Assembling the RuggedSplit 500-Series Log Splitter

See how to unbox and assemble a RuggedSplit 500-Series log splitter.

Video Transcript

Welcome back to RuggedMade. I'm Jared. Today, we're assembling a 500-Series log splitter. This is an RS-537 horizontal vertical splitter. It's going to arrive as a kit in a crate and the only things you'll need to provide are some tools, eight gallons of hydraulic fluid, two quarts of engine oil, some bearing grease, and if you have the electric start option and want to use that, a battery. So, let's take a look at what shows up in the kit and get started.

You'll receive your splitter in a crate like this. Depending on what accessories you ordered, there may be some additional boxes, such as hydraulic fluid, and sometimes the engine will ship separately. So, the whole splitter kit will be in the crate. Pretty much everything is light enough to lift out, except you're going to need some help with the beam because the cylinder is pre-attached.

The first thing to do is get the tires and wheels ready to mount on the axles on the tank. The wheels have dual tape roller bearings and they come pre-greased from the factory but it's not a bad idea to pack a little more grease in there, especially if you're going to be towing. So, we'll remove the outer bearing and then on the inside there's another bearing but there's also a grease seal. We are going to remove that but there's nothing wrong with the seal so we don't want to damage it. What works great is a 27mm socket and we'll just gently push that inner bearing and the seal out. So, if you're towing your log splitter around at all, you should be repacking these bearings on an annual basis. You can do them by hand, but an inexpensive bearing packing tool like this will make the job a lot easier. So, you just pack that full of grease and you'll see that that new red grease has started pushing through all the different passageways. So, that's now repacked. So, that's our inner bearing and we know it's inside because this is the side of the rim that doesn't have the valve stem and now we need to reinstall our seal. If you're going to be mounting this on the tank right away, you can go right to that here. I'm going to put this dust cap back on to keep any contamination out of that newly packed bearing. Now, let's pack some more grease into that hub. We'll use our proprietary packing tool. Now, let's pack the outer bearing. Then, go ahead and pack the other two bearings for the other wheel. Take the castellated nut off of the axle. There's a hole cross-drilled through the axle where the cotter pin is going to go. When installing the wheel, be careful not to damage the rubber lip on this seal on these threads, and as you slide the wheel on the axle, use the thrust washer and apply some constant pressure to the outer bearing so it doesn't get pushed out by the axle.


Reinstall the castellated nut.


Use a wrench to tighten the nut and seat the bearings. Once the wheel is snug, you can back the nut off. You want to line up one of the crenellations with the hole for the cotter pin and you want that wheel to roll a little more freely. Install the cotter pin. In order for the dust cap to fit around the nut, the cotter pin barbs need to be bent back pretty much right along the edges of the nut. What I like to do is use a punch to tap these up a little more flush with the nut. Now install the dust cap. You can use a block of wood and a hammer to tap that on or we just happen to have this handy dandy little dust cap installation tool, which makes short work of this step. Now, connect the lower tongue tube to the tank using these two holes and these two bolts. These both take an 18mm wrench.


Make sure the engine mounting platform is on the same side as the tongue pointing towards the ball hitch. Now let's install the support legs. This is the front support leg. It goes closest to the coupler. There are three holes here. Two of them are smaller and those are for this bale pin which is going to lock this in place in either the upper or the lower position. And then, the third hole is for the pivot bolt. And, that's why there are also three holes here. This is the hinge, or, pivot hole, and these are the two corresponding holes for here and here using the bail pin. So, we want this “L” oriented this way because when it retracts, it retracts that way. So, we'll get our bolts ready. We'll line that hole up with the two larger holes. This bolt and nut take a 15- and 16mm wrench. This bolt can be snug, but don't over-tighten it because this leg needs to be able to swing. Lock it in the lower position. Now, mount the rear support leg at the rearmost end of the tube.

Lock the leg in the vertical position. You might notice the splitter comes up a little bit when it's on the leg but that's only because we're on a cement floor here. Normally, you'd be splitting on soft ground like dirt or grass and the leg being a little bit long would allow it to still contact the ground and provide good support.

Connect the tank and subframe to the main beam using this pin and then secure it with the cotter pin. Now, install the handle here. There are flats on the shaft that take a 13mm wrench.

Lower the beam into the horizontal position.

