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Vegetation Management | Compact Equipment: How to Maintain a Mulching Head Attachment

March 29, 2016

The Harsh Life of Forestry Work Requires Regular Maintenance

Few attachments undergo the harsh operating conditions of a mulching head. Between the abrasive work, the debris-filled environment and often hot weather, these attachments have to be built tough to handle all the abuse. But no matter how tough they may be, all mulching heads need regular maintenance to operate at peak performance and live a long service life. Of course, each manufacturer may offer different maintenance recommendations, so it’s important to read the operator’s manual for specific instructions and service schedules. Nonetheless, here are several universal tips that apply to most any mulching head.

Coming Clean
One of the most basic maintenance recommendations for a mulching head is to keep it clean of debris. Check the unit before and after use, and keep a close eye during operation as well. Even though some branches, sticks or other small debris hung up in the housing may not seem to affect performance, they’re likely wasting precious horsepower by restricting the rotational spin of the rotor. As a result, less horsepower is available for the actual job, more fuel is consumed and excessive heat is generated in the hydraulic system. Equally important is keeping the power unit (track loader or tractor) free of debris. Pay special attention to the radiator, oil cooler, exhaust and other areas that could cause overheating or perhaps even start a fire.

When cleaning the attachment and power unit, inspect the entire machine for any visible oil leaks, worn hydraulic hoses or bad wiring that could fail during operation. Also, check for loose hardware, particularly the knife bolts. It’s not unusual for the vibration of a mulching head to rattle some bolts loose, so be sure to tighten them regularly. Operating with knife/tooth bolts loose can result in permanent damage to the welded holder, causing costly repair and downtime.

Tooth Care
Every day it’s also important to check the cutting teeth to ensure optimal performance. If you’re using carbide or carbide-tipped teeth, then no sharpening is necessary. Simply replace the teeth as they wear. Always be sure to replace the teeth in pairs (the damaged or worn tooth as well as the tooth on the opposite side of the rotor) to keep the rotor properly balanced. If the mulching head has hardened steel blades, which have become more popular in recent years, then the blades will need to be checked daily and sharpened often to maintain their superior cutting performance. If the blades are reversible, the operator can alternate cutting edges to reduce sharpening frequency...

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