale to inspect the machine, but all bidding is 100% online.

There are two formats: timed and live. Here's how they work:

  • Equipment listed for auction on IronPlanet.comTimed auction formats usually start between a few days up to a month before a preset closing time. The bidding increments are usually between $100 and $1,000 per bid, and incrementally increase as bids are placed. Bids are accepted until the preset closing time has lapsed. Timed formats are notorious for weak activity until the last few minutes.
  • Live online auctions aren't timed. Lots are sold individually and bidding ends when the auctioneer perceives no more buying activity.

The most common item to be aware of for both timed and live online auctions is the terms. Almost every auction's terms and conditions include the statement "buyer beware" or "sold as is, whereas" with no reserve price. Always understand you're responsible for verifying all information, terms and conditions. Also, pay close attention to buyer fees and transportation costs.

For dealer purchases, virtual walkarounds work well — but before participating in an online auction, I recommend you go and inspect the machine onsite. Every item at an auction is there for a reason — you need to determine why. Some companies offer inspection services, but if you read their terms and conditions, they indemnify themselves from a majority of the responsibility. That's why when it comes to auctions, I say to always go inspect.

If you're a winning bidder, you'll receive an invoice that usually requires payment between 24 and 48 hours after confirmation.


Purchasing Construction Equipment OnlineCurrently, I use software to assist in diagnosing and reviewing machine conditions using my computer and a technician's cell phone — it's all done remotely. I can guide the person as they conduct a walkaround. I can also upload information, or take pictures and video as we do inspections. This same technology can be used with retail customers to virtually conduct a walkaround with any of our Volvo Certified used machines at one of our four centers.

Down the road, I believe technology will change how we interact and represent equipment to customers. The current pandemic has created an opportunity for us to further build on and create trust in used equipment, even with travel restriction barriers. For Volvo, we had already implemented the Certified Used and Inspected program, which guarantees the condition report and eliminates the need for onsite inspections.

This program has been in full operation for the last two and a half years. We add value for customers because we fully assess the condition of the machine and remove the risk of the unknown. Our process takes place at the dealer level, but is backed by the manufacturer. Under the program, we provide the information, guarantee the accuracy, and then the machine can be transferred to the customer with the assurance of our guarantee. Now more than ever, you have to be adaptive and offer products with easily assessable information. Customers have to be able to trust the process and the product. That's what we do here at Volvo.


With our program, inspection reports are guaranteed, so we eliminate 100% of the need for you to travel to look at our machines. You can browse our full inventory of Volvo Certified and Volvo Inspected used equipment online, then feel free to request a virtual walkaround to see even more of the machine. You can contact us or send us a message using the Contact Seller information in the right-hand column of each individual product page.

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If you’re an operator, you may think your day-to-day performance is what really matters when it comes to your job â€" how many yards of dirt you moved or how many loads you carried. But most owners and fleet managers love to see an operator who’s not only productive, but also works hard to be efficient and takes good care of the machines.

When you work efficiently and reduce wear and tear, it lowers your company’s operating costs. Operating costs include things like fuel consumption, wear parts, preventive maintenance and repairs. Think about the money your company spends on fuel, replacing worn tires, repairing undercarriages and so on. Month after month, these costs add up and cut out of your company’s profitability.

But there are things you can do as an operator to cut down on these types of expenses. In this post, I’ve provided some tips on lowering operating costs, plus I’ve laid out a few reasons why this should be a primary focus in your daily work. If you’re reading this and you’re not an operator, sharing these tips with your crew could be a way to get them thinking about your company’s bottom line.

Learn how to increase your productivity today with our uptime efficiency services and productivity services.

