January 2017 Vol. 72 No. 1


Proper Pipelayer Maintenance Ensures Long Equipment Life

by Jeff Griffin Senior Editor

Pipe laying equipment provides a vital role in the construction of the world’s pipelines, lifting and positioning assembled pipe and lowering it into trenches.

Before the development of equipment specifically designed to handle lengths of large-diameter pipes, cranes were used. The development of sideboom attachments that fit on dozers or other platforms was a more practical solution, and sidebooms continue to be widely used today.

Maintaining pipelayer equipment is essential, and three companies in that marketplace recently shared information with Underground Construction about properly maintaining the lifting boom and platform.

In this report, Midwestern Manufacturing provides information about sideboom maintenance; Pipeline Machinery International (Caterpillar) covers maintenance of the sideboom platform; and in the adjacent sidebar, Volvo describes maintenance required for its new excavator-based pipelayer.

Sideboom attachments

Midwestern Manufacturing is a leading source of sideboom attachments with lifting capacities from 10,000 to 230,000 pounds for use on a variety of platforms, including dozers and track and wheel loaders.

Doug Garner, Midwestern vice president/engineering, provided a summary of maintenance requirements from company equipment manuals. Garner said the often-neglected maintenance is changing winch gear oil and wire rope replacement.

Midwestern maintenance information applies only to sideboom components. Tractor maintenance should follow schedules provided by manufacturers.

Daily inspections

• Decals – Verify all sideboom decals are in place.
• Wire rope – Check for kinked or damaged areas, make sure it is properly spooled on winch drums.
• Blocks and sheaves – Check for freedom of movement, roughness in grooves, splitting and excessive wear.
Boom and counterweight pins – Check to determine that pins are not excessively worn, and that all retainers and cotter pins are securely in place.
• Winch and mainframe mounting bolts – Check for any loose or missing fasteners.
• Mainframe and boom – Check for weld cracks, rust and for dented, torn or distorted metal.
• Hydraulic oil level.
• Winch gear oil level.
• Boom stop switch and kickout.
• Counterweight shipping lock – Engage lock for shipping purposes.
• Check for any hydraulic leaks.

Lubrication daily check

The hydraulic oil level in the hydraulic reservoir should be at or slightly below the top of the glass in the sight gauge when the tractor is on level ground.

Every 125 service hours, lubricate the following components:

One grease zerk on the boom line fairlead sheave until grease flows out around the sheaves.
One grease zerk on the 12-inch sheave pin until grease flows out around the sheave.
One grease zerk on the 4 ½-inch sheave pin until grease flows out around the sheave.
Two grease zerks on the hook block until grease flows out around the sheaves.
Two grease zerks on the upper load block until grease flows out around the sheaves.
Two grease zerks on the boom block until grease flows out around the sheaves.

Every 250 service hours, lubricate the following components:

Two grease zerks on the lower counterweight frame pins until grease flows out around the bushings.
Two grease zerks on the upper counterweight frame pins until grease flows out around the bushings.
Two grease zerks on the lower cylinder pins until grease flows out around the ball bushings.
Two grease zerks on the upper cylinder pins until grease flows out around the ball bushings.
Two grease zerks on the lower link pins until grease flows out around the ball bushings.


Caterpillar markets five pipelayer models including platform and sideboom through its Pipe Line Machinery International (PMI) dealer organization. Lift capacities range from 40,000 to 216,000 pounds.

Tayne Ivie, PMI Cat product support manager, said most pipelayers are kept in service past the six-year time frame, and the intervals are set by work being done in the industry. He said there is a tendency by some to neglect service after the 1,000-hour interval due to the fact that the pipelayer may be four to six years old before it reaches that level of service. Maintenance schedules that follow are based on equipment operator manuals.

