By Darrin Cline
The aged, dying tree has been cut down; the branches and leaves have been cleared away and processed in the brush chipper. However, one significant portion of the tree remains to be removed in order to complete the job: the stump. In order to efficiently and completely remove the stump and maintain the landscape aesthetic, a stump cutter should be used.
Stump cutters are suited to tackle any type of tree and any size stump. Depending on the machine size, the stump cutter can grind stumps as high as 31 inches above the ground.
Nonetheless, much like any piece of tree care equipment, a stump cutter that is not regularly maintained will experience less-efficient performance and lead to additional time on a jobsite. Failing to operate the stump cutter appropriately and follow a consistent maintenance regimen can limit the effectiveness of a stump cutter.
Before putting a stump cutter to work at a jobsite, it is important to inspect the environment and remove any materials that may damage the cutter wheel during the stump removal.
Look around before you engage
Before engaging the stump cutter, operators should be aware of foreign objects around the stump.
“If you hit something like barbed wire, it can get tangled up in the cutter wheel. Other objects like stones or fence posts can damage cutter wheel teeth,” said Mike Rector, tree care solutions specialist for Vermeer.
These issues can also arise when working in challenging soil. As the stump cutter works closer and closer to the ground, it may contact rocky soil. Thus, operators should not only try their best to remove any obstructions in the ground, but also work very slow and meticulously.
Even with advanced technologies and improved automation of today’s stump cutters, there are still a number of areas to check regularly on a stump cutter to ensure that everything is in working order. First, always review and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for periodic maintenance.
“Two of the biggest wear items on a stump cutter are the teeth and pockets on the wheel,” said Rector. “I recommend daily inspections of these to make sure they aren’t too worn down. If the teeth reach that point, you can rotate to the other side. Pockets should be inspected for wear, and can also be rotated to the other side of the wheel to increase their life.”
The engine should also be monitored daily to help operators be more confident in their cutters. Checking fluid levels before using the machine that day and familiarizing oneself with the power output of the stump cutter are also important. Be sure to follow the manual for a checklist.
“There could be changes in the sound from the engine if it is losing power or something is not working correctly,” said Rector. “A difference in the amount of time it takes to remove a stump or the feeling of less power to the cutter wheel can be indicative of a potential issue. On a daily basis, check the stump cutters fluids, such as hydraulic oil, engine oil and fuel. Again, check the periodic maintenance schedule provided by the manufacturer.”
Proactive maintenance is key to machine efficiency
Checking the fluid levels before the stump cutter even leaves the shop may prevent headaches later in the day at a jobsite. Along with the daily inspection component, stump cutters come with recommended service items and intervals. Recommended intervals typically occur at 10, 50, 100, 200, 250 and 500 hours. Doing a thorough inspection at each of these breaks is a key preventive maintenance step that will prolong the productive life of a stump cutter.
For example, on the Vermeer SC30TX at the 10-hour mark the list includes items such as cleaning the air intake and cooling areas, greasing the cutter wheel bearing and boom pivot, and inspecting the track tension. At 50 hours, the hydraulic fluid filter should be replaced, and the track tension should be adjusted.
Once the stump cutter reaches 100 hours, engine maintenance is a focal point: check spark plug conditions, as well as remove and clean cooling shrouds and oil cooler fins. Additionally, check the control levers, operator presence system and hydraulic system.
At 200 hours, replace the spark plugs and the in-line fuel filter; 50 hours later, clean the fuel tank and strainer, and check the battery electrolyte levels and terminals. Once the stump cutter has reached 500 hours, lubricate the crankshaft spline, and check the battery and hydraulic fluid levels.
Maintenance checkpoints can vary by make and model, based largely on the technology and components available. Even with the variances, there is no substitution for maintaining a clean, smooth-running machine through preventive maintenance.
According to Rector, the best preventive maintenance, though, is reading and adhering to the owner’s manual. He recommends that all operators become familiar with the maintenance manual before turning the key on any stump cutter. Although many stump cutters are similar in design and features, each model has its own nuances and unique adaptations that make it suitable for specific jobs.
“Always pay close attention to the hour meter and maintenance manual,” he said. “The local dealer or service provider can be your best friend when it comes to helping to extend the life of the stump cutter. There’s nothing more valuable than paying attention to what the cutter needs and getting the service done.”
For as valuable and versatile as a stump cutter is to a rental company or tree care operator, its efficiency is limited when maintenance is not fully considered. By monitoring wear parts and engine performance, and abiding by the recommendations of the manufacturer’s operator and maintenance manual, expect to maximize the life and value of your stump cutter.
Darrin Cline is a features writer with Two Rivers Marketing, Des Moines, Iowa.
Article submitted on behalf of Vermeer Corporation, Pella, Iowa.