Tips For Construction Operator Efficiency

Let’s start with four quick ways you can help lower your company’s operating costs to improve profits:

  • Keep up with basic maintenance of your machine. For example, a low-cost gasket could be a quick fix to repair an engine oil leak. But if you don’t make it a priority, it could cost your company thousands of dollars for a new engine, which will depend on the machine and model. If you notice a leak, you should always say something to have it fixed before it becomes a bigger issue. Seasonal maintenance is also critical â€" read our blog about summer maintenance checks to learn more.
  • Excavator Undercarriage Inspection ProgramPerform prestart checks every morning. Catching issues when they’re small saves your company lot of money in the long run by preventing unnecessary breakdowns. Greasing machines daily or at the appropriate intervals laid out in the operator’s manual go a long way. A $2 tube of grease can save thousands of dollars in pin and bushing repairs alone. We’ve provided an articulated hauler prestart checklist and excavator prestart checklist if you want some tips on what to look for.
  • If you’re a road builder, keep your pavers clean. If asphalt is still stuck to the extensions, hopper, end gates and augers at the end of the day, you run the risk of that material hardening and causing component failure â€" it’ll also affect mat quality. Fifteen minutes spent scraping off the asphalt and applying a release agent at the end of each day can save thousands in unnecessary down time.
  • Limit idle time. If you won’t be operating your machine for a while, don’t let it sit there and idle â€" shut it down. This can save your company a lot of money in fuel costs over time. We’ve seen scenarios where even a 10% reduction in idle time over 12 months equates to over $8,000 in diesel savings and over $6,000 saved in preventive maintenance. Up this scenario it to a 25% reduction in idle time, and the numbers are over $43,000 and $32,000, respectively. That’s roughly $75,000 you could save each year simply by reducing idle times by a quarter.

Optional Cab Heat TimerHere’s a quick tip to help you limit idle time: Check to see if your machine is equipped with an optional cab heat timer. At Volvo, this feature is optional for wheel loaders and haulers. It recirculates the coolant to keep the cab warm in the winter. You can also keep the cab cooler in the summertime by turning on the automatic fan on the A/C unit in the back of the cab (it blows cool air over the top of the condenser). In any event, idling isn’t good for your diesel engine. What’s more, you’re not only burning fuel, but the service intervals, the warranty on the machine, etc. The bottom line is excessive idling has a negative impact on your company’s profitability.

If you have them available, you can always turn to in-cab assist programs designed to help you become a better operator while you’re working. Our Volvo Load Assist program, for example, features an app called Operator Coaching that helps you understand when and how to use the different smart functions of your wheel loader to achieve optimal results onsite. You can also set targets and objectives to continually develop and improve your operating practices to get the most out of yourself and your machine. Programs like these improve your accuracy â€" and the goal is to turn that accuracy into higher profits.

Benefits Of Productivity Improvements

You should know that higher profits don’t just benefit the owners â€" you benefit, too. Here are a few reasons why you should make lowering the operating costs of your company a big priority:

  • I’ve heard of several companies that have operator competitions to see who can work the most efficiently with their machine, while also being the most productive. The objective here is to keep their operating costs as low as possible. The operator who wins each week receives a bonus or award of some sort. Some companies are willing to pay you back if you can help grow the bottom line. Talk to your owner of fleet manager and see if an efficiency/productivity challenge is right for your operation.
  • Show pride in the equipment you run. A lot of companies reward their operators when they take care of their machine. If you make a machine last, you’re more likely to be first on the list to get a new one when machine replacements come up. An owner or fleet manager isn’t likely to give a newer machine to an operator who’s been abusing their machine (even inadvertently). If you think you could benefit from training, always ask.
  • If you help keep your company’s profitability up and improve cash flow, your company will have more opportunity to bid jobs faster and move on to bigger jobs. Staying productive and efficient keeps work coming in without excessive lag times. Getting jobs done efficiently also helps your company build a more solid reputation in your area.
  • Be a dependable employee. Any year can bring uncertainty (as we’ve all learned in 2020). If there is an unexpected slow down, you want to be known as the operator who maintains his machine. Showing pride in your equipment shows you care about your company â€" and employees who care are more valuable.
  • Attitude is everything. I know some really good operators, but with poor attitudes â€" and a poor attitude usually equates to an operator who doesn’t take good care of his machine. He can operate it, but he doesn’t take extra steps to care for his machine as well as other operators. While they may not be as proficient or productive, a positive attitude shows that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to become a better operator. Operators with positive, go-get-it attitudes tend to drive profitability much more.

