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End of season maintenance – Take time to prolong the life of mechanical earth drills

By Joe Haynes

June 9, 2023

Little Beaver

Photos courtesy of Little Beaver

Performing routine and end-of-season maintenance is important to prolong the life of equipment and ensures it performs when it’s really needed. As the end of the busy season wraps up, it’s time to take a closer look at mechanical earth drills. When it comes to a smooth drilling operation, it’s a matter of a well-operating machine.

Routine drill maintenance includes examining, cleaning and lubricating key drill components roughly every 30 days or 40 hours of operation. But what happens at the end of busy season, when the drill makes its way to storage for a few months? No matter what the drill is used for, there are a few steps that can be taken to ensure a simple transition from storage to usage in the spring.

Inspect the drill. After every rental of the earth drill, take a look at all of the components to ensure everything is in working order. End-of-season maintenance includes taking that inspection one step further. Make sure the blades are past the flighting. When the blades start to wear flush with the auger, it’s time to flip the blades or replace them. If the blades wear to the auger flighting and wear the actual flighting, rental centers will either need to repair the auger flighting or replace the entire auger.

Take a few more steps to complete the detailed inspection. Ensure all bolts are tight, and make sure all carbide blades (used for hard clay, frozen ground or hard pan soils) are sharp. If the carbide blades feel worn and rounded, sharpen them with a bench grinder. Using a silicone carbide bench grinding wheel, hold the blade at a five- to seven-degree relief angle to sharpen it.

The push-button connector should be in good shape, with no visible rust. Check the throttle lever for damage or wear. Inspect the throttle cable, too. When pulling the lever, the cable should move freely on the other end. If it sticks, replace it. Some technicians might be able to remove the cable, clean it and reattach, but if the cable is frayed at all, it will be difficult to get back in. Replacing is often the best option.

Inspecting the drill’s flex shaft should be done two or three times a year, but is especially important during end-of-year maintenance. There shouldn’t be any cracks or wires on the outer housing. If it’s in good shape, simply remove the core, clean it, re-lube it and slide it back in. If the flex shaft shows signs of cracks or wires, it should be replaced.

If any parts are in need of replacement, contact the manufacturer. Addressing replacement parts prior to storage is a better alternative to waiting until spring. Store the drill with peace of mind knowing it’ll be ready to rent out in the spring, rather than dealing with potential delays waiting for parts.

Replace fluids and filters. Transmission fluid should be replaced regularly. If the fluid has a lot of metal shavings in it, that can be an indication of excessive gear wear or missing teeth. If the fluid is changed regularly, gear wear won’t be an issue. When holding the output shaft and wiggling it, there shouldn’t be a lot of movement. Motor oil and filters should be cleaned and
changed. Clean filters with an air hose, or if they are foam filters, they can be shaken out.

Little BeaverClean and prep for storage. Considering the job, it’s natural that earth drills get dirty. Dirt and clay adhere to the blades of the auger, which can diminish the efficiency and performance of the equipment. Not only should the machine be wiped down after every use, but it also should undergo a deep cleaning during end-of-year maintenance.

Remove all debris from the blades using warm, soapy water. Avoid using a power washer, as the pressure can damage the equipment. To prep for storage, disassemble the drill and remove the torque tube and auger. Drain the fuel or add fuel neutralizer before storage. Always store the drill upright in a dry place because the steel components will eventually rust if left outside or in places with a lot of moisture, such as propped up outside against a building.

Keep in mind the importance of end-of-year maintenance and the role it plays in the overall lifespan of the drill. Cleaning and storing the machine properly contributes to continued ROI.

Joe Haynes is president of Little Beaver, Livingston, Texas, a manufacturer of drilling and trenching equipment. For more information, call 800-227-7515 or visit