By Joseph Haynes

April2016_Haynes_InFieldWhen preparing to drill community water wells overseas, it’s understandable that all involved parties have a lot on their mind. Between planning what to pack, researching the destination and the overarching pressure to bring clean water to those who need it most, it’s easy for the importance of properly maintaining drills and equipment to slip their minds. Forgetting routine maintenance, however, can significantly delay a humanitarian project or, in the worst case, end it altogether. In addition to completing routine maintenance, working with a reliable drill manufacturer can help keep downtime to a minimum.

Water swivel
Water swivel

Maintain the motion
Performing routine maintenance on a drill’s moving parts is important to avoid unexpected downtime. The drive chain requires proper lubrication and grease fittings need injections with a molybdenum-based grease because it remains viscous even at high temperatures, which means that it stays inside the fittings longer than oil. In order for the drive head to lift smoothly and quickly, the slide pads on the draw works and mast also need cleaning and lubrication after about eight hours of operation with a light film of silicone spray to prevent corrosion from forming.

It’s essential to check the drive chain every four hours to ensure minimal slack because the draw works uses it to raise or lower the drill pipe in the borehole. If the drive chain is loose, it can slap against the mast, leading to premature wear. It’s also important to keep a little slack because it prevents the chain from getting stuck at the top of the mast. The process for adjusting chain tension can vary between manufacturers and some design rotary drills with this type of maintenance in mind. For example, some manufacturers design rotary drills that make accessing the chain’s adjustment screw and locking nut as simple as possible, such as removing a pin or loosening a single bolt. This significantly minimizes downtime.

The water swivel is another component that needs routine maintenance. Operators should grease the swivel immediately after use, while the drill is still warm, so heated grease can flow into the wear areas. With proper greasing and maintenance, the water swivel should last the life of the drill. Take care not to over-grease the water swivel because it might prematurely wear its swivel shaft. To avoid this, only pump grease into the water swivel until it resists additional grease. If the water swivel seizes while lubricating, use a sharp object, such as a flat screwdriver head, to depress the ball check in the grease fittings, releasing extra pressure.

Missionary kit
Missionary kit

It’s all in the details
To avoid costly repairs from operating issues, it’s equally important to inspect and maintain the drill’s non-mechanical parts, including drill bits, mounting bolts, drill pipes and the slip plate. They require regular maintenance to prevent minor operating issues from becoming large repairs. For drill bits, damaged threads can make the bit hard (or sometimes impossible) to remove from the drill stem when it comes time to change a bit. Worn teeth don’t penetrate as efficiently as well-maintained or new bits. This is why cleaning the box threads—ensuring the bits are free of dirt and coating with oil before storing—helps the components last longer.

Drill pipes also require proper care to prevent corrosion. Rusty pipes can break inside a borehole and are nearly impossible to remove, potentially causing significant delay to a project. Some manufacturers incorporate drill racks along with the drills to make storing and transporting drill pipes easy, and to help prevent corrosion. All mounting bolts on the J-latch, water swivel and hydraulic motor need proper tightening. The bolts minimize vibrations created by the drill, preventing damage to the motor shaft and the water swivel. A loose bolt on the J-latch can break off inside the water swivel, becoming difficult to remove. Finally, clearing slip plates of grease and soil reduces the chance of rust, as well as ensuring they stay centered to minimize pressure on the water swivel.

Partner for success
Working with a reliable manufacturer gives well installers peace of mind and reduces downtime if they run into an operating issue. Some manufacturers might claim they provide quality service and support, only to fall off the radar once the drill ships from the factory. Luckily, that is not true for all. Look for a manufacturer that provides a detailed operator’s manual should an issue arise. The operator’s manual is the first line of defense against servicing downtime. It’s important to reference this if anything sounds strange or isn’t operating correctly to avoid causing further damage to the equipment. Some manufacturers include service kits with common wear parts and required tools, making in-field repairs quick and easy. For instance, if installers can’t stop water from leaking out of the water swivel (even after adding grease) they should be able to replace it using the tools and parts within the service kit. This significantly minimizes downtime since they do not have to wait for a part to ship. Some manufacturers even go so far as to provide around-the-clock support, visiting the drill while it’s in the field and designing new drills using customer feedback as their guide. To find a reliable manufacturer, check for company reviews using a search engine or contact other customers to learn about their experience.

The last thing remote workers need is to hit a project standstill because of unreliable equipment. Regularly maintaining a rotary drill from a reliable manufacturer ensures a successful mission.

About the author
April2016_Haynes_mugJoseph ‘Joe’ Haynes is President of Lone Star Drills, part of the Little Beaver product family. Lone Star Drills provides drilling solutions for a variety of applications, including water well drilling, soil sampling, geotechnical testing and auger drilling. Haynes uses his 37 years of experience to develop high-quality drilling solutions for companies around the world, as well as to establish partnerships with non-profits drilling water wells overseas. He can be reached at (800) 227-7515 or visit

About Lone Star Drills
Lone Star Drills offers innovative additions to the Little Beaver product family. The company designed the drills to be convenient, powerful solutions in areas with minimal resources for transportation and operation. The 12 models are ideal for use in a variety of applications, including soil sampling, geotechnical testing and auger drilling. For more information: Little Beaver, 2009 South Houston, Livingston, TX 77351; (800) 227-7515; fax (936) 327-4025; [email protected]; or; Facebook; LinkedIn; YouTube.


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