Don’t be afraid to get a little dirty to get the job done. But dirt can damage your heavy gear without proper cleaning. Learn how to protect your machines with these cleaning tips.
Dirt is a sure sign that your equipment has been subjected to painstaking work, but it can also be a danger to equipment and people. Cleaning heavy equipment will help you work efficiently, preserve value, and protect your employees.
With all the reasons for cleaning heavy equipment, where do you start?
We recently asked Cameron Jewell, Assistant Field Service Coordinator at our Edwards Demonstration and Training Center, for advice on cleaning machines. Cameron manages a fleet of Cat Edwards machines, providing maintenance and repairs to ensure they are ready for use during equipment demonstrations and customer training.
Read on for tips on safe and efficient cleaning, including pressure washing heavy equipment and extra protection for your machines.
Why Clean Heavy Equipment
Keeping the equipment in the demo center clean is a daily task, Cameron said. More than 1400 customers and visitors visit the enterprise every year, so the machines are widely used. “The equipment here is usually washed every day and after every program to ensure that no faults are recorded and that the machines are in perfect condition.
However, even the most common operations may require daily cleaning. Dirt and grease can cause mechanical problems and damage the machine.
“A clean car means less downtime,” says Cameron. “When a machine is working on a construction site, it picks up all kinds of debris, dirt and grime. If it is left on the machine day after day, the parts will not work 100%. Debris can get stuck between the intestines. And if it stays long enough, it can wear through those pipes and cause a leak.”
Cameron also mentioned the possibility of large rocks and debris getting stuck in the frame. This can lead to further wear of parts and shorten their service life.
Clean machines are also easier to repair and maintain. “As a technician, we clean machines to make them easier to work with,” says Cameron. “It’s easier to get to places without dirt and debris.”
For operators, clean machines are safer to use. Keeping windows, cameras and mirrors clean improves operator visibility. And disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, such as joysticks, switches, and doorknobs, can reduce the spread of bacteria and germs. Cleaning accumulated dirt from electrical circuits also reduces the risk of fire.
When performed consistently and regularly, cleaning also extends the life of your machines and provides greater resale value across the board.
Preparing to Clean Your Equipment
Cleaning a bulldozer or backhoe is a bit more risky than washing a car, so it’s important to protect yourself with the proper safety gear. Before you start the cleaning process, make sure you have:
- Insulated suits to protect arms and legs from flying debris and hot water.
- Non-slip shoes with toe protection.
- Face and eye protection to prevent burns and contamination
- Thick gloves to protect your hands
Along with your safety equipment, you need to know about pressure washing safety. High velocity water comes with some risks, so make sure everyone who cleans cars knows how to use this tool. You also need to make sure you have access to an industrial cleaner and hot water.
Heavy Equipment High Pressure Washer
Cameron suggests using both a water jet and a pressure washer to clean heavy equipment. Pressure washers usually have small diameter hoses that can pump up to 10 liters per minute. Water guns use wider, lower pressure hoses but have a much larger gallon capacity to help you clean larger machines.
In general, pressure washers are best for detailed work, and water jets handle the entire machine, so it’s best to use them together.
“We use water cannons to remove most of the dirt and grime first,” says Cameron. “So after we’ve sprayed every side of the machine and removed the heavier clumps, we use a normal high pressure washer to clean the rest of the car and really fine tune.”
Warm or lukewarm water works best in the early stages to remove stubborn stains. After adding detergent, you can switch to cold water.
Cleaning heavy equipment is easier with a soap brush. “If the car needs to be cleaned (for a demo or photo shoot), we will use a brush and soap to clean the painted areas.” These tools can help you cover large areas, and you can fill them with a butyl-based cleaner that will handle all types of grease and grime. After applying the cleaning agent, rinse the machine and allow it to air dry.
Cameron also uses compressed air when the car needs to dry quickly.
Inside the cleaning machine
Cleaning the machine cabin should be a standard part of routine machine maintenance. This not only improves workplace safety, but also provides a healthier working environment for operators.
Before you begin, gather everything you need. This includes:
- Microfiber cloths or shop rags
- Window washer
- A cleaning solution specially formulated for car interiors.
- Mild liquid dish detergent
- Touchscreen-compatible cleaner (see user manual for manufacturer-approved cleaner)
- Furniture cleaner
- Vacuum cleaner for wet/dry cleaning
Steps to Cleaning Your Machine’s Cab:
- Wear protective equipment such as gloves, mask and goggles.
- Remove floor mats (if you have them) and brush with detergent. Rinse with a hose and let air dry.
- Using a shop vacuum cleaner or a cordless vacuum cleaner, remove all dirt and debris from the inside. Make sure you vacuum any crevices where dirt has accumulated.
- Use a car cleaner to clean vinyl, plastic and leather surfaces.
- Clean windows with glass cleaner and LCDs and monitors with touch screen cleaner. Be careful not to spray the cleaner directly onto the screens.
- Wash the floor with dishwashing detergent mixed with water. You may need to empty the uninstall trash a few times. Rinse or rinse.
- For the seat, dampen the material and rub it with upholstery cleaner. Vacuum with a wet/dry vacuum to remove water (and stains). You can also use a portable vacuum cleaner to clean carpets.
- See our disinfection guide for tips on cleaning high contact surfaces such as joysticks, steering wheels and door handles.
The final step in cleaning heavy equipment is the use of wax. It helps protect your car and gives it a shine, especially when buffing and buffing parts.