Let's get the pump mounted on the engine. The 500-Series is available with a couple of engine options. The standard engine is this 301CC Raven, but it's also available with the Honda GX270. The installation of the pump and the mounting bracket for both engines is the same with one difference: with the Raven, you're going to use the four metric bolts that are provided to mount the bracket to the engine block. In the case of the Honda, the threads are not metric, so you'll be provided with four 5/16” bolts that match the thread pitch of those holes. But, now let's get this mounted up to the Raven.

So, we've got our pump mount bracket with safety cover, we've got our 16-gallon-per-minute, two-stage pump, we've got our jaw coupler and spider, our hardware, we're going to use some blue Loctite, a 13mm wrench will work for all eight bolts, and the set screws on these jaw couplers take a four millimeter Allen key. But, bbecause this pump mount opening is big enough to slide right over the jaw coupler, we're going to start by putting the coupler with the 1” bore onto the engine shaft. Notice we've got our key here, so we want to make sure that our set screws are backed out and there are two set screws on each of these jaw couplers, We're going to slide it on and we don't want it to push the key back, so I'm going to hold that in place, and we're going to start by having it just flush with the end of the shaft. We can fine-tune that later, and just going to snug it down for now. We'll get the safety cover off just so we have access to all the set screws on the jaw coupler.

Let's get our rubber spider mounted. Then we've got our other half of the jaw coupler. So, now we can mount our bracket and we're going to have the safety cover side facing up. And, note that there's a centering ring here so it's going to align perfectly with the faceplate of the engine. We've got our longer bolts here. We'll throw a little bit of blue Loctite on that. So, go ahead and tighten these four bolts. They are going into aluminum, so don't over-tighten them.

We're going to install the pump in this orientation with the inlet side pointing down and the outlet port pointing up. Now, the flange is cast and it has some rather complex shapes, particularly on this side. There's not a lot of room here, so you're going to want to sort of pre-install the bolts before you tighten the other side down. And, also note that there's a key in this keyway as we slide this shaft into the bore of the jaw coupler, you don't want that key to get pushed in towards the shaft seal and damage it. I'm going to put a little bit of Loctite on these bolts as well. So, we'll just get that one started and before we tighten down anymore, we'll get the other one but that has the tight fit started.


And, the two on this side are pretty easy.

Now, let's adjust the gap on the jaw couplers. We're going to use this cardstock. A business card would work as well. You can use the pull starter to bump the engine over to get access to the four set screws.

So the jaw coupler set screws are tight, but this is something you would want to check periodically, especially during the break-in period. So, within the first 10 hours of running the machine, pull that safety cover off and check that those are still tight. And now we can put our safety cover back on. And now the engine is ready to mount on the tank.

If you have the Honda GX270 engine, go ahead and use the four M10 x 40mm hex head bolts and the Nyloc nuts and mount it to the engine platform. Or, if you're not going to use the electric start feature that comes standard with the Raven engine, same thing. If you are going to use the electric start and mount the battery, this is the time to mount the battery box. This part of the battery box is going to go under the inside of the engine and to make sure that it mounts level, there's a spacer plate, which will mount under the other part of the engine. So, you can see it's got the four bolt holes, so let's get that installed now.

Connect the large ring terminal of the ground wire to the innermost bolt on the battery tray side. Tighten the bolts using 16mm wrenches. Install the fenders using the M8 x 20mm flange bolts and the Nyloc nuts. Use 13mm wrenches. Now mount the log cradles using the four M10 x 40mm flange bolts. The bolt's going to go through the first one, through the center of the beam and then through the second one. Tighten these bolts with 15mm wrenches. Install the safety chains using the M10 x 80mm bolt and stand the chains off from the tube using the washers. Secure it with the Nyloc nut. The nut takes a 60mm wrench and the bolt head takes a 15mm wrench. This suction line goes from this in-tank strainer nipple to the inlet nipple on the pump, so loosen the hose clamp and mount that here. And, connect the other end of the suction line to the inlet of the pump.

