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How Do I Know If My Final Drive Is Bad?


Your gear is your business. What are the implications if your mini-excavator or other heavy equipment isn't working right or even working at all? Loss of work? Low reputation with customers? While several things can affect how a piece of machinery can function, recognizing some early warning signs can reduce business downtime. Excavator work can tax even the most robust final drive, so some preventative effort will only help your business.



Troubleshooting Final Drive Issues.

Early identification of potential final drive problems begin with these three critical areas:
  • Overheating
  • Unusual noise or vibration
  • Leakage

Final Drives and Overheating Don't Mix.

Excessive heat is the natural enemy of all things mechanical. Is the final drive on your equipment too hot to touch, or does it instantly cook away water? Then something is very wrong, and equipment operators should not ignore the situation. Overheating is a classic sign of bearing failure, but there are other factors potentially at work. The hydraulic fluid temperature might be abnormally high. Brake issues may prevent the smooth operation of the final drive. The gear oil level may be low.

Pay Attention to An Unusual Noise or Vibration.

If something doesn't sound or feel right then, usually something is wrong. Just as bad bearings can cause excessive heat, a failing bearing can generate noise or cause a vibration. As the bearing wears out, it causes greater friction in the mechanism and is now no longer smooth running. Because the bearing involves other moving parts, the increased friction can have a cascading and noise/vibration increasing effect on the final drive. Increased friction, and the resulting noise and vibration, can also happen when the gear oil level is too low.

Look for Final Drive Leakage.

Did you ever want to be able to predict the future? A leaking final drive foretells that a repair or replacement is yet to come. It could be as simple as a seal replacement. If ignored, this leak will undoubtedly lead to a significant repair or replacement of the entire final drive. Of course, low hydraulic fluid or gear oil increases wear on the equipment. A leaking seal also allows for contaminants to enter the mechanism and impact your final drive's proper operation.

Missing Cover Plate?

Is the cover plate missing or dislodged from your final drive housing? Then, sorry to say, stick a fork in your final drive. It's done. High pressure not only ruptures the cover but causes irreparable damage to the bearings and piston shoes. Periodic inspection of the case drain filter should be part of any regular maintenance plan and go a long way toward reducing catastrophic final drive failure.

Create A Plan to Preserve Your Equipment.

If you already have an equipment maintenance schedule and log, then the right steps are already underway. However, is there an equipment master? Assign one individual to be that mini-excavator Jedi Knight. This person can be responsible for one piece of equipment, one type of equipment, or everything in the yard. By recognizing if your machinery is not looking or sounding right, the equipment master can help identify small problems before becoming money-losing headaches. This awareness is especially vital if your equipment rotates among different workers. The periodic machine operator, for example, may not recognize that an unusual vibration is an early warning sign.

Create A Daily Routine

Establish a simple, daily routine for each equipment operator to follow:
  • Morning Start-Up: Perform a brief walk-around of the equipment. Does everything look normal? Inspect the final drive seal for the leakage. Note any unusual sounds or vibrations.
  • End-of-the-Day Shutdown: Conduct the day's second visual inspection. This period is ideal for closely checking the final drive for leaks, especially if the equipment is on a trailer. At the same time, inspect the final drive for excessive heat.

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MiniFinalDrives.com offers a complete selection of new, OEM final drive motors from Bobcat, Kubota, John Deere, Komatsu, and other brands. Nationally known for fast service and quality products, this family-owned company uses its 50 years of experience to develop innovative solutions for the heavy equipment industry.