How To Handle Last-Minute Heavy Equipment Breakdowns?

  • Editorial Team
  • Equipment Financing
  • 19 April 2024

One can never predict the breakdown of heavy machinery. Regardless of the routine schedule, some days can just turn in your favour or just an unlucky day. But you can’t just sit back considering it a bad day and pausing all the strict deadlines. An equipment breakdown does not only stop the operation but stresses the operators to the max.

This uncertain breakdown will cost you expenses as well as damage your image as a responsible contractor. No client will understand the operational delay. On the other side, the operators that you hire on day-to-day wages will not spare their per day charge just because the heavy machinery is not working.

So here are some logical approaches that you as a heavy equipment owner can follow to find, mitigate and prevent unseen breakdowns;

Step By Step Guide To Trouble Shoot Heavy Equipment Breakdown

Troubleshooting is the most logical method that will help you find and correct the equipment breakdown like a professional. Your main goal as a contractor is to get the equipment back on track as soon as possible. Each minute can cost you dollars or even euros depending on your client.

However, rather than repairing the wrong excavator every time it’s better to find your operation-relevant heavy equipment. Are you confused about which one to buy? Read Heavy Equipment Buying Guide: How To Find The Right One? and find your perfect match to avoid future equipment breakdowns.

More importantly in the construction industry time is money and money is time so you have to be smart to save both of these parameters that get most affected during an equipment breakdown,

The troubleshooting operation is not as complicated as it may appear. But we have made it simpler for you to handle breakdowns single handedly and wear a mechanic’s hat when needed.

Follow the five basic troubleshooting steps to manage unpredicted heavy equipment breakdowns;

1. Identifying The Breakdown’s Root Cause

The first step is to recognize the symptoms of the breakdown. The main identifications involve the operator’s observation, damage indicators, repair history of equipment and relevant system

To get detailed information about the breakdown one should inquire about;

  • What does the driver indicate about the issue?
  • How does the operator find the issue?
  • What prime conditions have triggered the equipment operations?
  • Is it an extended firm of an issue or has it happened the first time?

After these questions, the troubleshooter should observe the equipment thoroughly. He should find abnormal performance of the equipment if it’s there and visible. Getting the driver involved will help identify the root cause efficiently.

2. Narrowing Down The Root Cause

Now after identifying the root cause, the troubleshooter needs to narrow it down based on technical skills. To boost technical expertise one can use a manufacturer’s guide for detailed equipment performance, mechanisms and different parts. Make sure as a troubleshooter you are using your brain, logic, reasons and evaluation skills to the fullest.

As a problem identifier, one can use the isolation method. This process involves the following steps; 

  • Observing and maintaining inexpensive equipment parts
  • Getting aware of different heavy equipment modes including built-in diagnostics and self-tests
  • Looking at low-maintenance items first and examining all convenient possibilities to save time
  • Safety protocols compliance
  • De-energizing the heavy equipment parts before dismantling
  • Identifying hidden parts
  • Going through equipment’s guidelines and checklists

Once you have isolated all these causes, the real replacement or repair can take place effectively.

Pro tip: 

Go for dissembling the heavy equipment if adjustments or resetting external parts don’t appear fruitful 

Mitigating The Cause

After narrowing down the issue the time to correct the breakdown begins. You can either respite the damaged part or call out for a rental piece to get the operation going in the first place.

It is essential to eliminate the entire cause rather than just mitigating it for the time being. Failing to crack the real cause can lead to an even bigger and more expensive heavy equipment breakdown future.

Finance tip: 

Make sure all the uncertain expenses are covered in the company’s equipment breakdown preparedness policy 

4. Verifying The Issue Mitigation Process

To be fully assured about if the issue is resolved, the troubleshooter needs to verify if it has dissolved completely. For that, you need to recheck the repaired or replaced parts and their influence on the overall heavy equipment’s performance.

Mainly go for a long-term approach of observing the equipment’s performance. The goal here is to eliminate the trouble rather than just masking it.

  • To verify the issue rightly consider the following observations;
  • Checking the gauge readings and relevant physical mechanisms
  • Obeying the manufacturer’s guidelines to cater for the issue and manage the equipment
  • Checking the heavy equipment during the operation after repair
  • A follow-up regime

5. Preventive Care To Follow

The last and fifth step to troubleshoot a last-minute heavy equipment breakdown is to opt for a smart preventive care regime. Adding precautions will help fleet owners to minimize similar breakdowns.

What to add to a preventive care regime?

Here are the steps to add an active heavy equipment preventive schedule;

  • Alteration of maintenance schedule as per the need
  • Using recommended practices
  • Educating the drivers and equipment operators
  • Changing suppliers for quality repairs
  • Logging the complete heavy equipment breakdown including the causes, replaced parts and needful details. This will solve similar breakdowns in future.


Heavy equipment breakdowns come unannounced. So what should you do as a heavy equipment manager? Either you can go all out and buy new machinery with each breakdown or smartly manage the issue in-house.

Troubleshooting the equipment breakdown is one smart practice to manage the machinery and eliminate the issue by nipping it in the bud.

Therefore, preparing yourself for such breakdowns is the need of the hour to increase your inventory’s; lifespan as well as overall business revenue.

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