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10 Red Flags to Look for When Buying Used Construction Equipment

If you're looking for a good used excavator, bulldozer, wheel loader, skid steer, or other heavy construction machine for your fleet, be sure to check 10 important things before buying.

Buying used construction equipment
  1. BAD ENGINE
    Topping the list, a bad engine. If the machine doesn't move, it's no good to you. The price may be fantastic because the engine doesn't start or it is rattling and smoking more than a college dormitory, but don't be tempted to take on the project. Repairing an engine can be costly. If you need another engine, you could truly be in for a long, aggravating process. The only exception would be if you can test the engine and confirm it only needs something simple like an engine kit installation.
  2. LEAKING FLUIDS
    If the used machine is leaking fluids obviously there's a problem. A leaking cylinder may only mean it needs a seal kit. However, the rod could be slightly bent, in which case you'll need to replace the entire cylinder. Leaking fluid isn't a deal breaker, but if you find leaks, it certainly is cause for concern.
  3. MILKY OIL
    You should already know this is a huge red flag, bigger than the one flying over the capital of China. Steer clear if the oil ain't clear!
  4. SEIZED MACHINES
    If a machine was seized, chances are it wasn't well cared for. Just because it was seized doesn't mean you should immediately take a pass, but you'll need a lot more information before deciding on whether to the buy the machine or not. That alone may be enough to move on however as getting the necessary information to make an educated decision is often impossible.
  5. WELDING MARKS
    Check the machine over for weld marks. If you see important structures such as the boom or arm has had a weld job, don't bother with the machine. They will break again. Of course welds on areas such as step ladders or railing isn't as pressing.
  6. STRANGE NOISES
    All machines hum, burp, and grind but if you hear something that doesn't sound right, then chances something isn't right. Squealing, clunking, and crunching in certain areas, especially around the drive trains and final drives, are sounds you don't want to hear.
  7. STRANGE MOVEMENTS
    If the machine feels like a bucking bronco, or behaves like a stubborn donkey when put in motion, you best beware of the beast. This isn't necessarily a deal breaker. Perhaps the machine simply needs some adjustments but a bad transmission could leave you out of luck.
  8. LOOSE PINS AND BUSHINGS
    If you meet someone who has a disgusting set of loose and missing teeth, it's likely they don't take care of them. The same is probably true for a machine with loose and missing pins and bushings. It's a sign the machine wasn't properly maintained.
  9. WALLOWED PIN HOLES
    If pinholes are no longer round and instead have an egg shape, this could be a costly fix. The price for bellcranks on some wheel loaders are in the thousands of dollars.
  10. WHO DAT MACHINES
    If the make of the machine you're interested in isn't one you see working on construction sites everywhere, it's probably one you don't want.

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