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How to Prevent Rust and Corrosion on Heavy Construction Equipment

How to Prevent Rust and Corrosion on Heavy Construction Equipment

Rusted-over components on a piece of heavy construction equipment

How to Prevent Rust and Corrosion on Heavy Construction Equipment

Reading time: 5 min

While the terms corrosion and rust are used interchangeably, they are distinct yet related phenomena that can negatively impact your heavy equipment. 

Corrosion is used as a broad term, referring to the gradual deterioration of metal surfaces due to reactions with the air and environment. Rust, on the other hand, is a specific kind of corrosion. It is characterized by reddish-brown flakes that result from the oxidation of iron or steel.

Both rust and corrosion can affect heavy construction equipment if it’s not properly maintained and shielded from environmental factors like moisture, salt and airborne contaminants.

To combat these corrosive forces, it’s important to understand the many types of corrosion that commonly plague heavy equipment. Understanding corrosion, what causes it, and how you can prevent it is essential to safeguard the longevity and performance of your valuable construction equipment.

In this guide, we’ll go over the basics of rust and corrosion, providing the information you need to protect your heavy equipment.

Consequences of Rust and Corrosion

The consequences of rust and corrosion on heavy equipment don’t just impact its function, they also impact your machine’s maintenance schedule and related costs.

For starters, rust and corrosion can compromise critical components in your machine, such as structural components and moving parts. It can eat through the metal components of your machine, making them susceptible to catastrophic failures.

Corrosion and rust can also impact your machine’s hydraulic lines, leading to leaks and reduced power output, reducing performance and efficiency.

When it comes to maintenance, the presence of rust and corrosion accelerates the wear and tear of your machine, making costly repairs more frequent. This, in turn, can disrupt maintenance schedules and force operators to allocate valuable time for repair efforts.

The financial implications of rust and corrosion can be significant. Not only do these conditions require resources to repair, but they also increase downtime and reduce productivity.

Safety Concerns and At-Risk Equipment

Certain construction equipment materials are more susceptible to rust and corrosion than others, especially those made from iron and steel. These materials are prone to rust/oxidation, so they’re particularly vulnerable.

To identify and target weak spots, you should inspect your equipment regularly. Take special care to inspect areas where moisture can accumulate, such as the undercarriage, joints, welds and seams.

It’s especially important to catch rust early on, as it presents serious safety concerns. Rust can compromise the safety of your machine by weakening load-bearing components and increasing the risk of equipment failure, which could result in accidents and injuries.

How to Prevent Corrosion

1. Understand Environmental Factors

(Effectiveness: High)

One important step to take when creating a corrosion prevention strategy is to identify the environmental factors present at your job site. Construction projects taking part in moist conditions will speed up the oxidation of steel components, for example. 

Required Resources: Knowledge of the local environment and its corrosive elements.

Action Items: Research the specific environmental factors in your region, and tailor your approach accordingly.

2. Conduct Routine Inspections

(Effectiveness: High)

It’s important to regularly inspect equipment to identify early signs of corrosion like rust spots, cracks or worn protective coatings. It is easier to address rust and corrosion in the beginning stages before components become irreversibly damaged and need replacing.

Required Resources: Inspection tools (e.g., flashlights, mirrors, moisture meters).

Action Items: Establish a regular inspection schedule and document any corrosion findings for future reference and action.

3. Follow a Consistent Cleaning Schedule

(Effectiveness: Medium)

Implement a consistent cleaning schedule to remove dirt, debris and corrosive substances from equipment surfaces. While cleaning your machine, be sure to pay special attention to areas that attract a high amount of debris and moisture, such as the undercarriage.

Required Resources: Cleaning equipment (e.g., pressure washers, brushes and detergents).

Action Items: Develop a cleaning routine that aligns with equipment usage and the local environment, paying special attention to high-risk areas.

4. Indoor or Dry Storage

(Effectiveness: High)

Try to store equipment indoors or in covered, dry areas to shield it from rain, snow and moisture.

Required Resources: Adequate storage facilities.

Action Items: Invest in storage options and adhere to a plan to prevent exposure to the elements.

5. Protective Paints or Coatings

(Effectiveness: High)

Certain surfaces can be painted over with protective paints or coatings that can prevent rust and corrosion by shielding the surface from moisture. Whenever possible, apply corrosion-resistant paints or coatings to vulnerable surfaces to create a protective barrier.

Required Resources: Corrosion-resistant paints, and applicator tools.

Action Items: Regularly inspect the condition of coatings and reapply as needed, following manufacturer recommendations.

6. Galvanization

(Effectiveness: Very High)

Galvanization is the process of coating metal components with a layer of zinc to prevent them from rusting. If possible, galvanize metal components by coating them with a layer of zinc, which provides exceptional corrosion resistance.

Required Resources: Galvanization services.

Action Items: Evaluate the feasibility of galvanizing vulnerable components, such as undercarriages and fasteners.

7. Regular Maintenance and Lubrication

(Effectiveness: High)

Lubrication can help prevent rust by creating a protective layer of oil that shields metal components from air moisture. Implement a strict maintenance and lubrication schedule to keep equipment in optimal working condition and prevent corrosion.

Required Resources: Lubricants, maintenance tools and maintenance records.

Action Items: Follow manufacturer guidelines for maintenance intervals and lubrication, conduct regular checks and replace worn parts.

8. Removing Existing Rust

(Effectiveness: Medium to High)

Sometimes, rust can be removed by scraping it away with a wire brush, grinding it off or using special chemicals. Employ mechanical or chemical methods to remove existing rust before it spreads.

Required Resources: Rust removers, abrasives, protective gear.

Action Items: Identify rusted areas during inspections, then follow appropriate removal methods, such as sanding, scraping, or chemical treatment.

Final Thoughts

By implementing a corrosion prevention strategy, you can not only ensure the longevity of your valuable heavy equipment but also prioritize safety and cost-effectiveness. The consequences of neglecting rust and corrosion prevention are not only limited to increased costs, but they extend to the safety of operators and the efficiency of construction projects. If your equipment has corroded components, check out the EquipmentShare Shop for replacement options. Our extensive selection of OEM and aftermarket parts has your machine covered. If you need help finding a specific component, reach out to our parts experts and get personalized assistance.

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