The Daily Grind

The Daily Grind

Byline: Paula Russell, Rayco Manufacturing

As the old adage goes, you get out what you put in; and so it goes with stump cutter maintenance. You can increase your productivity as well as the life of your stump cutter by following a routine maintenance schedule. Dedicate a small amount of time regularly to your stump cutter fleet and ensure the safety of your employees and/or rental customers, the health of the machine and quality of each job.

Most new machines will come with specific and general maintenance schedules, giving fill levels and product specifications expressly for their machine. However, used equipment may not always have these manuals. Use the checkpoints listed below as a guideline for a standard maintenance routine of your dedicated stump cutter.


* Operational shut down.

* Safety gear.

As you begin maintenance you should perform a complete operational shut down of the machine, including disconnecting the battery cables, removing the keys and securely placing the safety blocks. It is strongly recommended that you use safety glasses and gloves.


It is advisable to spray down the stump cutter after every use. A high-pressure spray should clear out the debris and mud/dirt accumulated at a jobsite. This not only improves the daily appearance of the stump cutter, it allows easier inspection of the machine’s overall condition, and the condition of hoses and connections for possible wear zones and leaks.

Hydraulic system

* Oil

Check the oil level to ensure proper fill. Most stump cutters have a hydraulic oil level indicator clearly positioned on the reservoir. Check carefully for moisture content. Used machines and machines that sit for seasonal storage may form condensation in their hydraulic lines. This causes a considerable decrease in effectiveness from the system. Most manufacturers suggest a seasonal hydraulic oil change so drain the system and replace with the correct weight (summer/winter) hydraulic oil.

* Filter

Change at regular service intervals. As with engine oil, clean hydraulic oil allows your stump cutters to provide hours of maintenance-free operation.

* Lines and couplings

When left unchecked, leaks can become disastrous for operator and machine alike. Hydraulic lines require thorough and regular checks. Look specifically for wear zones where constant rubbing wears on the lines. Reroute or protect those lines with a new protective cover if necessary. Any cracked hoses should be immediately replaced; cracks are highly susceptible to breaks so replace as soon as recognized.

Start the stump cutter to look for leaks while the system is under pressure. To ensure you don’t miss a leak, pull the stump cutter into the shop. Look for drippings on the floor. Check the couplings to ensure they maintain a tight fit.


* Oil and oil filter

Change the oil and filter regularly based upon manufacturer recommendations. As with the hydraulic oil, if you use the stump cutter in extreme temperature conditions, be certain to use the correct weight oil.

* Fuel filter

Change per the manufacturer’s recommendation, or balance with amount of usage. If the stump cutter was inactive for a period of time, it would be wise to drain the fuel system, replace fuel filter and replenish with fresh fuel.

* Air filter

Replace annually or per the manufacturer’s recommendations. During periods of dry weather, dusty operating environments can require more frequent air filter replacement.

* Radiator and/or oil cooler

The accumulation of debris can reduce a stump cutter’s cooling capacity. Using an air compressor, frequently clear the cooler area by blowing air backward through the cooler to remove this accumulation.

Hydrostatic drive / Rubber V-belt drive

* Poly chain belt

Remove the belt guard and clean any dirt and/or chips from it and the housing. Check tension and alignment to ensure proper fit. Once a new poly chain belt reachesabout 50 working hours, if tensioned properly, the belt should have reached maximum stretch, requiring few adjustments.

* Rubber V-belts

Rubber V-belt drive machines require a little more vigilance because of the durability of the belt. As the rubber stretches and wears, the belt becomes loose. The ability of the belt to work at maximum efficiency is compromised. Therefore, regularly check the rubber V-belt for a snug fit. Check the rubber belt for wear or cracks and replace as necessary.

Cutter wheel

* Bearings

Clean away debris and be sure that bearings take grease. Complete per manufacturer’s recommendations.

* Safety shield

Ensure wood fragments and other worksite waste do not inhibit the operation of the cutter wheel. Clean and inspect regularly.

* Teeth

Check the wear of the strike point. For teeth to work best, there needs to be optimum clearance between the tooth’s strike point and mounting block to allow the cutter wheel to pass freely through the stump. Worn and twisted teeth will slow down productivity and decrease the stump cutter’s effectiveness. A single piece design tooth with a car-bide tip provides the best cutting performance. Make sure the teeth are securely fastened to the cutter wheel.

* Teeth pattern

Manufacturers have varying design configurations for bolt-on teeth. You should always maintain the correct number of teeth on the cutter wheel. Otherwise, the cutter wheel may become unbalanced or misaligned and damage the linkage and bearings. Some operators find success in rotating lightly worn teeth to rear positions, where others continue to replace teeth just in the high wear positions. Either way, the best cut is made with the sharpest teeth edge and proper configuration.

Chip retainers

Check curtains all around the stump cutter for possible rips and tears. Replace as necessary.


Check for wear, replace per manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure tire is properly inflated, per manufacturer’s instructions.


There are two main types of stump cutters: self-propelled and tow-behind.

* Self-propelled

Usually transported by a trailer. Check trailer for proper tie downs and stops. Also, check for proper electrical connections for legal highway lighting and braking. Inspect trailer hitch for wear. Check stump cutter for appropriate tie down locations. Review for wear and tear.

* Tow-behind

As with the self-propelled, check for proper electrical connections for legal highway lighting and braking. Inspect trailer hitch for wear. Check safety chains and replace as necessary.


Jobsite maintenance is just as important to your machine as preventive maintenance. At minimum, keep a grease gun, extra teeth and suitable size wrenches in your tool kit.

Quality effort reaps quality rewards: safety, increased productivity and longevity for the stump cutters in your fleet. Routine stump cutter maintenance will ensure that quality.

Paula Russell is marketing manager for Rayco Manufacturing (Wooster, Ohio).

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