Proper Maintenance for Drill Rig Equipment

By Denise Sullivan
Published: November 10, 2020 | Last updated: July 5, 2023
Key Takeaways

A drill rig requires daily and weekly maintenance to ensure that the unit operates as intended and does not result in injury to workers and costly project delays.

Proper drilling rig maintenance is vital. Proper care includes visually inspecting the equipment regularly. However, workers should consider the average work environment, climate, operating times, and machine load cycles during each inspection. Some of these outside forces can alter how to inspect and what equipment is needed for the job.

Why and How Often to Inspect

Regular inspection of equipment can help to save the company money from unexpected shutdowns. Often, when a system goes down unexpectantly, the problem could have been prevented by routine maintenance. Once it goes down, the unit is often offline longer, and repairs cost more than they would have if the unit had been properly maintained.

Not only does maintenance save money for businesses in the long run, but it also reduces the number of accidents and safety incidents that workers face. A well-maintained machine is less likely to have a catastrophic failure, which may lead to user injury than equipment that does not undergo regular maintenance checks. (Read also: Trenchless Operations Safety Dos and Don'ts.)

All drilling rig equipment should be thoroughly checked at least once a month when used regularly. However, it is a good idea to drill a cursory general inspection daily before beginning work to ensure all lines and rods are in good working order.

If the drill has been down for a substantial amount of time, i.e., during the winter months, you should inspect the drill before using it. Project managers should also have the drilling rig reinspected before putting back into service after repairs to ensure the repairs were completed, and no new issues have arisen.

General Inspection

There are many different components of a drilling rig. There should be a daily general inspection of:

Hoisting Equipment

Some more massive drills, such as oil drills, will have hoisting equipment attached to pull up the drilling mechanism. If there is hoisting equipment, maintenance workers should check the items for wear. Hooks, booms, and wire ropes can wear out with regular use. Hooks and booms should be replaced when worn. Wire ropes should be replaced every 1,000 working days.

Drilling Rods

Horizontal directional drilling does not require hoisting equipment. Instead, these rigs utilize drill rods to push the bit through the ground. Like with hoisting equipment, these rods can become worn or damaged from repeated use and steering.

Workers shouldn’t try to steer too quickly, as this can put too much damage on the rod and cause it to bend. Instead, they should take their time and work carefully. By paying attention to the resistance and pressure gauges, workers can avoid the most common damage.

Over time, the rods will wear out, even with careful drilling. When this happens, all rod segments need to be replaced, even if only one small section needs replacement. Mixing new rod segments with older segments can cause the new segment threads to wear out quicker than it should. If the older segment threads are too worn, they won’t tighten correctly, causing problems during drilling.

Mud Circulation System

The mud circulation system may be simple or complex due to the nature of the machine and use. Simple circulation systems have pumps, suction lines, and shale shakers. More complex units may have pipes, hoses, valves, swivels, and centrifugal pumps that need to be inspected.

No matter if it is a simple or complex system, maintenance workers should look for cracks, leaks, and deposit buildups. These issues point to issues with pressurization imbalances, which can make the unit work harder than it needs to.

Drill Bits

Drill bits are a consumable part of the drilling rig. Over time, the constant cutting causes the drill bit to wear out, and they will stop working as they should. Maintenance workers should inspect these items daily to ensure that they are sharp enough to continue working. If not, they should be replaced.

As drill bits come in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and tip configurations, workers should verify which design is necessary for the job. (Read also: The Right Drill Bit for Ground Conditions.)


The engine is what makes the drill operate. The machines come in a broad range of power, and the appropriate size depends on the task at hand. Drilling operations in the softer ground or going a shorter distance may not need the power that a project in hard clay with lots of underground rocks requires. The first part of maintaining the system is to ensure that the engine size is appropriate for the task at hand.

When inspecting the engine, maintenance workers should check the oil and cooling fluids. A low level should be topped off, but these fluids should be replaced regularly as it will become dirty over time. Dirty oil can become sludge-like and fail to lubricate the engine properly. Clean oil, along with a clean filter, can help keep the machine running in top condition.

As these units vibrate, it is essential to check all fittings periodically. Tighten all loose components to keep them from coming off during use, damaging the engine and being a safety hazard to workers.


Hydraulic systems have several areas that should be checked regularly. Hydraulic pumps, filters, and hoses should be routinely inspected and maintained to keep the system in good working order.

Oil and Fluid

When inspecting hydraulics, inspectors should always start by looking at the hydraulic fluid and oil. Periodically this fluid should be changed to keep failures from occurring. Oil running through the hydraulic pump can get dirty just like that in a car engine. The more contaminated the oil, the less efficiently it flows through the system, causing problems with keeping the engine cool during use. This can cause the pump to seize or other issues.

When choosing an oil, don’t necessarily go for the cheapest brand. These offer the bare minimum in standards and may not help maintain the equipment properly. Maintenance crews should also use oil appropriate for the climate in which they are working.


As with the hydraulic pump, oil or fluid maintenance should include replacing the filter periodically. Like the oil that flows through it, the filter can become clogged with contaminants over time. It’s a good idea to replace the filter anytime the fluid is replaced to ensure there are no issues down the line.


Hydraulic equipment has hoses that run from the pump to the drilling equipment. These hoses can wear out over time and develop holes or cracks. This damage causes leaks of fluid from the system. Replace hoses that look worn before spots develop.

Other Components

Hydraulic equipment also uses cylinders and rams that augment hoisting equipment. Each of these components should be checked for wear and tear. If they are beginning to look worn, they should be replaced before they break. (Read also: A Step-by-Step Guide to HDD.)


It is essential when maintaining drilling equipment to have proper records. It helps workers know not only when the last inspection occurred, but what potential problem areas may have been noted as something to watch or replace soon. Having a checklist makes it easy to perform assessments and ensure all areas are checked, and nothing is forgotten.

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Written by Denise Sullivan | Technical Writer @ Trenchlesspedia

Denise Sullivan

Denise Sullivan is an accomplished freelance writer from Louisiana, with a Associate's Degree in Journalism from Eastern Oklahoma State College. She also graduated from East Central University with a Bachelor's in Biology. Denise began her writing career writing operations and maintenance manuals and software utility manuals for flight simulators. Since, she has expanded her writing to a broad spectrum of topics.

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