Operator Training Services - EcoOperatorAt Volvo, we’re big believers in ongoing operator training, even if you’re a seasoned operator. You can save your company money by becoming more familiar with your machine and all the emerging technologies. Imagine how much easier and more efficient your daily job could be if you dig down and really understand what every switch and button does in the cab. And more importantly, better training helps prevent injuries and accidents, which not only costs your employer, but you as well.

Learn How To Improve Operator Efficiency From Volvo

To help, we offer a few training options from Operator Familiarization training for general earthmoving and construction equipment to our renowned Road Institute for road machinery. If you’re looking for more specific operating tips to consider, check out the posts in the Operator Tips & Training section of our blog.

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Enclosed spaces like cabs can harbor germs and viruses like the coronavirus â€" during times like this, cleanliness is incredibly important. Keeping surfaces disinfected is a responsibility for everyone to help keep each other protected.

At Volvo we are doing our part to help keep customers safe, and that now includes contactless sanitizing of cabs and touchpoints on all Volvo Certified Used and Volvo Inspected machines. It’s another level of assurance you receive when buying Volvo used equipment.

Below, I’ve explained the steps we take to sanitize every Volvo Certified Used or Volvo Inspected machine. These tips may be useful for your machines well â€" not just now, but any time.

  1. We use an EPA-approved disinfectant which is effective at deactivating the novel coronavirus and is safe for interiors. It won’t damage components in the interior of the cab like touch screens, switches and upholstery. Our VCU sanitizer is contactless, so no need to wipe after applying. There are many different types of products that can be used for your own equipment. Refer to the links below for a list of EPA-approved sanitizers.
  2. Sanitizing Construction Equipment
    Disinfecting an equipment cab.

    When cleaning, be sure to use latex or synthetic rubber gloves and a mask or face covering. Typically, this step might get overlooked, but with a virus that can spread asymptomatically, this is the best way to ensure you’re not inadvertently re-infecting the surfaces while you’re cleaning them.

  3. Spray all exterior and interior handles and compartments. This includes floor mats, windows and hard surfaces as well as joysticks, steering wheel, knobs and any other touchpoints inside of the cab. Clean with detergent or soap and water if the surfaces are visibly dirty prior to disinfectant application.
  4. Cleaning the joystick inside of the cab
    Cleaning the joystick inside of the cab.

    Be mindful when cleaning electronic consoles and display interfaces. An EPA-approved, contactless product may leave a film when it dries, but it’s not necessary to wipe it off once you achieve full coverage. You can also spray disinfectant on a microfiber cloth and wipe the displays and keypads.

  5. When addressing the upholstery, avoid using any products that contain bleach to prevent damage, and remember to wipe down the seat belts including the buckles.
  6. Spray all machine touchpoints including the dipstick, gas cap, engine access points, handles, latches, etc.
  7. Cleaning floorboards inside the cab
    Cleaning floorboards inside the cab.

    If accessing the machine from the ground, be sure to spray all door handles and grab bars at the end of your cleaning.

The CDC has provided additional information on cleaning and disinfecting non-emergency transport vehicles that you may find beneficial as well. According to the CDC, for disinfection of hard, non-porous surfaces, appropriate disinfectants include:

    • EPA’s Registered Antimicrobial Products for Use Against Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for concentration, application method and contact time for all cleaning and disinfection products.
    • Diluted household bleach solutions prepared according to the manufacturer’s label for disinfection, if appropriate for the surface. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
    • Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol.
Tips for Cleaning and Disinfecting Construction Equipment Cabs
Download Tips for Cleaning and Disinfecting Construction Equipment Cabs

Finally, we’re sending out a spray bottle of EPA-approved disinfectant with our Volvo Certified and Volvo Inspected used machines for use upon delivery. We take doing our part to help keep everyone healthy very seriously â€" and we hope you will, too. And remember, although we’ve taken these precautions to protect you against COVID-19, reinfection could take place at any time. Please take appropriate precautions every time you contact any surfaces or environment, and consult your operator’s manual for full details on general cab cleaning procedures and maintenance.

At Volvo we are doing our part to help keep customers safe, and that now includes contactless sanitizing of cabs and touchpoints on all Volvo Certified Used and Volvo Inspected machines. It’s another level of assurance you receive when buying Volvo used equipment.

