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Home - News - Optimizing Engine Life and ROI: Key Strategies for Construction Equipment Managers

Optimizing Engine Life and ROI: Key Strategies for Construction Equipment Managers

June 30, 2023
Extending Engine Life and Maximizing Investment
When equipment managers consider purchasing construction equipment, one of the key concerns is the longevity of the engine before it requires a rebuild. Foley Equipment, a reputable Caterpillar dealer based in Wichita, Kansas, acknowledges that the powertrain is a major consideration for customers even at the time of purchase. However, determining the exact lifespan of an engine is complex and influenced by various factors.
Factors Affecting Engine Lifespan:
1. Maintenance and Filter Usage: Proper maintenance practices and the use of specified replacement filters contribute to a longer engine life.
2. Workload and Idle Time: The engine's workload and idle time play a significant role in its lifespan. Intense workloads consume more fuel and may lead to earlier rebuilds.
Fuel Burn Rule-of-Thumb: To provide customers with a general idea of an engine's expected lifespan, manufacturers like Caterpillar and its authorized dealers have developed a fuel burn rule-of-thumb. Instead of relying solely on engine hours, which can vary based on workload, this rule-of-thumb calculates engine life based on fuel consumption. It multiplies the engine liter size by 10,000 gallons of fuel burned. For instance, a 15-liter Cat C15 engine powering a Cat D8 dozer may require a rebuild after burning approximately 150,000 gallons of fuel.
Rebuilding Sweet Spot: According to Scott Harmon, a senior parts and service marketing consultant, there is a recommended window for engine rebuilds. For the 15-liter engine, contractors should consider planning a rebuild between 150,000 and 180,000 gallons of fuel burned. Delaying a rebuild beyond this sweet spot increases the risk of parts being damaged beyond repair and requiring costly replacements.
Monitoring and Addressing Indicators: Contractors have several tools at their disposal to identify potential issues that could impact engine life and rebuild costs. Telematics and electronic engine systems can track fuel consumption and detect problem indicators. Increased fuel consumption coupled with declining machine performance, rising machine vibration, and abnormal fluid sampling results can signal internal issues that need attention. Ignoring these indicators can lead to more severe damage to critical engine components, escalating the cost of a rebuild or necessitating a new engine.
Considering Fleet Management Strategy: Contractors should have open conversations with equipment dealers to align their goals and fleet management strategies. By understanding the intended usage and desired engine lifespan, dealers can provide guidance on maximizing engine performance and lifespan. Tolley emphasizes the importance of considering the cost of downtime when contemplating pushing an engine beyond its recommended rebuild point.
Key Factors for Engine Longevity:
1. Proper Operation and Maintenance: Engines that are operated and maintained according to manufacturer specifications tend to last longer.
2. Manufacturer-Specified Filters and Fluids: Using the recommended filters and fluids contributes to extended engine life.
3. Daily Inspections and Maintenance Schedules: Regular inspections and adherence to maintenance schedules help identify and address issues promptly.
4. Operator Training: Well-trained operators can optimize fuel efficiency and minimize unnecessary strain on the engine. Telematics solutions like Cat Product Link can monitor fuel consumption and highlight areas where additional training may be beneficial.
In summary, while the exact lifespan of an engine before a rebuild depends on various factors, implementing proper maintenance practices, utilizing recommended filters and fluids, monitoring fuel consumption, and addressing issues promptly are key to extending engine life and maximizing your investment. By collaborating with equipment dealers and understanding your fleet management strategy, you can optimize engine performance and minimize the risk of costly repairs.