It's time to hook up the hydraulics so let's talk for a minute about the two types of fittings used on the machine. We've got NPT on one end of some of these elbows and we've got JIC 37-degree compression on the other. So, the compression connections are going to be used with some of these hoses and this is just a mechanical connection the threads are just going to pull this cone against this seat and that's where the hydraulic ceiling happens, not with the threads, so no tape would be applied to those types of connections. The NPT, the National Pipe Thread, is a tapered fitting and the ceiling primarily happens from deforming the threads and we're also going to apply some provided PTFE thread seal tape to make sure that's a good seal. And, the NPT connections are used all over the valve and on the high-pressure side of the pump as well as the connections for the cylinders. So, let's see how to apply tape to one of these. You want to think about how a fitting is going to get rotated as it gets threaded into something like the inlet port of the valve and you don't want it to unwind the tape as you go, so if you're looking this way at the tape it's going to be clockwise. And, depending on how thick the tape is, two to three wraps is usually sufficient. You don't want to bunch it on so thick that as you thread it in the tape gets pushed back and it's not actually in between the threads and it's not doing its job to help seal. We're going to install this 1/2" JIC x 1/2" NPT elbow in the outlet port of the pump, so we'll remove this plug. We've already applied our seal tape.

So, when we're using a wrench on these fittings, be very careful not to let the wrench touch the threads because it will damage them. This fitting should be pointed toward the back of the pump when it's tight and note that this is a steel fitting going into aluminum threads so you don't want to over-tighten this and damage those threads. Remove this plug from the clevis end of the cylinder. Install a fitting with 3/4" NPT on one end and 1/2" JIC on the other.

Finish with this fitting pointed toward the side of the splitter that doesn't have the engine. We can always tighten this a little further without breaking the seal. If you go too far and you need to back off, that's going to require you to remove the fitting, re-tape it, and start over. Remove the plug over the port on the rod-end of the cylinder. We're going to install this straight fitting that has 3/4" NPT on both ends.

Now we can install the valve. This is the “A” work port and we're going to mount that on top of the straight fitting. And then, because of a clearance issue with the log knockoff, we're going to install this elbow into the “B” work port. This is where the lever is going to go and when we're done, that's going to be pointed in the direction of the blade and the foot. So, let's make sure we've got our “A” port.

Note that this elbow has the 1/2" JIC compression end, which is going to match the 1/2" hose that connects to this fitting. And, we've left some angle in this pointing towards this side of the machine to match the other fitting because this hose is going to end up with a bit of a bow. And, we can fine tune the angle of these fittings by tightening them a little bit more.

This is our inlet port, so we're going to use the elbow that has the 3/4" NPT x 1/2" JIC because that's going to be the 1/2" hose that comes up from the pump. Tighten this fitting so that it's pointed back or slightly down. The last elbow should be 3/4" NPT and 3/4" JIC compression. This is going to be our return line. So, connect it to the port that's marked “OUT.” This fitting, when tight, should also be pointed towards the back or slightly down.

Let's get the return filter installed now. This is the last fitting. It's a straight 3/4" NPT by 3/4" NPT. Install that in the welded return bung on the tank. The filter housing has a flow direction. Note the inlet and the outlet. The inlet is going to come down from the valve via the hose and the outlet end connects to this fitting. The filter head is aluminum, so don't use too much force, but we do have hexes built into both ports. Apply a little bit of hydraulic fluid to the gasket before installing the element. The element only needs to be hand-tight.

If you ever go into the woods with your splitter, it's a good idea to mount the filter horizontally so that it doesn't risk getting hit by rocks and roots, but if you pretty much just keep it in your yard, you could twist this further so that it's pointing straight down and when you go to change fluid that can make the process a little cleaner.

Here's our 1/2" high pressure line which is going to bring fluid from the pump up to the valve inlet port. Note that it's a 4,000 PSI max working pressure hose with a burst pressure rating of 16,000 PSI. So, we'll start by connecting the pump and then we'll bring this hose across the splitter and connect it to the inlet port elbow. And, for now, we'll just do all the fittings hand-tight. We'll come around later and tighten everything down with wrenches. This short hose is a 1/2" ID high-pressure hose and it's going to connect our “B” port on the valve to our clevis end of the cylinder. And, if this elbow needs to rotate a little bit more to have a nice bow for the hose, it can be adjusted.

The last hose is our return line. It's a 3/4" ID hose but note, the work pressure is only 1,000 PSI, so be sure not to use this on a high-pressure side of the system. But, we've made that pretty easy to avoid by making one end NPT male. This is the side we're going to install on the return filter first because it doesn't swivel whereas the end that's going to connect to the valve does swivel. Connect the other end of the hose to the outlet port of the valve. When connecting these 37-degree compression fittings, hold the hose so that it's straight and there's no tension cocking it to one side. You should be able to bottom out the swivel by hand before using a wrench.

