Five Causes of Premature Component Failures – And How to Prevent Them

Preventative Maintenance

Nobody likes downtime, but did you know that many of the most common breakdowns of heavy equipment are entirely preventable? It’s true – and there are many simple, proactive steps that you can take to head off unplanned equipment failures and work stoppages.

We spoke with Alex Baksay, SANY product specialist, to learn more about some of the most common and frequent breakdowns and how you can prevent problems on your jobsite.

The Most Common Components & Systems That Suffer Preventable Failures

With so many systems and moving parts, nearly any system or component on an excavator, wheel loader or other piece of heavy equipment can suffer an unexpected failure, but some systems are more susceptible than others. Baksay says that in his experience, engines, transmissions, hydraulic pumps and valves are among the most frequent systems that he sees have unplanned issues.

As these are also some of the most vital and heavily used systems on any machine, it should come as no surprise that these systems can see the most concerns. And a failure with your equipment’s engine, transmission or hydraulics is more or less guaranteed to put an end to your progress until it’s fixed. So how do you maximize your uptime and work to prevent these problems from ever occurring?

Common Types of Problems

With more than 20 years of experience in heavy equipment, Baksay has seen more than his fair share of machinery issues. In his two-plus decades of experience, he says that there are four primary aspects of equipment use and maintenance that can be the source of most machinery failures and breakdowns.


Worker Performing Maintenance on SANY EquipmentFirst, equipment that has not been properly maintained is the No. 1 cause of equipment failures. This is also one of the most frustrating situations, as simply following the recommended maintenance schedule for a given machine can often have prevented an issue from ever occurring. Consult your Operation and Maintenance manual to identify usage intervals and time windows for when maintenance is due and make sure to stick to that schedule. Keeping up with the recommended service intervals for your equipment can help keep it running well for years and serve as a touchpoint where you can possibly identify other early symptoms of issues you may otherwise not have noticed until you experienced an equipment breakdown.


Next, Baksay says that corrosion is another major cause or equipment failures. This is particularly true for equipment that is operated in tough climates or conditions where moisture, rust, dirt or salt can wear away at vital components. This one is not as easily managed as a routine maintenance schedule, but corrosion can be deterred. One important step is to visually inspect machinery regularly for any signs of wear. You can also work to prevent and protect against corrosion by taking measures like cleaning and washing equipment after working in especially muddy or salty conditions and applying protective equipment coatings to prevent corrosion from happening.

Improper Operation

Some common causes of equipment failures are not mechanical, but operational – misuse and accidents. Baksay says that accidents on a jobsite and improper use of machines are two more of the reasons he’s seen machines in need of an unplanned repair. Like the above, these are also issues that can be prevented with operator education and training. If operators know how the equipment can be operated and the limits of the machine, they can be better prepared to prevent accidents caused by putting too much strain on the machine. Education can also help operators identify situations where equipment should not be used, further preventing accidents or damage to the machine from misuse.

Metal Fatigue

Over time, repeated stress on even heavy-duty metal components can cause stress and strain, leading to small cracks and fractures. These stresses will eventually weaken the metal to a point where it can break, causing major – and often, expensive – equipment failures. This is why Baksay says that it’s critically important to keep all components properly lubricated. Ensuring that all moving parts are well greased or oiled ensures that parts that should move do when they should, reducing the strain put on solid components. This helps prolong the life of your machine and reduces not only the risk of breakdowns, but of accidents and injuries that can happen when major parts fail. 

Preventing Problems – Being Proactive, Not Reactive

In addition to the recommendations outlined above, there are other steps that equipment owners can take to make sure their equipment is always running well, maximizing uptime and the longevity of their investment. First, Baksay recommends performing oil sampling and monitoring regularly. Performing these tests can identify early signs of internal failures or issues that are introducing soils into the lubrication system, allowing for repairs to be made before a work-stopping issue arises.

Worker Inspecting SANY EquipmentBaksay also stresses the importance of keeping up on lubrication and maintenance, as these two steps can prevent a majority of preventative issues.

“When you proper lubricate the moving parts of your equipment with recommended OEM lubricants, you ensure that all parts are moving well, reducing friction which, in turn, reduces the wear to your machine,” said Baksay. “At the other end of the spectrum, performing maintenance work at the correct service intervals per the OEM recommendations can help you make sure that all parts and components are moving as they should, and offer an opportunity to identify the earliest symptoms of a problem before it results in an on-site breakdown.”

Different Seasons, Different Needs

Baksay also added that it’s important to also consider the climate and the season when you’re operating your equipment. Running an excavator during cold winter weather, for example, may require the use of different fuels or other fluids, while extreme heat and summertime conditions may dictate running with other fluid formulas. The Operation and Maintenance manual provided with your SANY equipment can provide insights into the best choices for your conditions.

More than Machines

Your local SANY dealer can help you with anything you need to keep your equipment running great in any situation. SANY’s dealers help us deliver on our promise of More than Machines, with helpful and knowledgeable service staff who can assist you in-shop or on-site with routine maintenance, scheduled service or unexpected repairs. Your local dealer can also help with ordering parts, lubricants, filters and any other supplies you may need to keep up with your routine maintenance and seasonal needs. Find the dealer nearest you today online or call us for help finding the support and service for your equipment.