A Guide to Preventive Maintenance Checklist

8 min

You’re likely aware that the most efficient way to keep your assets operating and in good repair is preventive maintenance. Best practices for preventive maintenance include keeping a checklist to organize the process and ensure all employees focus on the same details. 

When specialized technicians need to work on your equipment, a preventive maintenance checklist presents standardized information for all the assets in your company.

Preventative maintenance checklists also provide an identical basis of information for employees, management, and outside contractors. 

What Is a Preventative Maintenance Checklist?

A preventive maintenance checklist is a standard list of actions which guide employees through specific pare used to: 

  • Allow different employees to perform the same tasks without concerns about differences in training or areas of specialization
  • Encourage attention to detail 
  • Ensure employee accountability

When a PM checklist is well-researched and clear, trained employees shouldn’t have trouble understanding and completing it. Checklists increase staff efficiency while standardizing technical tasks. 

PM checklists also provide documentation of safety procedures and are useful when making warranty claims. 

Do This Before Creating Preventative Maintenance Checklists 

The most efficient way to ensure a good checklist is to put time, research, and detailed observation into its creation. 

Before creating your checklists, you must lay the groundwork for universal documents which are

  • Comprehensive
  • Clear
  • Correct

Rushing through this part of the process will doom your PM checklist before it’s even begun. A lack of understanding of the machinery, how it works, or how it operates isn’t the best way to ensure others will see to its care.

what to do before creating preventive maintenance checklists

First, decide which of your assets need preventive maintenance checklists. It’s inefficient to expend energy on building a detailed PM checklist for every mechanical object in your operation. 

The pencil sharpener in the employee lounge doesn’t need one; the bulldozer probably does. 

Once you have decided which assets require PM checklists, inspect their condition. Build a comprehensive picture of the state of these assets and where they are in their life cycle. If you’re not sure and historical records are spotty, include that information as well.

Determine benchmarks for preventive maintenance and talk to operators about how and when the assets perform best. This information will help you compile an inclusive and well-organized list. 

As part of this process, obtain copies of the original equipment manufacturer manuals (OEM). The majority of these should be available on the manufacturer’s website.

Following the OEM recommendations is a proven way to preserve your asset in good working condition and keep your organization from voiding warranties. 

The manufacturer will provide a wealth of information regarding preventive maintenance:

  • What should be checked
  • How often 
  • What types of cleaning liquids or fluids are best 
  • How to perform the maintenance 
  • Diagnosis of potential problems and warning signs

With OEMs in hand, note peculiarities in any piece of equipment or its parts. Maintenance teams and operators are of invaluable help here.

Many large, complex machines have quirks and particular demands regarding startup time, environmental conditions, and lubrication amounts.

Even duplicate equipment from the same manufacturer can show its own “personality” depending on its age, repair history, and even aftermarket part replacement.

The best way to organize a preventive maintenance checklist is to use asset management software as a centralized system after you gather this information.

Cloud-based software keeps the data secure and accessible to all employees who need it.  

What to Include in Your Preventative Maintenance Checklist 

Preventative maintenance checklists fall into two categories:

  1. step by step directions
  2. present pass or fail conditions 
two main types of preventive maintenance checklists

Step by step checklists are most useful when they direct employees through mechanical or high-tech assignments or those which address safety or security. They are handy when you need to break a task into small jobs, or when there’s a need for correct completion of all steps to complete the checklist. 

For example, you cannot pump gas into a car unless you first remove the cap. 

A good test of your step by step checklist is to give it to an untrained employee and see if he or she can understand and finish each task.

Pass or fail checklists present a set of standards that equipment, assets, or indicators must meet. They help to establish the condition and state of the machine, as well as how often it has been in use. 

Have you ever heard NASA’s Mission Control go/no-go launch polls? The mission controller is clearing a pass or fail checklist. Either each aspect of the launch vehicle and team has passed, or it hasn’t. 

Despite the type of checklist, specific categories and items should always appear. These include information for employees on how to prepare for their tour of the asset. 

Consider listing any tools they might require for the checklist, which parts could be necessary, how long each task should take, and how they should communicate questions or condition notations. Safety instructions and precautions such as high-visibility vests are a must.

The checklist itself is a general exploration of a large piece of machinery

Some checks should take place while the machine is operating, and some while its engine is disengaged and cooled. 

Here are examples of a preventive maintenance checklist grouped into nine categories.

