Your excavator is more than an excavator. By switching out its attachment parts, it can dig holes, crush concrete, clear land, and scoop loose material into a big bucket. You can even attach a hammer for smashing brick and concrete to bits. With a full complement of attachments at your disposal, an excavator can do just about everything but make you a cup of coffee.

Taking care of the attachments that lend your excavator its valued versatility is just as important as taking care of your excavator itself. Without all your attachments at your disposal, you could find yourself trying to utilize alternatives in a pinch, which means not doing the job right and possibly doing more damage to the rest of your arsenal. Using a shovel when you really need a rake might work—although it might not. Either way, your grapples are among the most common attachments for excavators, and their snatching and clutching abilities are indispensable on work sites. By knowing how to maintain your grapple attachments—along with all the others in your collection—you’ll extend the lifespans of your equipment, saving money on repairs now and replacements later.

Check for Tine Damage Daily

Among the excavator attachments, grapples take on a lot of the trickier assignments. By harnessing natural magnetism, electromagnets hoist and sort large chunks of steel, a plentiful material on demolition sites. Grabbing fine material usually calls for a bucket instead. Waste Handling Grapples are left for the “none of the above’ jobs where an excavator needs to pick up large, irregular, and non-magnetic material. The sometimes hard, sometimes jagged, and often unpredictable material you charge your grapple with collecting can take its toll on the attachment. While heavy equipment is by no means a delicate flower that can’t take some nicks and scratches, it’s possible for a grapple to take a critical hit. The key to a grapple’s operation is in its interlocking tines—whether it’s a two-over-three or five-over-six configuration, these metal points need to be in proper alignment for the grapple to do its job correctly. A bent, broken, or worn tine tip compromises the entire operation by the grapple’s capacity. Trying to work with a damaged tine will only aggravate the damage and lead to an outright failure of the grapple. Don’t discover damage before it’s too late or try to work through it. Each day, inspect the attachment for any signs of significant damage before deploying your excavator grapple. If you discover that a tine tip has fully worn down to the base or is otherwise not in proper condition, repairing or replacing it is a must.

Keep It Lubricated

Heavy machinery like an excavator requires oil and grease to keep its moving parts running smoothly. Your excavator grapple requires an application of lithium-based grease for each day or every eight hours of operation. 2EP grease or an equivalent extreme-pressure grease should be your lubricant of choice for keeping the grapple moving smoothly. The locations that require greasing vary from model to model, but in general, you’ll want to grease the main pivot connection of the grapple and the position arm. If your grapple includes pins on the pivot and linkage connection, these will require grease as well. Don’t skimp on this—add grease to these locations until there is an excess, and then wipe off the runoff. Most grapples should feature decals indicating all areas in which to apply grease.

Watch Out for Damage To Pins

As we discussed earlier, grapples are just one of many attachments that go with your excavator. In order to connect and disconnect the attachments, excavators use chromium steel link pins to connect the attachments to the excavator. Damage to these pins can mean damage to the entire excavator and can risk severe injury or damage on the work site. Along with inspecting tine tips and greasing parts, each day’s deployment of an excavator grapple should include an inspection of the pins that connect your equipment. Look for wear or damage to the pins and replace them if necessary.

Build Up Your Grapples When Necessary

Over the course of regular use, your grapple will show signs of wear. Before the entire grapple fails, you can perform repairs on the attachment by building up the metal. This is a specialized welding procedure that you may not have the capacity to do yourself. If you do have the materials and expertise available to perform a build-up, clean the surface thoroughly in preparation for applying new weld metal along the surface. Building up the base metal rather than replacing the entire grapple will greatly extend the life of the attachment, obviating the need for a premature and costly replacement. To increase the grapple’s effectiveness, you or your welder may want to apply a cross-hatching pattern along the tine tips—think of how your fingerprints help you get a better grip.

Repair or Replace Grapples With Moley Magnetics

Even with an understanding of how to maintain your grapple attachments, time and tough assignments eventually wear out even the best grapples. You can only build up for so long before the metallic equivalent of a band-aid solution isn’t good enough anymore. When the time comes to switch out your grapples, look to the durable and long-lasting waste handling grapples we offer at Moley Magnetics. For laying down or tearing up trackage, our truck crane railroad grapples are specially designed for railroad ties. Demolition grapples combine clutching and scooping with high-tine configurations that keep small debris from filtering back down to the ground. For more of an emphasis on grabbing the big targets and leaving the little stuff behind, orange peel grapples use four tines at 90-degree angles from each other to immediately collect sizable scrap.

Moley has you covered when everyday maintenance isn’t enough to keep your grapple at peak performance but you’re not ready to make a new purchase. Moley’s technicians are available to perform repairs on your grapple attachments, examining all your moving parts and determining what to do to ensure that your grapple is practically as good as new. Maintenance matters and a good grapple is, of course, something worth holding on to.