Below, I’ve explained the steps we take to sanitize every Volvo Certified Used and Volvo Inspected machine. These tips may be useful for your machines as well â€" not just now, but any time.

Cab Sanitizing for Volvo Certified Used and Inspected Equipment

7 Steps to Sanitize Your Equipment Cab

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As technology in wheel loaders continues to evolve, contractors continue to praise the ability of these machines to make operators of any skill level faster and more efficient. Advanced machines â€" with operators who know how to take advantage of their features â€" can drastically improve profitability and lower total cost of ownership.

If you’re a wheel loader operator and could use some productivity and efficiency tips, this post is for you.

Increasing Your Loading Efficiency

Increasing loading efficiency for a frontend loader Use the functions on the machine designed to improve cycle times â€" that’s why they’re there. Two good examples include boom kickout and return-to-dig. Boom kickout has the boom stop at a predetermined point while lifting. Return-to-dig has the boom stop while lowering, and an auto bucket level levels the bucket from the dump or carry position.

  • The boom kickout is especially helpful if you’re loading a truck at the same height for an extended period of time. On Volvo wheel loaders, the automatic boom kickout position can be set to any position between maximum reach and full lifting height, and it can be done with one stroke of the lever rather than having to hold it.
  • The return-to-dig function helps you return the bucket to the exact same position every time â€" again, with the push of the lever. This function allows you to set a position that the boom will lower to prior to filling the bucket at the pile. 

Using the Y Loading Pattern to Load Trucks

The Y cycle is very efficient. The trick is keeping the trucks in a consistent position as to not make the Y cycle too big or too small. It’s possible to be too close to the truck and the pile, which makes maneuvering at an efficient speed difficult. This can also force you to have to steer more than necessary, which will slow your cycle time.

Using Technology to Improve Your Technique

Operator technique is critical when loading the bucket. You have to know how to set the bucket level when entering, followed by a smooth actuation of the lift and tilt functions to maintain momentum pushing into the pile. When this isn’t done properly, you tend to see the machine bucking violently, or even getting stuck in the pile and spinning the wheels. This can be a complete disruption to the loading cycle, costing time and putting unnecessary wear on the tires and machine.

Several technologies can ease the effort required to load. The first is adjustable lever sensitivity, which allows you to choose the response level of the hydraulic levers to suit your operating style. Volvo wheel loaders have three response modes: soft, active and normal. Soft is meant for a slower or more precise tasks. Active works for fast-response, demanding productivity requirements. And normal is in between.

Rim pull control is another useful feature that allows you to adjust the power being sent to the wheels to compensate for ground conditions. This reduces wheel spin and slippage, thereby reducing tire wear and improving productivity while lowering total cost of ownership.

Another feature on Volvo loaders size L110H up to L260H is the Volvo-patented Reverse-By-Braking (RBB) function, which isn’t found in competitor loaders. Along with new torque converter with lock-up, RBB creates a direct drive between the engine and transmission. The engine’s rpms automatically decrease and the service brakes are applied when it senses the operator is changing the direction of the loader. RBB also uses the standard machine brakes instead of the converter to decelerate the machine â€" putting less strain on the driveline, saving fuel and giving a smoother change of direction.

Finally, if you’re a newer operator, you should take advantage of driveline and hydraulic control intelligence. At Volvo we call this Smart Control, and it comes standard on our L60 through L90 H-Series 2.0 models. It ensures the correct torque in all situations, improving engine and hydraulic harmony, and helps shorten cycle times and conserve fuel. This can effectively lower cycle time by allowing the machine to operate in a smaller area, shortening the Y cycle.

Matching the Loading Tool Size to the Truck

Matching the Loading Tool Size to the Truck

By understanding the correct pass matching between your truck and loader, you’ll get the most amount of material loaded in the shortest period of time. This is especially critical in high-productivity applications like a quarry or plant.

While bucket size and loading height are important, the machine size shouldn’t be overlooked. The loader must be able to handle the volume of material, both in terms of power and stability. If the machine doesn’t feel stable while lifting or traveling with a loaded bucket, it’s not only dangerous, but can also shorten the service life of the machine significantly. This can also have a major impact on your confidence level as an operator. 