1) Outside the Machine

  • Check for leaks or fluid pools.
  • Inspect body for visual damage—excessive wear or small nicks.
  • Clean debris (dirt, gravel, mud) from the body and any exhaust points.
  • Check ground contact areas for cracks, chips, or debris.
    • check buckets
    • check teeth
    • check shovels 
  • Test handrails, grips, steps, and ladders for firm attachment and lack of grease or dirt.
  • Tighten and confirm hitch and attachments.
  • Ensure the frame is in good shape.
  • Examine fenders for dents or damage.
  • Look at latches and locks to see if their hinges or hooks have come loose.
  • Make sure the equipment’s nameplate and asset tag are present and legible.
  • Pull on the hood latch to confirm it’s fastened well.
  • Tighten any loose lug nuts on tire rims.

2) Inside the Cab

  • Remove personal objects and odd items (e.g., empty water bottles), which might become wedged in levers or pedals.
  • Test seat adjustment controls.
  • Ensure the controls are in the locked/unlocked position.
  • Ensure that warning lights are not illuminated.
  • Watch for cracks or damage to rollover protection cages.
  • Check that such safety features (backup cameras, horn, and alarms) are operational.
  • Position mirrors for optimum visibility.
  • Ensure environmental controls (heat, A/C) are working correctly.
  • Test windshield wipers.
  • Inspect glass for chips, cracks, or discoloration.
  • Check if OEM is legible and up-to-date and in a proper location (preferably a pocket next to the driver’s seat).
  • Confirm the presence of mandatory safety equipment (such as fire extinguishers).
  • Pull on the seat belt and check for frayed fabric, damaged housing, or inoperable buckle and retractor.
  • Voice check walkie talkies or other forms of communication.

3) Tires and Treads

  • Remove buildup of debris (leaves, wet concrete, or oil).
  • See if excessive wear is taking place on treads.
  • Check undercarriage for damage, loose hoses, or visible damage.
  • Ensure valve stems are healthy.
  • Measure the inflation level for tires.
  • Examine shoes on metal tracks for cracks.
  • Look for damage to chain links.
  • On rubber tracks, check tension and torsion axles.

4) Engine Compartment

  • Remove mud, dust, and debris immediately from any engine component, especially the radiator.
  • Inspect hoses for cracks or leaks.
  • Ensure that battery connections are secure.
  • Look at filters for oil, fuel, air, etc. (Replacing these are usually inexpensive and fast, but cause costly damage when faulty and not changed regularly).
  • Examine the battery cable.
  • Examine cover and guards.
  • Check all belts and moving parts, especially alternators and fans. Look for overuse, chips, or fraying.

5) Fluids

Using the manufacturer’s operating manual, look for the correct amount of: 

  • Hydraulic oil
  • Diesel fuel (if applicable)
  • Gasoline (if applicable)
  • Radiator coolant
  • Brake fluid
  • Diesel exhaust fluid (DEF)
  • Transmission fluid
  • Engine oil 

6) Hydraulics

Ensure the OEM standards are in place for the following:

  • Attachments
  • Fittings
  • Hoses
  • Levels
  • Controls
  • Couplers
  • Pressure
  • Cylinders 

7) Attachments

Circle the following for a visual inspection. Look for damage, wear, or looseness at point of attachment:

  • Dozer blade
  • Excavator swing bearing
  • Boom 
  • Buckets
  • Blades
  • Sticks
  • Rollers
  • Shovel points
  • If blades or endpoints need to be sharp and they are dull, take note

8) While Machine is Working

Ensure the following are in line with manufacturer specifications:

  • Boom drift
  • Track speed
  • Brake filters
  • Hydraulic cycles
  • Engine RPM
  • Brush movement 
  • Drivelines
  • Brake fittings
  • Lift arms
  • Component temperatures
  • Chaincase movement
  • Tread motion
  • Ammeter
  • Accelerator
  • Parking brake
  • Direction controls (pedals or levers)
  • Steering (wheel or gears)
  • Hour meter
  • Service brakes
  • Control of attachments
  • Drive control, both forward and reverse 
  • Headlights
  • Hoist controls (lowering, raising)
  • Safety alarms
  • Brake lines
  • Tilt controls (backward, forward)
  • Oil Pressure

9) While Machine is at Rest 

With the engine cooled down (or before starting it) check for the proper functioning of these components:

  • Mast chains
  • Cables
  • Sprockets
  • Overhead guards
  • Safety warnings, both visual and audial 
  • Charge in battery
  • Water or electrolyte amount in the battery
  • All fluid levels
  • Axles and driveshafts
  • Engine air cleaner trap
  • Idler wheels
  • The fuel tank is without damage with cap in place
  • Fuel sedimenter (for diesel engines)

Benefits of a Preventative Maintenance Checklist 

The benefits of a preventive maintenance checklist far outweigh the time invested in producing them. It’s better to have a long list than a short operation time on the job. 

