Best practices when choosing a breaker or processor

Features - Equipment Focus | Breakers & Processors

Jadon Kool, sales support consultant for Caterpillar, spoke with C&DR about what to consider when choosing a breaker for a job.

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January 19, 2022

Photos courtesy of Caterpillar

Within the demolition space, attachments such as breakers and processors significantly can help expedite tasks. Whether it’s removing concrete for pavement repair or demolishing reinforced walls, the right power tool can make breaking down aggregates easier and faster.

While these tools can offer operators ease of use and a more controlled demolition process, they must be aware of specific factors when selecting a breaker for a job.

Jadon Kool, sales support consultant for Deerfield, Illinois-based Caterpillar, spoke with Construction & Demolition Recycling (C&DR) magazine regarding best practices for choosing the right breaker for a task and how to keep it running smoothly.

C&DR: What factors should a demolition contractor take into account when selecting the hydraulic breaker(s) to be used on a job site?

Jadon Kool (JK): The first thing to consider is the material and what composition it is. The next is looking at what machines the customer already has in their fleet. Can we use a breaker on the machine they already have, or do we need to look at the customer either purchasing a machine that meets the breaker requirements or renting one from a dealer?

Tools that go on the breaker are also something that need to be looked at. Usually, with concrete and rebar, a moil or a type of pure metal is used, but there might be some other special considerations where someone would need to use a chisel or blunt tool. Last is how the breaker is going to be used. Is it going to be used in a normal application or is it going to be used in an application where you have to hammer horizontally, vertically or upside down? In those situations, there are some modifications you might have to do.

C&DR: How mindful should contractors be about impact energy ratings when shopping for breakers?

JK: The impact energy ratings that you see are an OK place to start, but there is not really a set industry standard on how to measure or calculate that. So, it’s more of a marketing number. While the ratings published from manufacturers are for the most part close, they’re not exact and really should not be used exclusively to select a breaker or to compare one manufacturer’s breaker to another. You have to go deeper into the specifications, such as the weight of the breaker, the recommended carrier size, required flows, required pressures, the beats per minute, tool diameter and more.

C&DR: How can contractors best pair a breaker with a carrier? What are the most important factors to take into account?

JK: There are quite a few things there, but the first point is to follow the recommended carrier size. So, if you look at any breaker manufacturer, usually one of the first specs listed is recommended carrier size, so it’s a good place to start. From there, it’s recommended to check the flow and pressure requirements to make sure that the carrier that you have can handle it. A customer should also take into account whether the machine has a coupler or not, because when you have a coupler you see your stability numbers come into play a little bit more. Another thing to take into consideration is whether other tools are at the end of the stick. An example that we run into a lot at Cat is a customer will want to run a breaker, but the machine has a coupler on it, as well as a thumb. So, we have all those heavy extra tools on there, and the combination might be too heavy for the minimum carrier size that the breaker requires.

C&DR: When it comes to the breaker’s construction, what features can improve productivity or longevity?

JK: Longevity is always the one on a customer’s mind.

The best feature for longevity, which is becoming more and more common on all brands of breakers these days, is the auto shut off, or blank firing protection. This feature doesn’t allow the breaker to fire unless there is downforce on the tool or material pressed up against the tool. Without this feature, if the breaker were to be run in the air without it being on material, the energy of the breaker firing stays in the tool instead of going into the material and can drastically reduce the life of the breaker.

Another thing to help longevity is having an auto loop to help make sure the breaker is greased properly during the day. Although, in the end, it’s still the operator’s responsibility to make sure that the cartridge stays full and is actually working.

For productivity, it comes down to what type of breaker you choose. Is it an oil-fired breaker or a gas-fired breaker? Usually, oil-fired breakers will result in better productivity over the long run; but, with them, keeping up with daily maintenance is extremely important.

C&DR: What preventive maintenance can help operators improve breaker longevity?

JK: The first one is being sure to use hammer paste, or chisel paste, which is a special grease that is used to protect the tool and bushing area of a breaker. That can get really hot and experience high pressures from the tool pressing against the bushing. Hammer paste is different than normal grease, so it will not melt and run out at high temperatures and can handle the normal working environment of the breaker. The next thing to note is making sure to not run the breaker for too long. Most breaker manufacturers have a limit of 15 seconds in one spot to allow the tool to cool a bit.

In addition, operators should bring in breakers for annual service to catch issues before they become major problems. In the long run, keeping up with annual maintenance is more cost-effective and can help prevent the breaker from failing.

C&DR: What are the biggest operating costs contractors will encounter with a breaker and how can they best control them?

JK: The biggest operating cost is going to be keeping up with the replacement of wear components of the breaker, such as the tool bit and the bushings. If an operator is not following daily maintenance or annual service, they will also have to deal with replacing major components of the hammer, whether that’s pistons, cylinders, tie rods, etc. Keeping up with tool and bushing wear is going to be the best bet in terms of minimizing the operating costs of the breaker.

Overall, using the hammer paste, making sure you’re not running more tools with more bushings and getting the breaker to the shop once a year for its annual maintenance will cut operating costs the most.

Jadon Kool is the sales support consultant for Deerfield, Illinois-based Caterpillar. More information on the company is at www.cat.com.