Maximizing Loading Efficiency with On-Board Scales

On-board weighing systems improve efficiency by providing you with real-time material weight. This can significantly reduce both machine and truck overloading, which decreases wear on both units and avoids costly issues such as overweight fines and partial dumping. The data the scale provides can also be viewed remotely through the use of a cellular data connection or by USB download.

These scale systems, however, are being developed with more and more capabilities than just weighing material. One example included with Volvo’s Load Assist on-board weighing system is called Operator Coaching. This app provides real-time guidance on idling, braking, accelerator pedal usage and time spent with the transmission in lock-up. It will also identify inefficient behavior such as holding the brakes and accelerator, or running in a fixed gear. Another feature of the app is called active guidance, which will inform you of the function of the switch on the A pillar when it’s pressed. This is a quick way for you to obtain information on the many functions outfitted on the machine. All of this helps you learn how their actions influence the machine, and helps you identify opportunities for optimal machine operation.

Getting an In-cab Assist

Finally, if you’re a Volvo operator, we’ve made Volvo Co-Pilot with Load Assist On-Board Weighing standard on new L150H to L260H wheel loaders (optional on L110H and L120H models). Co-Pilot is our in-cab touchscreen. You can view the data from the On-Board Weighing system on it, allowing you to measure your bucket load on-the go and eliminating any disruption to your workflow. You get +/- 1% accuracy on every bucket, ensuring you’re moving the most optimized loads possible and not wasting time and money by under- or over-loading.

You should also take a look at our three-part series on Volvo Load Assist â€" it provides highlights to better understand how to set it up, plus tips on how to use it to improve your accuracy and productivity.

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As an excavator owner and/or operator, you know it’s not wise to just hop in the cab in the morning and start working right away. While time is money on most of your jobs, not taking a few minutes to do an inspection can hurt your uptime, cause unnecessary damage and wear to your machine, and compromise safety.

I typically train operators to do the following when performing an excavator walkaround:

  1. Start in the same place every day. For me, I always start at the front of the cab. That way when I end my walkaround, I end at the cab as well.
  2. Make your inspection routine. Look in non-obvious but critical areas.
  3. Look up, down, left and right. Be as thorough as you can.
  4. Report your findings verbally to your supervisor, and provide a written version using a prestart checklist sheet.

For the actual inspection, here’s a basic checklist your crew can use each time before they fire up and operate their excavators:

  • Visually inspect all compartments to see if there’s any leakage or damage to components, then take the necessary action if anything is wrong. Proactive inspections typically result in increased uptime.
  • Walk around the machine and make a visual check. Take a close look at the boom and arm for cracks, especially if you’re working in extremely harsh conditions or in very cold climate zones. Areas to inspect that will ultimately save you both time and money in unnecessary repair costs include:
    • Boom and cylinder mounting (leaks and damages to the boom arm and bucket cylinder)
    • Arm and cylinder mounting
    • Bucket and cylinder mounting
    • Main pump compartment
    • Battery compartment
    • Swing drive and main control valve
    • Track drive
    • Track chain and shoes (inspect the track pads for damage and loose bolts, and check the track chain for any frozen links)
    • Lower frame damage
    • Superstructure damage
    • Side doors and cowl frames
  • The electrical box and the engine air filter are located behind the cab. If the system is indicating “full water separator,” drain it in a safe container.
  • The cab air filter is also located behind the cab. Make sure the filter is clean, especially if operating in a dusty environment.
  • Check the radiator and coolers for any damage. If you’re working in a confined environment, check that the coolers are not clogged â€" clogged coolers and radiators could result in poor performance or overheating. Be sure you’re following the maintenance intervals carefully.
  • Check the hydraulic lines for leaks â€" a damaged line can create heat in the system or severe oil leakage.
  • Check all hydraulic connections, pipes and hoses for any external damage.
  • Check items that keep you safe like mirrors, cameras, seatbelts and the safety lever, and get them fixed before operating.
  • When an excavator is new and the engine has run only a few hours, it’s a good idea to take a look at the engine oil level. This check can be easily carried out from the cab by looking at the display. If you prefer to do it the traditional way, open up the two latches and the engine hood, which has a self-locking upper position. Check the oil and always use a clean paper towel to avoid any contamination on the dipstick. The oil level should be between the min and max levels.
  • Remove dirt or small pieces of rock in the bucket linkage.
  • Finally, turn on the main battery switch before entering the cab â€" no power can be distributed until the main battery switch is on.

