By Jim Siffring | CP Product Manager | Electric Power and Light
For many contractors, work doesn’t end when the sun goes down. Working through the night has become commonplace, making light towers a necessity in any equipment lineup. With so much reliance on these units it is crucial to maintain them regularly. Alongside manufacturer recommended maintenance, daily, weekly and monthly checks will keep your light tower shining bright. Here are some tips to ensure your light tower remains reliable for years to come.
When doing any sort of maintenance, whether routine or not, always make sure to do so only when the machine is shut down and cool. A daily inspection on a light tower should include a check of all fluid levels including fuel, engine oil and coolant. Also be sure to check for fluid leaks, unless you have the Chicago Pneumatic (CP) CPLT V4 or CPLT V5+ light towers, as they feature a spillage-free frame that prevents oil, fluids and fuel from leaking out and contaminating the ground.
Other daily checks are to ensure that visible electrical wiring and connections are secure. A quick mechanical check will include looking at components and hardware. Inspect for loose fasteners by looking for telltale signs, such as paint chipped away from bolt heads, or shining metal under a nut, indicating that it is not secure. Once the machine is up and running, make sure to give it a quick listen. Any noises out of the norm can be reason enough to start inspecting a little closer.
On a weekly basis be sure to check the tire pressure, suspension and the drawbar and hitch. Changing fluids and filters, including the air filter may be necessary. Some light towers come with multi-stage air filters including a safety cartridge. Safety cartridges help keep out dirt and debris during filter changes, so when changing the air filter be sure to not remove it.
Keeping an eye on the fuel system is crucial, as improperly handled fuel is a key factor in diesel engine issues. Fuel contamination can occur when moisture or debris is allowed to enter the system. Ensure that the cap is always tightly secured, and the filling area is clean. Furthermore, always account for how much diesel fuel is in the tank. Running out of fuel can be cause for performance problems and extra headaches down the road. Additionally, replacing fuel filters during every oil change is essential. Fuel filters play a vital part of an engines performance and changing them with every service is crucial for a dependable machine.
Engine starting batteries also tend to fall to the wayside when it comes to regular maintenance. There’s a tendency to only replace batteries as they wear out, but it’s a good idea to consider changing them every two to three years. As a preventative measure, spending $100 on a battery will save time, money and you’ll avoid a service call.
For light tower masts that feature winch and cables, you’ll want to check the cable for fraying or kinks, and fix any loose crimp connections. Inspect the winch for proper operation and locking. Make sure the mounting bolts on the mast are tight and the securing bolts and pins are in place. When it comes to hydraulic mast light towers, be sure to keep the hydraulic fluid at the proper level. Some hydraulically actuated masts can also use cables, so don’t forget to check those cables as well.
Dust and debris are common and likely to settle on the lenses and reflectors drastically affecting lighting efficiency. Wiping the lenses down regularly is key to avoid overheating since dirt can act as an insulator. It is also good practice to wear gloves while wiping down the lenses and bulbs, as the oil of our bare skin will create hot spots and ultimately cause them to fail. Keeping lenses and reflectors clean is important and this is especially true with metal halides as there is a lot of heat generated, so the cleaner you keep them, the cooler they will stay.
In Hot and Cold Weather
Employing light towers in extremely cold locations may require special winter blend fuel. Typically, the fuel supplier in your local area will know what specific blend works best for diesel engines in that area. If there is power accessible when the lights are not running, you may consider installing coolant heaters and plugging your lights in to keep the machine warm. During warmer weather it is important to keep the radiator clear of dust and dirt to ensure the cooling system works properly. Some jobs are dustier than others, so it is good to blow the radiators out a few times per week as dirt and dust can build up quickly.
Mistakes to Avoid
I see some common mistakes made when operating light towers, so make sure to avoid these moving forward: first, always start the engine with all breakers and light switches in the off position. Once the machine is up to speed, it is good practice to allow it to warm up for a few minutes. Switch the main breaker on and then turn each light on individually. At the end of each use, turn the lights off individually, then turn off the main breaker before shutting down the engine. Leaving the lights on when shutting the engine down can cause failure of electrical components. With a light tower’s long run time, another mistake I see is letting the fuel run out. This happens because light towers are just sitting out there on the job and are really out of sight, out of mind. While it is not devastating to let the fuel run out, it does cause extra headaches that could be easily avoided. So, make sure to check the fuel level when doing your daily checks. To make for a quick and easy inspection, CP features a clear white plastic tank on their light towers to get an easy visual of the fuel level.
When it comes down to it, always refer to your manufacturer’s guide for maintenance instructions or call your local dealer if you have questions. Light towers are one of the most important pieces of equipment on the job site; without them you and your crew will be left out in the dark. With regular daily and weekly checks, there will be little to no downtime, which simply put, is good for your company’s bottom line.