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Unveiling Refurbishment: A Guide to Used Excavator Secrets – PART 01

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Excavators stand as the workhorses of modern construction, playing a pivotal role across projects. As the used construction equipment market thrives, projected to reach USD 152 billion over the next five years, a surge in demand for used excavators continues to grow. This demand is partly driven by the high cost of new equipment and the financial uncertainties of the current economy, with many smaller companies and individuals opting for the more affordable used machines.

The Attraction of Used Excavators

The allure of used excavators goes beyond mere cost savings. As noted by a construction equipment expert, “The most expensive repair is the one you didn’t see coming.” Thus, understanding the complete history and condition of used equipment is vital. With proper maintenance, a refurbished machine can operate as efficiently as a new one, offering significant savings.

Understanding Excavator Refurbishment: A Double-Edged Sword

Refurbishment often involves disassembling the machine, repairing or replacing damaged parts, and meticulous inspection before reassembling. This process can transform an old excavator into one that functions like new, potentially for half the cost of a new machine. However, if not done correctly, the results can be deceiving and costly.

As we prepare to delve into a comprehensive three-part series on the art and pitfalls of machine refurbishment, let’s set the stage for our first discussion. Today, we unpack the more prevalent refurbishment tactics such as respraying, tampering with service records, and swapping nameplates. These methods are widespread in the industry, yet they require a discerning eye to navigate and understand.

Common Refurbishment Practices

“Appearances can be deceiving, especially in the used equipment market,” warn industry experts. This is particularly true when refurbishment techniques are used to make used excavators look new. Be wary of:

Paint and Exterior Refurbishments: Uncovering the Truth

Tactics to Make Freshly Painted to Look Used

The first step in refurbishing a used excavator often involves a fresh coat of paint. Sellers may go to great lengths to ensure the paint job looks as close to new as possible. Some may even expose the freshly painted machine to the elements—letting it bake under the sun or soak in the rain—to wear it in and achieve a color that mimics the original manufacturer’s hue.

Beyond these tactics, sellers might use high-quality or original manufacturer’s paint and cure it in a baking oven, making the refurbishment difficult to detect. However, with a keen eye for detail, you can still spot discrepancies. For instance, there may be variations in the glossiness or brightness of the paint, or it might be applied too thickly in places. Overspray around tubing and in crevices can also be a giveaway that the machine has been repainted.

Touch to Feel The Differences in Texture and Finish

The challenge for buyers is to discern these subtle differences. Look for uniformity in paint texture and finish across the entire excavator. If the paint on one panel looks newer or has a different sheen than the rest, it may indicate recent work. Inconsistencies in the paint thickness can also be detected by touch—areas with thicker paint might feel smoother or less textured than other parts of the machine.

To avoid being deceived by a new paint job, examine the excavator from various angles and in different lighting conditions. Pay particular attention to hard-to-reach places, as these are less likely to receive the same level of attention during a quick refurbishment job. Furthermore, check for paint overspray on seals, bolts, and rubber components, which should not have paint on them if the machine was painted properly.

Make Reference to The Maintenance History

In addition to visual and tactile inspections, inquire about the machine’s history. Ask the seller about any recent paint work and cross-reference this with maintenance and repair records. A machine with a fresh paint job but no records of recent bodywork can be a red flag.

By carefully examining the exterior, you can often tell the true story of a used excavator’s past and avoid being fooled by surface-level enhancements. Remember, a quality machine will show its value through more than just a shiny exterior.

Altered Hour Meters: Take A Closer Look

Altering Hour Meter is NOT That Challenging

The hour meter on an excavator is akin to the odometer on a car—it tells you how much the machine has been used, which is a critical factor in determining its lifespan and reliability. A lower hour count indicates less wear and tear, which in turn suggests a longer remaining service life and a lower likelihood of part failures. This makes the excavator more valuable, and unfortunately, it also tempts unscrupulous sellers to manipulate the hour meter to reflect fewer hours than the machine has actually operated.