There are also a few things you should do at the end of a shift to ensure the next day’s work starts off right:

  • Be sure to fill up with fuel at the end of the day’s shift â€" this will reduce the risk of condensation developing in the tank overnight. While filling up the tank, fill up on AdBlue® as well.
  • Always disconnect the main battery switch.
  • Park the excavator with the digging equipment fully extended. In this position, the piston rods are protected.
  • Clean the undercarriage to reduce strain on the components, especially during wintertime. If you fail to do this, the mud in the chain can freeze to the undercarriage and you may be unable to move the machine the next day. Not cleaning out the undercarriage will greatly reduce its life and likely add unnecessary expenses.

You should always consult your operator’s manual for more information on this topic. Many excavator owners pair their machines with haul trucks, so don’t forget to follow the proper prestart checks for your haulers, too.

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Too often, machine owners focus on initial purchase price â€" “What am I paying to buy this machine?” That leaves out so much that can impact your bottom line while you’re running that machine. With the uncertainty in the economy right now, it’s especially important to think holistically about equipment costs. That’s why in this blog post, I want to home in on the importance of managing operating costs (which can actually cost more than the machine) and productivity, whether you’re an owner or a lessee.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is important for buyers because it helps them factor in costs over the entire time they’ll own the machine: costs like fuel, maintenance, repairs, downtime, insurance, etc. But if you’re a contractor who leases or rents machines, you likely aren’t considering TCO because at some point (maybe soon) you’ll be returning it. But lowering operating costs and/or increasing productivity is crucial to maximizing your profitability while you’re running the machine. And if you’re an owner, it’ll help you lower your TCO, too. These tips can help you get it done:

Get a preventive maintenance and repair agreement.

Owners: For owners, preventive maintenance and repair agreements can improve resale values dramatically by helping prevent unnecessary wear and tear and long-term machine damage â€" and that higher resale value equates to a lower TCO for your investment.

Lessees: These agreements have a similar impact for lessees too. While monthly rates are important, so is the amount it’s costing you to keep your machine up and running, not to mention how efficiently it operates. With these agreements, you can bundle different services and offerings to optimize your equipment and keep costs during the lease term as low as possible. These agreements, for example, help ensure you’re maximizing fuel efficiency and that you don’t have unscheduled repairs for components. They help keep the machine in good shape to reduce costs associated with damage or higher wear and tear before it’s time to turn it in.

Monitor fuel consumption to see if you can adjust your service intervals.

Volvo L180H Wheel Loader with Logging GrappleOwners: While a lot of customers set up maintenance calls solely based on machine hour intervals, some customers who own their equipment have us set up their preventive maintenance and repair agreement on how much fuel they’ve burned. At Volvo, we monitor their fuel consumption through our CareTrack or ActiveCare Direct telematics services (cross referencing with customer inputs like how much fuel is put into the machine) and then build out a tailored agreement. So, as an example, if a customer burns 500 gallons of fuel in a 1000-hour period, but the engine can burn 1500 gallons before there’s an issue with the oil, we can extend the drain out. We’ve also seen instances where 500 hours is too long (based on fuel burn) and we’ve had to move it back to 350 or 250. More and more customers are looking for tailored agreements like this, especially with more fuel-efficient machines that can potentially extend their service intervals to lower TCO. Plus, they can save on lubricant and filter costs and ensure they’re not over- or under-servicing the unit. Through additional monitoring, customers could even go through cycles and tailor the agreement by different jobs to find a median service interval. There are so many ways these agreements can be tailored.

Lessees: If you lease your equipment, this likely isn’t an option for you. Regardless of whether you own the asset or not, you want to lower your cost â€" but in most lease agreements, there are clauses about service intervals that must be met or the lessee will be penalized. Be sure to check your lease agreement and follow what’s been laid out with documented maintenance records to avoid unnecessary costs and potentially lower residual values.

Use oils specked for the machine.

