How to select a wheel loader
August 28, 2012 by Debbie McClung
Whether you’re stabilizing base material for future utility and pavement installations, or performing demolition activities, using the right wheel loader will save time and money.
The key to making the right wheel loader purchase is knowing what work you’ll do with it, and then specifying a machine that delivers durability and capacity.
The following is a checklist of factors that should be considered when specifying a wheel loader:
#1) Material density determines bucket choice
A wheel loader’s bucket is typically its biggest revenue generator, its size and capacity is important; but what it carries matters more than you might think. For instance, a bucket properly matched to its material, partnered with adequate lift capacity and dump height, could reduce the number of passes needed to fill trucks or stockpile.
“There is a tendency for contractors to buy the size of machine they think they need and use a standard bucket,” says Chad Ellis, Doosan product manager. This mindset negatively impacts productivity. “Before you even select a machine, it’s important to first determine daily production targets. The next step is to look at the density of the material and match it to the size and capacity of a bucket, and then look at the machine needed to get that job done.”
He adds that while contractors may be working with multiple material densities — sand one day, rock the next — it’s important to spec the bucket based on the heaviest material it will handle.
#2) Durable designs increase reliability
Durability is demanded on all job sites, but it’s particularly significant when machines are performing initial site preparation, such as clearing a wooded area. The brush and vegetation that wheel loaders encounter in this rigorous application require machines to be engineered and manufactured to protect hydraulic hoses and other important components. Additional precautions may also need to be incorporated, such as under guards and shields for front glass and lights.
Uptime and productivity are further increased in those conditions by matching tires to withstand the rugged conditions. Determining if a more aggressive tread or wider tire for flotation is needed will help to increase productivity. Also, figuring out if a certain type of tire fill is required will further increase uptime.
#3) Attachments expand versatility
The key to getting the most productivity from a wheel loader is the investment in a quality attachment quick-change mechanism — which is optional on most manufacturers’ machines. Many of the efficiencies are gained from operators being able to rapidly change attachments with a quick coupler from the comfort and security of a cab. Additionally, some coupler systems have been designed to eliminate greasing, requiring less maintenance and fewer replacement parts.
Loader-specific attachments have increased the versatility of these heavy-duty machines. They are ideal for a range of all-purpose material handling buckets to heavy rock buckets for more serious applications. Wheel loaders can also be fitted with pallet forks and grapples.
#4) Power and efficiency drive productivity
Wheel loader productivity is defined a number of ways, but the two most common metrics are machine horsepower and lifting capacity. Optimum hydraulic performance improves cycle times, leading to increased productivity.
“Breakout force on a site prep or construction job has a direct tie to productivity, because the easier and more proficiently a machine can fill a bucket, the higher the productivity rate,” explains Ellis.
Additionally, as fuel continues to be a significant factor in operational costs, construction customers gravitate to fuel-efficient equipment that run a full shift before refuelling, preferring to schedule full-fleet refills.
#5) Support builds long-term satisfaction
Find a dealer that is dedicated to helping contractors meet deadlines and minimize downtime with parts availability and maintenance. A committed dealer can recommend a parts stocking list for frequently used wear parts.
That commitment should also be demonstrated through an OEM’s ability to quickly provide parts that the dealer may not have on hand or regularly stock.
With a growing emphasis on the Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions standards with interim Tier 4 (iT4) regulations designed to reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM), it’s more critical than ever to follow wheel loader manufacturers’ guidelines for service intervals. On some machines it will also be critical to strictly adhere to the proper use of specially formulated API CJ-4 engine oil and ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel to avoid costly repairs.
Ellis recommends one final piece of advice to contractors that are weighing their wheel loader options.
“Make sure you’re not just buying the same thing you’ve always bought. Take the time to fully evaluate each purchase.”
Article was contributed by Doosan Infracore Construction Equipment America.