There are a multitude of reasons why breakdowns happen, like equipment damage, irregular maintenance, or mechanical failure. 

At one time or another, it’s inevitable for construction companies to deal with mechanical breakdowns, so it’s important to know what to do when equipment does fail.

In this blog we will cover the common causes of equipment breakdown, why it’s important to attend it straight away, and what to do when it occurs. 

Common causes of equipment breakdown


Identifying and understanding the cause of a breakdown is the first step to solving the issue. In most cases, it is down to how the equipment is maintained and operated. We’ll explore some common causes of equipment breakdowns.

Irregular maintenance

One of the most common reasons for equipment breakdowns is a lack of maintenance. Wear and tear from normal use is normal. Seals, hoses, tyres, connection leads, and hydraulic rams all need replacing or mending at some point. 

For equipment to run optimally it needs a routine maintenance schedule. Service technicians replace, mend, and check for any damage to reduce the risk of potential critical equipment failure.

Improper equipment usage

Human error is a big factor in construction equipment failure. Laziness or improper training are primary causes for an unexpected breakdown. Despite being bulky, heavy and seemingly indestructible, machinery has to be used with a certain level of care. 

Machine operators need to be instructed and inducted fully to understand what the equipment can and can’t do. Pushing machinery over the limit is a fast way to break it. 

No routine inspections

Regular inspections are essential every time the equipment is going to be utilised. This means doing a visual inspection for any significant signs of damage, wear and tear, as well as the operator listening and feeling for any irregularities during use. 

Mechanical failure

Mechanical breakdowns can seemingly come out of nowhere, but half the time this isn’t the case. Modern equipment has warning signals and indicators to let the operator know something is wrong. Always keep an eye out for these and never downplay their importance. 

Thermal issues

Thermal issues such as overheating can be devastating to machinery. Without the proper cooling, the damages can be catastrophic to the engine, causing it to seize and potentially cracking the engine block.

Usually, if this happens, the engine is unsalvageable and will need an entire rebuild or replacement. In the middle of a job, this can be extremely expensive and cause massive delays. 

Hydraulic failure

Most machinery in the construction industry requires hydraulics to operate, including excavators, drilling rigs, and bulldozers. Hydraulic failure is usually an easy repair, but can happen suddenly and seemingly without notice. 

Old or damaged hydraulic hoses can burst, spilling oil everywhere over the work site and halting operations until it’s fixed. A good way to quickly clean up these spills is with a vac trailer. We recommend using the VX30-250, as it is highly manoeuvrable and has two large 189 L tanks. 

Why is it important to correctly handle equipment breakdowns?


We’ve listed a few reasons for equipment failure, so now we’ll cover why it’s so important to handle the breakdown swiftly and correctly. 

Minimises delays

As we mentioned before, mechanical breakdowns can halt work for everyone on site, causing massive delays. If there is a hydraulic failure or engine failure, most of the time the repairs will need to be done before work can resume. With a proper plan in place for sudden mechanical failure, you can ensure everyone can swiftly get back to work. 

Reduces costs

Another important reason for implementing the best practices for sudden failures and breakdowns is that it reduces wasted costs. Whilst work isn’t happening, that’s costing the company good money. 

Improves safety

Without proper coordination, a simple breakdown could lead to injury. Make sure you isolate the broken down machine and have skilled personnel work on it.   

What to do when a breakdown occurs


There should be a procedure in place for breakdowns, so even if it happens unexpectedly everyone knows what to do. Follow these six steps to ensure everything runs smoothly. 

1. Turn off equipment

Whilst machines are turned on there is always the potential for them to move unexpectedly, even if they are damaged. Turning the equipment off reduces the risk of incidents exponentially. For example, all of our Vermeer products have safety kill switches within easy reach of the operators.  

2. Delineate the area

This step is pretty easy, but it involves highlighting and delineating the area as potentially dangerous to be in. Lay out some hi-vis witch hats and bollards at a safe distance from the damaged machinery. This is just a preventive measure to ensure nobody is going to accidentally step into a dangerous area. 

3. Verify the root cause

Site managers and service technicians will need to listen to what the machine operators have to say. They work with the equipment every day and will have a better understanding of what the issue may be. 

The next step is to contact a qualified technician to identify the root cause of the breakdown. At Vermeer WA & NT we provide support and maintenance on all Vermeer products within Western Australia and the Northern Territory. 

4. Fix the issue

The technician will work on the machine, and depending on the issue, it may be fixed in a couple of minutes or a couple of hours. Keep in mind some machinery may require parts to be replaced, so it’s important to take that possibility into account.  

5. Verify the breakdown is fixed

Don’t just jump back into the machine and get back to work. Test that all the components and features are working correctly. If the operator is saying the issue hasn’t been corrected, it’s important to take note and spend more time trying to rectify the issue. 

6. Reduce risk of future issues

Chances are that there will be more breakdowns in the future. It’s important to ensure that routine maintenance schedules are being undertaken and completed. This is the first barrier of defence against a future breakdown during an important job. 

Looking for reliable construction equipment?


Vermeer WA & NT has you covered for the best construction equipment in Australia. Not only is it reliable and easy to use, but we also provide support and maintenance to all Vermeer equipment within Western Australia and the Northern Territory. 

Check out our range of horizontal direction drills, mini skid steers, trucks for vacuum excavation, and more. Contact us today for a quote or any questions you may have! 


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