How to Maintain a Bulldozer

Yellow bulldozer on construction site.

Bulldozers, just like any plant equipment, demand extra care throughout their lifetime. They perform large jobs, which, sometimes, can result in damaged parts and worn engines. These machines should always be regularly inspected to avoid any permanent damage.

Many bulldozer operators avoid maintenance because they think it is an additional, unnecessary expense. However, if you delay any maintenance, you can end up with even more expensive repairs. It becomes increasingly costly, especially if the bolts that are found on the sprocket segments are wrecked. Often, the solution is to dismantle a considerable portion of the dozer, which is not only time-consuming but also expensive.

Simple maintenance and inspection can go a long way. You can protect and prolong the life of the machine while minimising downtime caused by repairs. Here are some things that you can do to keep the equipment up and running, especially when you need it:


Proper Parking

As with any tool or item, storage plays a huge role in a dozer’s lifespan. Always park it on a level surface and keep an eye on its fluid levels. You can refer to the owner’s manual of the equipment to learn how to ensure the levels are correctly indicated.

Also, it is essential to relieve pressure on the hydraulic system and lower the parts to the ground. Part of proper parking is to engage the machine’s parking brake. Keep the transmission in neutral before you perform any other maintenance procedure.


Grease Application

Grease points are located all over the system. Although these areas do vary depending on the machine, they typically include:

  • U-joints
  • Hinges
  • Pins
  • Linkages
  • Bearings

The cylinders will determine the grease track tension in the assembly. The greasing method is performed by applying two to three shots of grease for fan bearings, linkages, and other smaller areas. You need at least eight shots for bushings and pins. For grease points that feed a bigger area, you need about 20 shots for each.

The final step here is to ensure that all points are clean. Wipe off the grease before you use the machine; otherwise, it will welcome in individual particles that can be abrasive for the dozer.

Cross section of dozer drive gear showing sprocket and bearings.


Machine Cleaning

Any waste that remains in the cab will deteriorate the condition of the equipment over time. Therefore, you should always throw everything out after use. It also helps to remove accumulated debris, which should not be present on the pivot points and engine. If there is excess grease, wipe it off as well. Windows and mirrors should always be kept clean.


Air Filtration

Proper air induction is a requirement for the machine to function efficiently. The engine should be free from dust and grime. By keeping the engine clean and dust-free, you reduce the chances of contaminants from damaging the machine.

The focal points of this process are the housing, flexible lines that lead to the engine, filter, and steel. These areas should all be in perfect condition. Also, be sure that every connection remains secure.


Fuel Filter Change

When changing fuel filters, the method will, of course, depend on the machine itself. However, it typically involves specific steps that you should not miss. Improving the life of the equipment includes:

  • Using a good quality filter wrench that will get rid of the spin-on type
  • Applying a lubricant on the new filter to ensure a good seal
  • Keeping the area clean while preventing any contact of the filter with oily or dirty surfaces
  • Aiming to decontaminate the filter mounting face
  • Allowing air to escape from the filter housing by loosening its bleed screw
  • Inspecting the filter regularly to find possible leakage

When removing air, it helps to use the priming pump. This method lowers the risk of contaminants from entering the engine.


Engine Oil Check

The engine oil must always be on a safe level. Once again, you may refer to the owner’s manual to know the operating range for the equipment you are using. When needed, you should top up the engine oil to meet the specified level.

Also, another thing to remember is only to utilise the right type of engine oil. Check its viscosity as well to make sure that you follow the advice of the manufacturer.


Cooling and Hydraulic Systems

Part of maintaining the equipment is to ensure these two systems are in their best condition. For the cooling system, you should evaluate the coolant level. It should meet the specified level of the manufacturer. Typically, it means that the level should be an inch (or more) over the core fins.

When the engine is hot, you should avoid opening the radiator cap. At this time, the system may be pressurised after operating the equipment. If you open the cap, it will only cause the coolant to expel from the system. It is a dangerous risk since it can lead to accidents. Instead of opening the cap, you should instead check the oil and radiator cooler in case debris and dirt are blocking air.

