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I have been working in a different municipality for the last few weeks inspecting fire hydrants. I noticed a trend in the equipment I’m inspecting. Many of them have broken pieces. The hydrants still work, but they will break after repeated use. The point of this article isn’t broken hydrants, it’s the lack of maintenance. Getting new equipment is exciting and it is very tempting to take a break from maintenance because the equipment is new. This is one of the biggest mistakes people make. Properly maintaining new equipment from day one is the single largest thing you can do to extend the lifespan of anything you own.
Different objects require different maintenance, for example a internal combustion engine has a different requirements than a computer. The first gets oil changes and the other gets scanned for viruses. The point is to reduce wear and tear on on the physical components to unsure smooth operation. There are some common things you can do to many different pieces of equipment in addition to the manufacturers recommendations.
Corrosion is the enemy of all metal equipment. Commonly referred to as rust, many types of metal suffer from corrosion. Some metals never rust but the ones that do literally become dust when exposed to oxygen and water. Adding a physical barrier between the metal and the moisture and air is an easy way to prevent corrosion. That barrier can be oil or paint or a chemical designed to stop corrosion. Keeping this physical barrier intact can keep metal surfaces like new for ever. More elaborate methods of corrosion prevention include sacrificial anodes (zinc plates) and cathodic protection. Anodes are metals that corrode faster than the metals they are attached to. In fact they corrode instead of the metal they are attached to by adding electrons to the metal being protected. Once the zinc is gone then the protection is gone. Cathodic protection is similar to anodic protection in that electrons are added to the metal. With cathodic protection however the electrons come from an electric current which is run through the metal.
Some other things to consider for maintenance are lubrication, moisture control and avoiding direct sunlight.
Lubrication of moving parts saves them from overheating and breaking down faster. Moisture is important for many items. Things either need moisture kept away like wood and paper products or some things like leather keep longer if kept oiled to some degree. Avoiding sunlight is important. UV radiation breaks down plastics. If you want plastics to last, keep them out of the sun.
The single most important thing you can do is keep all your equipment clean. Dirty surfaces make it harder to monitor the condition, harder to spot damage. Think of a diesel generator covered in oily grease and grime as they commonly are. It is significantly harder to spot an oil leak if the oil lands on an already oily surface. Dirt traps moisture and increases corrosion. Dirt also increases wear in moving parts, sometimes as fast as a disk grinder wears down surfaces. The state of cleanliness of equipment is a good indicator of internal condition and of the working order.
If a piece of equipment is useful, it is best to keep it in good condition. Proper maintenance is how we keep our equipment working for when we need it. And isn’t that why we have the equipment in the first place?