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Access 101

How Properly Caring for MEWPs Pays Off Over Time

Articles - Jul 19

How Properly Caring for MEWPs Pays Off Over Time

JLG Industries, Inc.
World-leading access equipment manufacturer
McConnellsburg, PA

It’s become a fact of life. When you need to work for extended periods of time in high, hard-to-reach places, you turn to mobile elevated work platforms, or MEWPs. Over the years, two of the most popular MEWPs – scissor lifts and boom lifts – have truly become invaluable on job sites worldwide. 

Scissor lifts are uniquely suited for jobs that require vertical ascent and descent. So, if you just need to get up to a spot that is basically right above you to hang drywall, install plumbing or perform electrical work, a scissor lift is a cost-effective way to get there.

When you need to access high places but there’s an obstacle in the way, or you’re working at an even higher elevation, boom lifts are the best choice. Like scissor lifts, boom lifts are also most commonly used for construction and maintenance tasks. However, boom lifts are supported by a hydraulically-actuated arm that can maneuver around obstacles and extend to higher elevations.

While scissor lifts and boom lifts have their similarities and their differences, both machines are available in different models designed to match different work environments. There are rough-terrain scissor lifts that go on all types of outdoor job sites, as well as “slab” scissor lifts that are intended for operation on flat, level surfaces. The same goes for boom lifts. 

Some boom lifts are built for the rough terrain commonly found on construction sites and powered by diesel, gas or propane. Others are battery-powered, electric slab models that work well on smoother, less rugged surfaces. 

Daily Inspections
As with all heavy equipment, it’s important to inspect and maintain your scissor and boom lifts to ensure they’re running efficiently and improving your productivity. Inspect these machines at the start of every day, at shift changes and any time a new operator takes over the machine. 

Keep in mind that a machine’s typical working environment also impacts how often you should inspect it. Inspections should occur more frequently if your operators are using machines over multiple shifts every day, or if they’re using them in a harsh environment, like those where welding or sandblasting are occurring. Ensuring a machine is in good working condition before operating it will make it far less likely to experience any type of problem or failure, which also keeps operators safer.

Inspection points will vary based on machine type, so refer to your machine’s service manuals to determine exactly what to check. That said, during the daily pre-start inspection, always check machines for any visible leakages (oil, fuel or battery fluid) or foreign objects. Keep an eye out for dents, weld or parent metal cracks or other damage. The machine’s decals and placards should be clean and legible.

A walkaround inspection of the machine is primarily a series of visual checks. The checkpoints in this inspection will vary slightly depending on the machine type (scissor or boom lift) and its powertrain (combustion or electric). On JLG’s 430LRT combustion-engine-powered scissor lift, for example, the daily walkaround inspection includes 24 different checkpoints, including the machine’s scissor arms, centering link and sliding wear pads. Meanwhile, our E450A electric-powered boom lift has 16 different daily checkpoints, including its boom sections, uprights and the turntable that allows the boom to swing 360 degrees.

On boom lifts, the turntable bearing needs to be greased, but JLG has integrated greaseless bushings in most of the pins. In other words, they’re self-lubricating, so there is no maintenance required there – simply inspect them to see that everything is as it should be. That may not be true for other manufacturers’ machines, so be sure to check the machine’s manual.

After completing the walkaround inspection, check the machine’s battery, add fuel, if necessary (combustion engines only), and add water to the battery (electric models only). Checking an electric machine’s battery water level is critical. The cost of batteries is significant for electric-powered machines, so it is imperative that users take care of them.

Check hydraulic oil levels and ensure the hydraulic system is clean – this is the most important way to ensure the machine’s system stays in top working condition. Nearly all MEWPs have hydraulic systems, and keeping those systems as clean as possible is key for a longer, more productive machine life. Clean the area around the filter before they change the filter to avoid possibly contaminating the hydraulic system. And, always use the hydraulic oil type recommended by the machine’s manufacturer, keeping the reservoir clean and full.

Next, perform a function check of all systems in an area free of overhead and ground-level obstructions. Examine any accessories or attachments before operating the machine. This includes ensuring the machine’s platform gate latches properly and looking under the machine’s chassis to check for conditions like loose or missing parts that could cause extensive machine damage during operation.

Never operate a machine that displays issues during an inspection. Shut down the scissor or boom lift, red-tag it and arrange for repairs at the earliest opportunity.

Maintenance Musts
While daily inspections and walkarounds are imperative, scissor lifts and boom lifts also require other regular inspections based on the number of hours they’ve been in operation. A qualified equipment mechanic should inspect the machines every three months or 150 hours, whichever comes first. Machines that have been out of service for more than three months or purchased used should also be inspected prior to use. 

The machine’s service manual should include a preventative maintenance schedule specific to each machine, including proper servicing and maintenance procedures for the machine’s various components. Increase inspection frequency if the machine’s working environment is harsh or you’re using it more frequently and for longer periods of time.

JLG – and most other manufacturers – recommend having your scissor and boom lifts inspected annually (at least every 13 months). We recommend this task be performed by a factory-trained service technician with extensive knowledge of that manufacturer’s equipment. 

Residual Benefits
At some point, you’ll probably have to decide whether it’s time to sell your current machine and replace it with a newer model. Performing the right maintenance at the recommended intervals – and keeping accurate, detailed maintenance records – is important to ensure you get the highest value for your machine when the time comes. 

If you’ve maintained your scissor or boom lift well over its lifetime, it could end up in a manufacturer’s remanufacturing or reconditioning program. For example, JLG’s reconditioning program closely inspects each machine, makes any necessary updates and repairs, gives them new paint jobs and performs other cosmetic upgrades until machines are in like-new condition. After another thorough inspection, these machines can continue performing out in the field, with the potential to rack up thousands of additional service hours. 

When it comes to scissor and boom lift maintenance, don’t be “penny wise” and “dollar foolish.” Do the proper inspections and maintenance to keep the machine in perfect operating condition, and it will reward you with higher productivity, lower cost of ownership and higher value at resale.

If you take care of your machine, it will take care of you.


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