On the other hand, the hydraulic system is fairly simple to maintain. You should regularly inspect the hydraulic fluid reservoir. If needed, be sure to add the fluid and reach the required level. It is also vital that you are careful with the entire process to avoid contaminating the system with water or dirt.

Other daily tasks that you should be prepared to do are:

  • Ensuring battery connections are not tight or corroded
  • Cleaning and tightening bolts when needed
  • Inspecting the vents and clearing them of debris
  • Wiping off residues to avoid a trickle, which can lead to a power discharge

It cannot be stressed enough how necessary maintenance procedures are for the life and overall efficiency of the dozer. However, operators should understand that these tasks do not truly help unless they are performed correctly. For instance, regularly cleaning the dozer does not mean you are doing it right.

Bulldozer piston hydraulics.

The following are tips in guaranteeing your efforts in maintaining the bulldozer are fruitful:


1. Prioritise the Undercarriage

About 20% of the value of a dozer is placed on its undercarriage. Consequently, it accounts for up to 50% of the machine’s repair costs throughout its lifetime. Therefore, it is crucial to pay attention to this spot to ensure you get the maximum value out of the investment.

Allocate as much time as possible every day to inspect the undercarriage. Check specific areas, such as the idlers, bottom rollers, and roller flanges for debris and signs of wear. Alignment of track and its tension should also be paid attention to during inspections. Other parts for daily assessments include:

  • Tension spring
  • Trackpads
  • Links
  • Carrier roller

It is normal for the undercarriage to be dirty, but it should not have excessive debris. When analysing the area for wear, keep an eye on the sprocket teeth as well.


2. Regular Check-ups Are a Must

Daily inspections are necessary to ensure the working condition of the dozer is up to par. You have plenty of tasks to accomplish, but they are all essential. Also, frequently performing them will feel like routine work, so it becomes an easy-to-follow process.

Some of the tasks that you should always do are:

  • Changing the oil and other fluids systematically
  • Proper storage location to ensure the dozer is not exposed to wet conditions to avoid rust
  • Check-ups on chains and bolts for damaged parts

Evaluating the machine every day may seem like a tedious job, but it has many benefits. Aside from increased safety during operations, it also lengthens the lifespan of the dozer. If ever you see any defaced portion of the equipment, you should call a skilled technician or the right professional for repair right away.

A mechanic checking bulldozer parts.


3. Clean the Track Frame

Dozers typically work in muddy conditions. During the winter, you will see mud frozen on the track frame. Therefore, it makes sense to clean this part of the machine while it is still warm. You can use a track spade to accomplish this job. The tool will fit perfectly into the gaps of the track and frame.

Once clean, you will immediately see the difference in how a simple cleaning process can make the dozer’s movement smoother.

Sometimes, using track spades will not solve the problem. It may be due to the hard mud that may have been frozen before you tried to get rid of it. The best way to unfreeze it is to control the heat. You can use propane light, but be careful. You can ask for assistance either from the staff or a pro that can do the job for you.


4. Take Care of the Electrical System

The electrical system of the dozer consists of wires and batteries. These parts of the equipment should never be overlooked. Maintenance does not just involve the outer part of the machine. You should also perform a check on the system to avoid issues. Occasional check-ups are fine, as long as you make sure everything is in good condition.

For instance, old or damaged batteries should be instantly replaced when detected. Wiring should be correct, and the fuse system should be efficient.


5. Correct Bad Habits

You should only have trained operators handling the machine; otherwise, it can risk the health of the dozer, as well as the workplace and workers. However, even expertly trained operators can have bad habits when running the equipment.

Here are some actions that can be a problem, along with their appropriate solutions:

  • Operating in one direction only: Sometimes, it is necessary to work in one direction, especially when on a slope. Unfortunately, it can cause uneven wear on the tracks. You will notice it easily when you take a good look at the uphill and downhill tracks where the latter suffers from more wear. Ensure the operator changes this habit by doing the best practices in evening out the wear patterns.
  • Making abrupt turns: Accelerated wear can also be due to the operator turning abruptly or doing a counter-rotation. It is a habit that even trained professionals do. The problem with this action is that it places increased stress on the components of the undercarriage. Therefore, it results in a much-shortened life for these parts. Avoiding such sudden turns can decrease stress and is an effective way of caring for the machine.
  • Operating at high speeds: It is a common misconception that wears is based on the distance travelled alone. Working hours and high speeds are also some of the most significant contributors to deterioration. Admittedly, the operator wants to finish the job as quickly as possible. However, if the equipment is always on high-speed. Similar to abrupt turns, speed can shorten the life of the undercarriage, particularly with quick manoeuvring in reverse.

