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Your machine’s been racking up hours. It seems to be performing just fine, but you have a feeling it’s time for a service call. The idea of pulling it off the job isn’t very appealing, so what do you do? Go with your gut? Or keep on keeping on?

Experience suggests it’s best to schedule service before there’s a problem. If you wait for failure, the time and cost of the repair could double or even triple. But it can be tough to figure out exactly when to get a technician involved.

Check your indicators

To determine the best time for service, Caterpillar recommends tracking what we call “planned” indicators and “problem” indicators. Planned indicators are fact-based. They’re found in telematics data or other records and provide an overall indication of machine condition. They include:

• Service meter hours
• Engine hours
• Fuel and oil consumption
• Results from recent fluid analyses or inspections
• Past service records

Beyond the data, there are other problem indicators to be aware of—things like:

• Sudden increase in fuel burn
• Unusual noise or vibration
• Overheating
• Burning oil/smoke
• Filter debris
• Engine hesitation, loss of power, hard starts

With information from these indicators, you’ll have a more objective perspective on whether service is necessary.

Ask about options

Your next step is to ask your service provider about repair options. If you talked with a Cat® dealer, you’d hear about a spectrum of services, each priced differently. At one end is something simple like a bearing reseal that extends component life. At the other end, there’s a Cat Reman component that can restore 100 percent of component life and deliver like-new performance at a less-than-new price. Get a complete rundown on all the options, plus a clear understanding of what each costs, what’s included and what the warranty will be.

But how do you choose?

We encourage equipment owners to consider four questions.

1. How long do you plan to own the machine?

If you’re close to selling—perhaps within a couple of years—you may want to consider a lower priced option. But if you’ll be running it for the long haul, there’s more time to recoup a larger repair investment.

2. How often do you use it?

Primary production machines work long, hard hours, and if they’re out of service, the whole operation can suffer. They need to be repaired quickly with the highest quality components, which usually means a higher-priced option like new OEM parts. But if a machine is more of a utility player (running less than 1,000 hours per year), it may be a candidate for a lower-cost repair using Reman parts or a repair option that involves more time in the shop.

3. What’s your budget look like?

If cost is your main concern, you may not be in the position to choose the fastest repair option. And if that’s the case, it’s more important than ever that you plan repairs during times when production is slow. It’s also possible that as cash flow flexes, an option that wasn’t affordable six months ago is now something you can consider.

4. How fast do you need to get back to work?

When uptime is your highest priority, your options may be limited to the higher-priced end of the spectrum. However, if you have a backup machine on hand or access to a rental unit, you may be able to maintain production while choosing an option that costs less and takes more time.

It’s a balancing act

Ownership. Utilization. Cost. Turnaround time. There’s a lot to think about when choosing a repair option. Your best bet is to work with a service provider you trust, someone who will review your goals, explain the alternatives and help you select the option that’s best for your business. Get more information at