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The Types of Springs Found in Construction Equipment and Their Hidden Functions

The Types of Springs Found in Construction Equipment and Their Hidden Functions

An excavator's tracks sitting on dirt, shown from ground-level

The Types of Springs Found in Construction Equipment and Their Hidden Functions

Reading time: 6 min

From large machinery to power tools, springs are essential components found in nearly all construction equipment. These unique parts, which range from the size of a dime to the size of a refrigerator, play a key role in combustion engines, valves, hydraulic systems, suspension systems and more.

While the most familiar type of spring is a metal spiral or coil, like the kind found in a ballpoint retractable pen, springs used in the construction industry come in a variety of designs. Some are flat and curved, others are flat and spiraled, and many are in the shape of long, cylindrical coils.

What all springs have in common, however, is that they are able to absorb and store energy. This makes them useful for maintaining the position of moving parts, mitigating vibrations and storing potential energy in hydraulic systems and elsewhere.

Given their omnipresence in construction equipment, it’s essential to understand how springs work and how they impact the performance of your heavy equipment. In this guide, we’ll dive into key information about springs in the construction industry.

How Springs Work

Springs are specialized components designed specifically for the efficient absorption and storage of energy. Frequently made from heavy-duty metals such as steel, springs make use of the physical properties of metal to store and transfer energy in predictable ways.

Compression Springs

Compression springs, widely used in construction equipment, are characterized by their open-coil, spiral design. These springs function by compressing to absorb energy, which is then stored as potential energy.

Consider the pogo stick as an example of a compression spring at work. When you step onto a pogo stick, its spring compresses under the weight of your body, storing this energy as potential energy within the compressed coils. As you bounce upward, the stored potential energy in the spring is released and transferred into your body as momentum. This energy transfer enables the spring to expand back to its original, uncompressed state.

Tension Springs

Tension springs, frequently used in construction equipment, have a distinctive closed-coil, spiral structure. These springs differ from compression springs in their mechanism of storing potential energy. While compression springs accumulate potential energy when compressed, tension springs are designed to store this energy when they are stretched out.

A well-known example of a tension spring is the slinky. When you stretch a slinky, it stores potential energy. Upon release, this energy is expended, allowing the slinky to return to its original, compact shape. This illustrates the fundamental principle of tension springs: energy storage during extension and release upon contraction.

Torsion Springs

Torsion springs are less common than compression or tension springs. Unlike compression and tension springs, which absorb and expend energy in a linear direction, torsion springs are designed to absorb energy and expend it rotationally as torque.

If you’ve used a mouse trap you’re familiar with how torsion springs work. As the spring is compressed rotationally about its axis, it gains potential energy. Then, when a mouse steps on the trap, the spring is released, exerting its potential energy to fire the trap.

Springs In Heavy Construction Equipment

Springs are involved in the design and function of nearly all types of heavy construction equipment. Some critical roles of springs in heavy construction equipment include:

  • Suspension Systems: Compression springs in the suspension system of large machines like dozers and loaders absorb shocks from uneven terrain, protecting the equipment and lessening the impact of excessive vibrations.
  • Shock Absorption: Oscillating impact equipment, like hydraulic breakers and plate compactors, use springs to help absorb shocks and improve operator comfort.
  • Track Tension: Track adjuster recoil springs are located in the undercarriage of tracked heavy equipment, such as excavators and dozers. Their primary function is to maintain proper tension in the machine’s tracks.
  • Control Systems: Springs are used throughout a machine’s control system to provide tactile feedback to operators and maintain the positioning of knobs and levers. They’re also used in joysticks to help return the joystick to a neutral position when it is not engaged.
  • Engine Function: In diesel engines, springs are vital in the operation of the valve mechanism. Each valve in a diesel engine is typically fitted with a spring, known as a valve spring. Its function is to return the valve to its closed position after it has been opened by the camshaft.
  • Hydraulic Systems: Springs are often used in the control valves of hydraulic systems. They are also used to help maintain or regulate pressure in the hydraulic system by enabling the function of pressure relief valves.

These roles underscore the importance of springs as a key component in the design and functionality of heavy construction equipment.

Types Of Springs In Construction Equipment

Springs come in a limitless variety of shapes and sizes. When shopping for replacement springs for your heavy construction equipment, you’re likely to come across these common types of springs:

Coil Springs

Coil springs, also called helical springs, are typically made from round steel wire wound into a spiral shape. They can either be compression or tension springs, depending on their location.

Coil springs are primarily used to absorb shock, maintain force between contacting surfaces and store and release energy. In heavy equipment, they are commonly used in the suspension system.

Leaf Springs

Leaf springs consist of several layers of flat, metal leaves bound together to act as a single unit. They are typically arc-shaped, allowing them to flex under load. In heavy equipment, leaf springs are commonly used in suspension systems to help distribute weight and manage heavy loads.

Gas Springs

Gas springs are a type of spring that uses compressed gas, contained within a cylinder and compressed by a piston to exert a force. They differ from traditional mechanical springs in that they use the properties of gas to provide resistance and store potential energy as pneumatic pressure.

Maintenance Considerations

Maintaining the springs in your heavy construction equipment is a critical aspect of ensuring its safety, efficiency and performance. Springs directly influence the maneuverability and stability of the equipment. Regular maintenance of these springs is crucial to prevent accidents and breakdowns that can arise from spring failure. 

Over time, springs can become worn or damaged due to constant stress, heavy loads and exposure to harsh environments typical in construction sites. This wear can lead to reduced shock absorption, improper balance and inadequate force transfer, directly impacting the safety and efficiency of the equipment. 

For instance, worn suspension springs can result in an uneven ride, increasing the risk of overturning, while faulty springs in control systems can lead to unresponsive or erratic equipment behavior.

The initial signs of worn or damaged springs in heavy equipment are often subtle but may get worse with time if not addressed promptly. Symptoms may include excessive vibration, uneven or sagging posture of the machine, a noticeable decrease in ride comfort or unusual noises during operation.

Regular, proactive maintenance of springs not only prolongs the lifespan of the equipment but also ensures that it operates at its highest potential, delivering safety and efficiency on the job.

Final Thoughts

Springs are unique, critical components that enable heavy equipment to operate smoothly and effectively. Maintaining the springs in your equipment is, therefore, an essential part of preventive maintenance.

The EquipmentShare Shop has a collection of springs for a variety of equipment types. Our online shop makes it easy to browse and order replacement springs for your machine. Get those, plus other heavy equipment parts delivered right to you. Can’t find exactly what your fleet needs? Reach out to our dedicated parts experts to place a custom order. 

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