Daily checks:
Backup alarm – test
Braking system – test
Cooling system coolant level – check
Engine oil level – check
Fuel system –  check
Primary filter (water separator) –  check
Drain hook and wire cable – inspect, replace as needed
Horn – test
Hydraulic system oil level – check
Power train system oil level – check
Seat belt – inspect
Undercarriage – clean boom stop operation and counter weight retainer pins

Every 50 service hours service :
Cab filter (fresh air) – clean/inspect/replace
Cab filter (recirculation) – clean/inspect/replace
Lubricate Pipelayer track pins
Inspect Boom pin retainers

Every 250 service hours:
Belt – inspect/replace
Engine oil sample – obtain
Final drive oil level – check
Fuel tank water and sediment – drain
Track – check/adjust
Winch oil level – check

Every 500 service hours:
Cooling system coolant sample (Level 1)
Obtain engine oil and filter
Change final drive oil sample
Obtain fuel system primary filter (water separator) element
Replace fuel system secondary filters
Replace fuel tank cap filter and strainer
Replace/clean hydraulic system oil sample
Obtain power train breather
Clean power train system oil sample
Obtain recoil spring compartment oil level
Check winch frame mounting

Every 1,000 service hours:
Battery – inspect
Power train oil filter – replace
Power train system oil and screens – change/clean
Rollover Protective Structure (ROPS) – inspect

Every 2,000 service hours:
Cooling system coolant sample (Level 2)
Obtain final drive oil
Change hydraulic system oil
Change hydraulic system oil filter
Replace refrigerant dryer
Replace track roller frame
Inspect track roller frame guides
Inspect winch oil – change

Every 2.500 service hours:
Electronic unit injector
Inspect/adjust engine valve lash

Every three service years replace seat belt.

Every 5,000 service hours:
Clean ARD spark plug
Replace diesel exhaust fluid filter
Diesel exhaust fluid injector – replace diesel particulate filter

Every 6,000 service hours or 3 years: cooling system coolant extender (ELC) – add cooling system water temperature regulator

Every 10,000 service hours: replace DEF manifold filters

Every 12,000 service hours or 6 years: Change cooling system coolant

Midwestern Machinery, (918) 858-4200, sidebooms.com
Pipe Line Machinery International, (713) 939-0007, pipelinemachinery.com

A Different Type Of Pipelayer

Volvo has developed pipelayers that depart from the traditional sideboom design and one of its key benefits is elimination of maintenance required for conventional pipelayers, said John W. Duff, product manager, oil and gas pipeline construction, Volvo Construction Equipment.

“Volvo excavator-based pipelayers,” said Duff, “not only are efficient and productive, they eliminate much of the time-consuming and costly maintenance required for conventional pipelayers. Excavator design allows 360-degree rotation of the boom on slopes to 35 degrees. The design also allows these machines to be converted from pipelayer to excavator.”

A primary benefit of a Volvo pipelayer is that the winch system is disassembled. Heavy block and large pullers use roller bearings instead of pins and bushings to help correctly spool cable onto the drum every time, preventing damage to cable, strands don’t break and cable rarely has to be changed.

“Typically, the cable of conventional pipelayers must be changed every six months, depending on use,” Duff said. “Cables almost always are replaced before equipment starts on a new job. The only maintenance on a Volvo boom is servicing a few grease fittings every 50 hours. We have one machine with over 12,000 hours and no boom, pin or bushing issues, and it never had a boom damaged while in use. It is rare to have to change a cable, even on machines that are six years old.”

Without cable-related problems, a significant amount of downtime and maintenance costs are eliminated, Duff explained.

Daily maintenance calls for checking track shoes – the same as on any track machine. If the tracks are too tight it robs “tracktive” effort and increases wear, if they are too loose there is a chance of the track coming off in severe condition, he said.

When the ignition switch of a Volvo pipelayer is turned on, all fluid levels are automatically checked and a warning on the instrument cluster alerts the operator when levels are low, so fluids do not have to be manually checked each day.

Sediment should be drained from the fuel tank and fuel water separator once a week. Every 50 hours, 10 grease zerks should be serviced.

Regular service intervals at 500 hours are based on excavator maintenance schedules, even though the machine is not being used as an excavator. Manuals provide complete maintenance schedules for each component.

Of course, regular maintenance extends equipment life. Safety inspections also are essential – today safety goes beyond internal company requirements – clients demand that a pipelayer be in safe, dependable operating condition.

Pipelayers have longer useful service lives because they never are used at maximum power level. “Travel time of a pipelayer is only about 10 percent of its operational time,” Duff continued. “Pipelayers simply don’t wear out as quickly as other types of equipment, and it’s not unusual to find a 1960 model pipelayer still on the job.”

Volvo offers two pipelayer models: one 114,750 pound tipping capacity and one with 216,000- or 247,000-pound tipping capacity depending on how the equipment is set up.

Volvo, (717) 532-9181, volvoce.com/united-states

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