Three Trencher Maintenance Tips to Improve ROI

A look at why following three key maintenance tips can help maximize the uptime, readiness and return on investment of landscape companies' fleets.

Regularly inspect a trencher's teeth, chain and sprockets to ensure it continues to dig properly.
Regularly inspect a trencher's teeth, chain and sprockets to ensure it continues to dig properly.
Ditch Witch

Trenchers are the bread and butter for green industry professionals and utility contractors who want to install products quickly and efficiently. Many contractors depend on these machines on various jobsites.

As a result, it's important to make sure that trenchers are ready to go when they're needed, which is heavily dependent on practicing proper machine maintenance. Routine maintenance can help you proactively identify a problem, extend the life of trencher equipment in your fleet and reduce the risk of machine failure on the jobsite.

Following three key maintenance tips can help maximize the uptime, readiness and ROI of your trenching fleet. 

Perform routine inspections

To ensure your trencher fleet is ready to meet the demands of various jobsites, it’s important to perform machine inspections as soon as the equipment is done with a project. Equipment inspection helps you stay ahead of wear and timely address needed maintenance. An inspection takes just a few minutes and soon becomes a regular habit.

At a minimum, inspect the digging teeth and the chain after each job is complete. Also, be sure to check your trencher’s engine oil and coolant levels on a regular basis, adding the correct fluids as necessary. Change fluids and filters at prescribed intervals (more frequently when operating in adverse or dusty conditions), lubricate all service points and keep hydraulic fluid topped off.

Determining best practices for inspections can be found in the trencher operator’s manual. The operator manual contains valuable equipment information, such as the maintenance schedule for the different parts of the machine. Following the operator’s manual can help ensure that your inspections are effectively reducing unexpected and unwanted downtime.  

Routine inspections of a trencher decrease downtime and increase return on investment.Routine inspections of a trencher decrease downtime and increase return on investment.Ditch Witch

Keep the track system in tiptop shape

Trenchers should be easily navigate any jobsite. This is best accomplished by making sure that the track system is in top shape, meaning that it is clean and free of mud, rocks and other debris before it leaves the yard. All debris must be purged from the bearing areas to prevent intrusion to the roller bearings. This care is even more important in cold regions where the contaminants could freeze and cause damage to rollers, bearings and sprockets in sub-freezing temperatures. Contaminants can also result in premature wear on embeds of the rubber track and the drive sprockets.

Keeping the roller bearings lubricated will also improve the productivity of a trencher. This is even more relevant when the jobsite has wet, muddy and cold conditions. Correct fluid levels in the planetary gear boxes must be maintained to prevent premature damage to internal gears.

Additionally, track tension is an important factor in trencher upkeep. Correct track tension must be maintained to lessen the chance of damage to embeds and the track, caused by the track sliding off the idlers and sprocket. As always, the operator’s manual lists the correct fluids, grease and track tension procedures to extend the track drive system life.

Don’t overlook the digging system

The best defense against wear is regular inspection of the digging system. Worn teeth, chains and sprockets reduce digging efficiency, which can result in shock loads that damage other parts of the machine such as the engine and transmission. Additionally, when consistently operating with a worn chain link, sprocket teeth can completely wear through roller sleeves, causing damage to the pins that connect them.  If a chain doesn’t have the correct tension, you can lose productivity when the chain slips off the sprocket.

To stay on top of performance, check the teeth after every project. Teeth can wear prematurely or unevenly. When this happens, the teeth can put unnecessary stress on the digging chain. Digging teeth should be replaced as soon as they become dull. When replacing teeth, it is important to make sure they conform to the pattern on the digging chain.

Where there are worn teeth, there are often sprockets in need of replacement. When performing trencher maintenance, remember that sprockets should never be replaced alone. The digging chain should be changed at the same time. Operating an old chain on new sprockets causes premature sprocket wear. And operating a new chain on worn sprockets causes excessive chain wear and can result in chain failure. Once again, information for inspecting and properly maintaining the digging system can be found in the operator’s manual.

Good maintenance goes a long way

Performing routine inspections and keeping a close eye on the track and digging systems can ensure your trenchers are performing as promised on a customer jobsite. This will ultimately optimize performance, reduce downtime and improve the bottom line for both you and your customers.

Editor's Note: A version of this article was originally published in Rental magazine.