Bad operating habits are quite common. But it is always possible to correct them with additional training.

Bulldozer for hire at ESM.


More Information about Dozers

You will understand more about dozer maintenance when you know how it works. For instance, how does a bulldozer turn left or right? Steering systems and patterns may differ, but there are joysticks to use, which are also known as lever controls.

In reality, it is much like operating a car, although, of course, the dozer is much bigger. Its sheer size makes it more of a challenge to steer. However, it does have the same functions, which is to drive forward, backward, and even side to side. It also has a brake system, just like your vehicle.

The joysticks control the attachments, such as the construction blade. Before operating, it is crucial to ensure the person in the dozer’s cab is a trained professional. In many situations, the site requires a construction pro to walk the operator through the steps.

Part of the maintenance is learning how to operate the bulldozer, which includes turning left and right. As much as possible, the operator should choose to make wide turns. Going for pivot turns or counter rotations will only accelerate wear. When turning, it should be done on level ground. It helps to alternate the turning directions, rather than going for the same side over and over.

Another part of the process is to travel up and down in a straight line whenever on a slope. The problem is that many operators opt to move the dozer in a constant direction. It will only lead to worn idlers, guide lugs, and rollers because of the greater force applied on a single side.

If the job is on the hillside, it helps to minimise the time spent on the slope. This simple action can help reduce load and wear to the undercarriage.

Needless to say, it is difficult to run a bulldozer unless you are qualified to do so. It means that you have undergone the necessary training as a heavy equipment operator. There are also requirements before you can handle the machine, including:

  • High school diploma
  • With a driver’s licence, particularly for commercial operations
  • Licence or certification for operation
  • Apprenticeship or on-the-job training
  • At least one year of experience in the industry

Aside from experience and educational or training background, specific skills should also be acquired, such as:

  • Hand-foot-eye coordination
  • Vision acuity for both near and far objects
  • Depth perception
  • Quick response
  • Good stamina
  • Safe operation proficiency
  • Familiarity with GPS tools

It is important to note that operating a dozer does not require a licence per se. Even importing the equipment to the country does not need approval from authorities.

However, using cranes and earthmoving equipment does need to be certified in some workplaces. Earthmoving or Particular Crane (EPC) is the certification to obtain, but the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 changed the previous restrictions. Today, an operator no longer needs to provide an EPC certification, but it will still depend on the company’s rules.

Although being unlicenced does not stop anyone from operating a dozer, many companies require operators to prove their skills. Plus, it is more than essential to understand general use and safety when using heavy equipment.

A DZ-04 CAT D8T Dozer for hire at ESM.


Our Dozers and Why We Use Them

Here at ESM Resources, we have the DZ-04 CAT D8T Dozer and the DZ-05 CAT D8T Dozer as your primary options. Both are from the manufacturer, Caterpillar, which has amassed an excellent reputation around the world.

We take our choices seriously, which is why we only use bulldozers that we know and trust. Both the DZ-04 and DZ-05 have increased durability with the DZ-04 made from high-tensile steel. On the other hand, the DZ-05 is designed for harder jobs that require carrying more weight. It has striker bars, and seals customised to provide better protection against flying debris.

These two CAT D8T dozer varieties promote safety and easy maintenance. The DZ-05 comes with an elevated sprocket undercarriage, which keeps the machine in good balance. This feature also enhances its natural durability. Meanwhile, the DZ-04 uses rear counterweights to improve balance.

Bulldozers are unique as an earthmoving machine. Their owning and operating costs depend on their type. Regardless of the variety, maintenance is essential. It should not be about trimming costs. The goal is to decrease downtime and promote productivity through proper maintenance.