Both Owners & Lessees: Oils these days are fantastic. I’ll use the ones I’m most familiar with, Volvo lubricants, as an example. They’re specked and formulated specifically for Volvo machines to improve efficiency and lower risk. We know the approved lubricant can handle extended lube drains, a lot of different duty cycles and things like that. With other oils, you may end up doing a lot more monitoring and data capture to understand the true life of the oil.

So, if you’re an owner looking at a preventive maintenance and repair agreement to extend your lube drains, make sure you’re using OEM filters and lubricants. These oils can handle a complete duty cycle â€" from light duty all the way up to heavy duty. Lower-priced lubricants may meet specifications, but not  have the same formulation, and in a really heavy-duty cycle, may break down before the machine gets to its recommended 500-hour lube drain. With other oils, you’re potentially risking early (oftentimes major) component failure which adds unnecessary repair costs and downtime.

Don’t underestimate the value of proper operator training.

Volvo EC950F Excavator loading a Volvo Articulated TruckBoth Owners & Lessees: When it comes to operator training, it’s probably one of the biggest detriments to TCO for owners â€" it can either enhance it or destroy it. Placing an operator in a new machine without any training or knowing exactly how it works can do a lot of damage. While you could use site simulation programs to ensure your fleet is properly matched to the job and machines are configured correctly, if your operators aren’t properly trained, that efficiency probably won’t be realized. Operator training can help you reduce component damage, idle times, fuel consumption and more â€" all of which factor into your TCO. In recent years, telematics data and in-cab technology packages have become more and more popular because they assist operators with their performance â€" and in the end, good operators will positively impact TCO the most.

Whether you own or lease, design changes with Volvo equipment also help reduce daily/weekly greasings, and features like grouped grease points, slide-out coolers for our wheel loaders, the placement of air cleaners and more make service fast and easy and help keep fluids protected from contamination. It’s all designed to extend machine life and lower your operating costs while you’re running the machine.

A final note on operator training: Be sure your operators know how to avoid unnecessary problems that can pop up with Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) like contamination and improper storage. For some quick tips, check out this article.

Consider programs that provide active machine monitoring and reporting.

Both Owners & Lessees: If an operator doesn’t know there’s something happening to a machine, telematics programs like ActiveCare Direct will. The operator may not even realize an issue is occurring because it’s likely an error code that’s being sent out. With ActiveCare Direct, machines are monitored 24/7 every day, and you and your dealer are notified of any critical issues that can lead to unnecessary repairs or downtime. If your operator is losing oil pressure or overheating, for example, we help you address it before it takes your machine out for unscheduled downtime and added operating costs. Owners should also check out this article that shows you how telematics and technology can help you calculate a truer TCO.

If you’re a machine owner, be sure to ask your dealer about the service offerings and machine features that can help you manage operating costs and increase productivity to lower your TCO over time â€" and if you’re in a lease, ask about how they can improve your uptime, profitability and residual values. If you have some unique ways to lower operating costs or TCO and you’d like to share, feel free to leave a reply below.

Randy Bushelli â€" Director of Volvo services, sales and attachments, North America

Randy joined Volvo in 1987 as a regional customer support manager representing the Northeast region. He now serves as the Director of Volvo services, sales and attachments responsible for all North America customer solutions commercial sales to ensure customer satisfaction and successful dealer support. Prior to Volvo, he worked more than a decade for an equipment dealer as a field technician.

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We often associate harsh weather with the winter, but summer can be hard on construction equipment, too. The sun, hot temperatures and humidity can all cause issues, and added strain comes from the simple fact that summer is peak construction season and machines are putting in more hours.

These days, a lot of the tips around machine monitoring focus on telematics. Telematics systems â€" especially advanced systems that reduce the amount of time you have to spend on them â€" offer advantages to many contractors. But there are still things you can do on your own today to help ensure your machines operate properly and efficiently â€" especially in the hotter, dryer summer months.