Considering Also The Geographical Factors…

Geographical factors can also impact the number of hours an excavator has worked. For instance, in colder regions where the ground freezes in winter, construction work may halt, resulting in fewer operating hours compared to machines used in warmer regions. This natural variance can be misleading: an excavator from a colder region might appear younger than one from a warmer region, purely based on hour count. A particular caution is warranted for machines coming off lease from mines—while they may look good on paper and have seemingly young mechanical components, excavators used in mining operations often run 24 hours a day, which means they have been through extremely demanding conditions.

Cross Checking The Hour Meters and The Machine Itself

To avoid being deceived by an altered hour meter, it’s essential to look beyond the displayed numbers. Examine the machine for signs of wear that seem inconsistent with the hour meter’s reading. For instance, if the hour meter shows a low number of hours but the machine shows significant wear, it’s possible the meter has been tampered with. Compare the machine’s condition with its service records, and if possible, get a professional assessment of its actual wear and tear.

Additionally, inquire about the machine’s operating environment. A thorough seller should be able to provide a history of the conditions under which the excavator was used. If the machine was employed in a mining operation, expect the wear to be more pronounced, regardless of what the hour meter says. Checking with the manufacturer or the previous owner for a history of use and maintenance can also provide valuable insights. If discrepancies arise during your investigation, it may be a sign that the hour meter has been tampered with, and you should proceed with caution.

In short, when it comes to hour meters, trust but verify. A physical inspection, cross-referenced with historical data, is the best way to ensure that you’re getting an accurate picture of an excavator’s past use.

Replacing Nameplates: Trust, But Verify

Locate The Nameplate

Nameplates on excavators serve as a key source of information, typically found on the right lower corner of the driver’s cabin. They contain vital data such as the serial number, which links to the machine’s identity and history. However, creating a counterfeit nameplate is not a challenging task for those looking to deceive. The ease with which a nameplate can be replicated makes it a tool for untrustworthy sellers to misrepresent a machine’s origin, age, or history.

When considering a used excavator, it is prudent to take the serial number from the nameplate and verify it with the manufacturer or authorized dealer. This step allows potential buyers to cross-check the machine’s maintenance records, work history, and whether the times of service align with the information provided by the seller. Verification can unveil whether the excavator has been sold multiple times, which can indicate issues that previous owners may have encountered.

Checking Machine History Based on The S/N on Nameplate

Authenticating the excavator’s history through its serial number also provides an opportunity to confirm if it has been reported stolen or involved in any insurance claims, which could affect its legal status and value. Furthermore, confirming the original owner can offer insights into how the excavator was used—whether it was part of a rental fleet, used in harsh mining operations, or maintained by a construction company with a rigorous service schedule.

If discrepancies are found during the verification process or if the seller hesitates to allow this level of scrutiny, it could be a sign that the nameplate might not be original. In such cases, it is advisable to approach the transaction with a high degree of caution or consider other purchasing options.

Insist on Verifying The Nameplate

To sum up, while the nameplate is an often-overlooked aspect of a used excavator, its authenticity is crucial. It tells the true story of the machine’s past and helps buyers avoid fraudulent misrepresentations. Always insist on verifying the serial number with reliable sources before completing the purchase to ensure you’re investing in an excavator with a transparent and genuine history.

Wrapping Up the First Installment of Our Excavator Refurbishment Guide

As we conclude the first chapter in our exploratory series on excavator refurbishment, we’ve begun to peel back the layers of common practices that can often mislead even the most astute buyers. In this segment, we’ve explored the finer details of paint jobs that are more than skin deep, hour meters that tell tales, and nameplates that may bear false witness to an excavator’s past.

Yet, this is merely the beginning. Our journey into the intricate world of second-hand excavator evaluation is set to continue. In our upcoming articles, we will delve into the complex topics of replacing and repairing major components, frame straightening, refurbishment of large arms, as well as the nuances of cleaning parts, renewing tracks, assessing the overall exterior, and the indications of a hammer’s impact on undercarriages.

Stay tuned for these forthcoming insights that promise to equip you with the knowledge to sidestep the pitfalls of refurbished excavators. Thank you for your attention, and get ready to join us as we navigate the depths of machine refurbishment in our subsequent discussions.

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