Proper maintenance for your pile driver is not only essential to maintaining seamless operation; it can help avoid dangerous situations, costly downtime, and expensive repairs. By conducting regular inspections and working with a trusted team, you can ensure the success of a project no matter the scope.
One of the first considerations when developing a maintenance and inspection checklist is to evaluate your site’s specific conditions, soil composition, and the presence of rock or other dense earth. Being able to identify potential malfunctions or breakdowns is critical to troubleshooting pile driving equipment.
Whether you’re renting heavy pile driving equipment that can be serviced by experienced technicians or maintaining a fleet, it’s essential to be able to identify breakdowns before they can cause damage and stop work.
Piston and Catch Cap Contact
If you experience catch cap contact, you’ll likely know it immediately as a violent shift in the hammer’s rhythmic hitting frequency will be the result. If this occurs, immediately stop the hammer to avoid further damage. Perform a thorough inspection of the catch cap and ensure that the stop edge hasn’t been rolled or chamfered. If it has, you will need to replace or repair the ring.
The best way to prevent unintended contact between the piston and the catch cap you shout start each workday by performing a dry drop to ensure that any accumulated oils or fuel are not accumulated in the combustion chamber.
If the opposite side of the catch cap is not damaged, you can flip it over and continue operation after a thorough review of other systems, but if it has been previously damaged, you will need to replace the entire ring.
Proper Lubrication in Pile Driver Maintenance
Like any combustion engine, oil is an essential part of proper operation, and checking oil levels may sound like common sense, but it is one of the easiest ways to avoid damage to your equipment and the costs associated with repairs and downtime.
The piston should always appear slightly wet, and this is an indication of proper lubrication. Regularly check the piston via the the trip slot on the back of the upper cylinder or as the piston rises out of the catch cap.
Consult with your local heavy equipment vendor or your equipment’s pre-determined instructions to ensure proper lubrication for all technical systems and regularly inspect them visually.
A lack of proper lubrication results in increased friction, lower driving force, higher heat, and stress within the hammer body. This can cause hammer bore pitting, and cracks will form over time which will require extensive repairs or replacement.
Cushion Stack Insufficiently Pre-Loaded
Pile driving hammers rely on the cushion stack to isolate pile-hammer interaction and operation. This is crucial for proper operation and protecting other mechanical systems from transferring the energy created during pile driving to the hammer body.
Cushion stacks are bound to wear down with wear and the considerable heat they are subjected to, and as they do, the amount of energy they can absorb diminishes. Degraded cushion stacks provide less protection and can result in hammer parts loosening or cracking.
One way to analyze a cushion stack is to try to insert a flathead screwdriver into the stack with an effort of less than 50 PSI. If you cannot penetrate the stack, you’re good to go; however, if you can, you will need to rebuild or replace the stack.
This occurs when the hammer and pile are not on the same angle and can result in damage to the pile, the hammer, or both. If operation is continued, this can cause severe damage and diminished efficiency.
This commonly occurs once the pile has been driven but not to stable depths, so the beginning portion of driving a pile makes close monitoring imperative. Slight adjustments may be necessary during pile driving projects, and on-site crew members or operators should be equipped to make these accommodations.
Misalignment will lead to a loss of strength per stroke, piles that are damaged and may require extraction and replacement, or damage to the hammer body and other mechanical systems.
Development and Implementation of Protocols
The best way to avoid costly downtime or expensive repairs is to create and implement a series of daily, weekly, and monthly checklists that will keep your equipment operating properly and your crew safe. A visual and mechanical inspection should be conducted not only at the beginning of the workday but at the end as well.
Weekly inspections should be conducted on the same day each week. Some operators prefer a thorough inspection on Friday so that if repairs are necessary, they may be able to be completed over the weekend to avoid downtime.
For monthly inspections, you may consider having a licensed technician perform a thorough evaluation of all mechanical systems on-site to ensure that your heavy equipment is operating at its peak performance.
Experts in Pile Driver Maintenance
RPI Equipment has a team of experienced service technicians available to conduct inspections or perform repairs. With over fifty years of experience, we are your trusted partner when it comes to renting or buying pile driving equipment but also providing pile driver maintenance.