Now, let's go through and tighten all of our hydraulic connections. If necessary, you can use two wrenches to prevent the hose from rotating as you tighten the swivel collar.

To install our valve lever, remove this spring retainer clip, remove the outer piece of the bracket, [and] install this retainer bracket from this side of the valve. It won't clear the head of this bolt if you try to install it from this side. Check that the lever moves freely in both directions.

To use the electric start, we're going to need to install a battery.

Our ground strap is already connected to the block of the engine and we'll now connect the other end to the negative terminal of the battery.

The positive terminal of the battery will connect to this post on the back of the starter relay. Use a 10mm wrench to loosen this nut.

Connect the other end of the red wire to the positive terminal on the battery and be sure not to get the polarity reversed.

Use the rubber strap to secure the battery. The hydraulic system on the 500-Series holds eight gallons of fluid. Remove the dipstick. Start by adding six to seven gallons and then we'll run the system. That will put fluid in the hoses pump valve and cylinder and then we'll top off with the final gallon. Engines usually ship without engine oil, so you'll need to add 1.16 quarts to either the Raven or the Honda. One side of the engine will have a dipstick and one side will have a plug. You might need to swap the location for convenience of adding oil. We recommend using a synthetic 5w30 oil for year-round operation in pretty much any part of the U.S. These engines do have a low-oil shut-off, so we recommend filling them right up to the top of the threads. That way, if you happen to be splitting on a piece of uneven ground, the low oil cutoff switch won't be tricked into thinking that you're low on oil and kill the spark. And to check our oil level, dip the dipstick, pull it out, and make sure we're seeing oil that's high enough up on this cross-hatched flat section.

Throw some gas in the tank. If you use your machine regularly, go ahead and use pump gas, but if your machine sits for any length of time or if you put it away for part of the year, we recommend using ethanol-free fuel to pickle it. Most of the problems with engines these days is caused by the ethanol and fuel phase separation and all the water that it absorbs. So, before we fire up our new engine, let's make sure we've got engine oil throughout the crankcase. So, we'll turn the ignition off. We'll pull it over a few times by hand. Also, since we've got a new machine and new hydraulic connections, be sure to be wearing gloves and eye protection to protect any exposed skin. All right, so that should have sprayed some oil around the crankcase. Let's turn our ignition on, fuel on, choke on, [we’ve] got a throttle at about the 1/3 position. Let it warm up a little bit.

To shut down the engine, idle down, turn the fuel petcock off, and turn the ignition off. It's a really good idea to kill the engine by starving it of fuel by turning the petcock off and letting it run until it dies, particularly if you're going to be transporting it. You don't want to leave that fuel petcock on while towing it because raw fuel could work its way down into the crankcase and dilute the oil.

Electric start makes things even easier. We've added about seven gallons of fluid to the hydraulic tank and now we're going to start the engine and test out our hydraulic system, purge the air, and then we can top off that eighth gallon. Make sure you're wearing gloves and eye protection, which you should be wearing any time you're operating a log splitter, but particularly when you have a system that you've just put together for the first time and could possibly have some leaks.

Move the valve lever towards the foot of the beam to extend the rod. The first couple times you extend the rod, it may move in a jerky manner. This is because there's still air in the system. Run it out and back a few times to purge the air and it should smooth right out. Now, shut the machine down and add that last gallon of hydraulic fluid. Now that we've got all eight gallons in the system, run the cylinder rod out and back a few times and check the system for leaks. Also check the function of the return detent. If you do detect any leaks, be sure to turn the engine off and relieve any system pressure before making any adjustments. Do this by cycling the valve lever a few times. After fixing any leaks, run the system again and recheck.

To use the splitter in the vertical position, you need to lower the rear leg. We're going to pull the release pin here and lift the beam up and just keep an eye on these hoses to make sure none of them pull tight. So, there's the machine in vertical mode ready to split. To put it back in the horizontal mode, we're just going to pull it down. Again, you want to make sure that none of these hoses are going to get pinched between the beam and the subframe, and, watch your fingers. Check the tire pressure of both tires before towing. These tires should be set to 60 PSI when cold. Your RS537 is now ready to go.

Winter's coming, so get out to the woodlot and get splitting. Visit us at for more information. Thanks for watching and we'll see you next time.