Top 7 Ways to Improve Uptime Efficiency During the Summer

In order to maintain peak efficiency despite hot and difficult conditions, we’ve identified seven tips and maintenance checks that can ensure your construction equipment is at peak form all summer long. Use these tips to help maximize your uptime throughout the summer:

1. Run your A/C properly. One of the biggest issues we see in the summer is operators running the A/C and having the doors or windows open at the same time. If you do that, all you’re doing is putting unnecessary load on the A/C component. Volvo offers a software parameter to limit the fan speed if the door is opened, and we highly recommend this parameter is turned on to ensure reliable performance of the A/C components. In the summer, you should also do a weekly check to make sure that your A/C filters and cab intake filters are clean.

The cab ventilation system in many newer machines is designed to help maintain cab temperatures for a period of time after turning off the ignition key. In hot weather, the cab could continue to ventilate using the remaining available cooling from the surface of the A/C condenser. This is another reason not to run the A/C with the doors or windows open â€" dust will make this auto system less efficient.

2. Check for bird’s nests. It may sound like an odd tip, but double check the machines in the morning for bird’s nests. Birds get into different compartments and holes in machines, and their nests can actually lead to fires if they’re not caught. Not only can this damage your equipment, but it’s also a safety issue that should be checked for. If you didn’t do a check in spring and a nest has dried out due to summer heat, it’s even more likely to catch fire. Engine compartment cleaning intervals are noted in the operator’s manual, but circumstances like this may require special cleaning intervals.

DEF for Construction Equipment3. Fill the fuel and DEF tanks at the end of each day. We see a lot of fuel-related and DEF-related issues during the summer months. The easiest way to solve these issues is to fill the tanks at the end of the day. If a machine is run hard throughout the day and you’re down to the last quarter or so in the tanks, both DEF or diesel, that fluid is extremely hot because of the return cycles. Summer months are more humid, and the hot fuel/fluid draws a lot of moist air through the breathers into the tanks. First off, even small amounts of water mixed in with your diesel will cause performance issues and maintenance hassles. You’ll also see more fault codes or alerts, so you’ll have to drain the fuel water separator more often. On the DEF side of it, the water can lead to DEF contamination, causing a number of future issues. Learn more about fuel efficiency services from Volvo CE today.

4. Keep your radiators clean. The easiest way to clean a radiator is with an air compressor, not with a water hose. A lot of the fine dust and debris when hit with water actually settles at the bottom of the radiator fence and can build up over time, creating an even bigger issue. Air compressors ensure the dust is blown completely out.

5. Manage your greasing intervals during hot spells. Most OEMs, including Volvo, have greasing intervals outlined in the operator manuals. It’s very important to ensure you’re following these guidelines, especially if you’re in an extremely dusty or hot application where your grease may thin out faster or be exposed to more contaminants.

Turbo Charger on Construction Equipment6. Give machines more time to cool down. If you work in a really hot area, let your machines idle for a few extra minutes to cool and cycle down at the end of the day. The most important component â€" and the reason for a normal condition, two-minute idle time before shutting off the key â€" is the turbo charger. Turbo chargers are lubricated with engine oil and rotate at extremely high RPMs. Under heavy engine load, the RPMs could exceed 100,000. If not allowed to idle down, turbo charger shafts and bearings can be damaged because when the engine is shut off, the oil supply to the turbo charger shaft and bearings is also shut off.

7. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. When you’re sitting in a climate-controlled cab that’s comfortable, you may not realize you can still get dehydrated throughout the day. It’s important for you and your operators to drink plenty of water and fluids during the hot summer months. Don’t let a cool, comfortable cab inadvertently cause dehydration.


Keeping Your Construction Equipment Running All Summer

Manual monitoring and checks like these are beneficial for fleets of all types. For small businesses that are looking to grow, keeping up with the health of a bigger fleet can become cumbersome. That’s especially true if you have to monitor numerous fault codes by machine week to week. At that point, programs like ActiveCare Direct reduce the clutter with simpler case alerts that we send to you.

From there, you and your dealer can take action on only the critical issues to maximize your uptime. A well-managed fleet (big or small) using telematics programs like this give you a great shot at future growth and more sustained success, helping optimize how machines are managed and used to give you the best bang for your buck.

We’ve also provided some tips on how to avoid the top mistakes companies make that lead to unnecessary maintenance issues â€" they can help you with your uptime throughout the entire year.

Learn how to increase uptime efficiency even in the summer from the experts at Volvo CE.

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