This article is intended as a handy checklist of considerations when buying a used wheel loader, not as an all-inclusive used equipment guide.
There are a number of items that would raise immediate red flags in this initial inspection: cuts in a tire sidewall or tread, cracks in the wheel area, obvious cylinder and hose leaks, missing grease zerks, excessive wear on the bucket, and cracks, welds and plates on the frame. These would all be signs, the loader has been through some hard times.
Always check the hour meter and, if possible, have an inspection partner along who’s knowledgeable about loaders. That may not seem like many hours, but this rental has spent the majority of its life in demolition applications – hence the foam-filled tires and underneath plating.
Tires and wheels
The significant cut on our machine’s left front tire is not the concern it would be if the machine had regular pneumatic tires. With regular tires, however, there are several things to watch out for in addition to cuts, all of which could be safety hazards. A ripple on the sidewall could indicate there’s been a tearing of the interior liner. Check tire pressures and verify there’s no issues with the rim of the wheel. Also look for missing wheel lug nuts or bolts.
These scratches are more indicative of the demolition use our inspection machine went through than the 650 hours on the meter.
When you check the tread on all tires, note the raised wear width in the center of the tire. When that is worn down, you’ll want to pay closer attention to getting it replaced. We would advise replacing the tire after it gets another 1/8-inch past the point the wear width has gotten even with the surrounding tread.
Look on the back side of wheels and tires to make sure there’s no oil or debris that’s caught up in there, especially in a machine used in demolition.
And don’t forget to inspect all four tires. One tire’s condition – whether good or bad – doesn’t necessarily mean the other three tires are in the same shape, or even the same size.
Do the usual fluid checks, looking at the condition and level of the engine oil, antifreeze and hydraulic oil. Check the belts for wear and possible replacement. As always, be on the lookout for leaks, both around the engine and the radiator. You never want to start the engine if you see an oil or antifreeze leak or a belt that’s starting to come apart. Frist replace the belt and determine where the leaks are coming from, then you don’t have to worry about a belt flying and hitting someone, or a leak spraying oil and causing a fire.”
One critical area to inspect: the center pivot, or articulation joint. Make sure there’s little up and down movement in this area.
Look at the air cleaner indicator to see if the air cleaner needs to be changed. Make sure the air inlet to the turbocharger is intact and there’s no tears the tube. If tears are present, replace it immediately, since dust bypassing the air filter could get into the engine and cause an engine failure.
Examine the filters: do they look like they’ve been changed? Pull out the air filters and check them.
When you run the engine, listen for noises and observe the smoke coming out of the exhaust. Look at the dashboard indicators to see if there are any diagnostic issues with the engine.