Preventive maintenance checklists present a reliable, clear communication between manager and employee, as well as company and outside contractor. 

When checklists are carefully prepared with employee input, they increase productivity by introducing a standard procedure for the entire organization.

Rather than allowing employees to fumble through preventive maintenance each time, checklists ensure the job is done the same way, and nothing is forgotten or left to chance.

A solid PM checklist also makes the workplace safer. Checking heavy equipment regularly helps to avoid accidents and employee injury. 

By keeping heavy equipment in good repair at all times, your employees are aware that you care for their well-being.  

benefits of having preventive maintenance checklists

It’s also easier to manage equipment breakdowns using a preventive maintenance checklist, which reduces equipment downtime.

Repairing a small chip in the windshield of a cab is relatively inexpensive and quick. In contrast, a shattered windshield could result in employee injury, off-the-line equipment, and even delays in project completion.

If such defects are found through preventive maintenance, they reduce repair length and costs

If an asset requires substantial repairs through an outside contractor, the information you have gathered via your preventive maintenance program should be of great use. PM checklists can help inspectors and contractors find and diagnose malfunctioning parts.

Finally, holistic PM checklists make for better planning:

  • Employees are aware that equipment is temporarily unavailable for maintenance and can adjust accordingly.
  • Shift leaders can prepare schedules that allow for preventive maintenance.
  • Managers and owners extend the life of their equipment.
  • The business maintains a healthy bottom line by potentially predicting larger problems and reducing repair costs and downtime.

How to Properly Manage Preventive Maintenance Checklists 

The key to a strong preventive maintenance checklist is clarity

Short, clear writing and exact visuals are as important as what is on the list. Ensure that employees understand the importance of these checklists and solicit their advice on what they should contain to strengthen the document and team relations. 

Whether a checklist is step by step or pass or fail, it should have the following qualities:

  • The correct amount of information: The checklist includes only the necessary information an employee should focus on, avoiding extraneous observations or tasks. 
  • Visuals: Sharp photos or graphics of the machine tell the employee where to look, what to check, and provide specifics about things like switch positions, indicator colors, and odometer positions. 
  • Recency: All information needs to be up to date. The checklist is dated and takes into account the asset’s most recent preventive maintenance. 
  • Sequential accuracy: Place each step in its proper order. 
  • Applied feedback: If you have an opportunity to run the list past a new employee, ask if he or she finds the information helpful and clear. Sometimes familiarity with an asset can prevent you from fully explaining each step. Ask operators and maintenance technicians to look at the checklist. What’s missing? What’s unclear? What’s not necessary? 

While the details of the PM checklist should focus on the correct sequence, proper detail, and distinct expectations, it’s vital to pay attention to safety

Protecting employees and those in the area of the job site should remain the focus of the PM checklist. 

Setting expectations for shift beginning and end is paramount for safety and strong preventive maintenance.

A checklist is the most efficient way to accomplish this. It ensures that the same crucial indicators and performance levels are checked regardless of who starts or shuts down equipment. 

Proper management of PM checklists doesn’t end when the checklist is completed. A PM checklist is a living document, and physical copies should be dated so that employees know which version is present. 

Preventative maintenance checklists should be updated when:

  • New OEMs are provided 
  • Repairs require for different procedures
  • You have developed a more efficient checklist 
  • New safety laws or standards are passed

Leverage Checklists for Better Equipment Maintenance 

Arming employees with comprehensive preventive equipment checklists protects them as well as your assets. A clear and carefully written checklist will put a workable schedule in place and create a healthy safety culture in your company. 

Combined with asset management software, PM checklists help gather essential data about your equipment, keep its components in good working order, and maximize its life cycle.

GoCodes Can Help

The GoCodes asset management system can help you keep tabs on your equipment.

We use QR code tags with a unique visual code that you can scan with your smartphone. When scanned, GoCodes tags provide GPS information about equipment location, making asset tracking a breeze.

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