Getting Your Equipment Ready for Winter
Fall is here and in full-swing, and for many of us that means it’s time to start thinking about putting our equipment into storage for the winter. We all know that preventative maintenance is critical to keeping your machines in top shape during the busy season, but there are several things that you can do before you put away your equipment that will protect your investment, and ensure that it’s ready to go once spring comes around.
The first thing you should do is inspect the machine for any dirt, dust or debris, and give your equipment a good washing. Next, we recommend applying an anti-corrosion protective coating to the exposed cylinder rods before going into storage. You will also want to put protective covers on the air intake hose and the muffler during any long-term storage or winterization process.
Next, disconnect the battery and make sure that it is stored in a clean, dry, frost-free environment. During the winterization process, check for loose fasteners and tighten them. If you’re prepping track-mounted equipment, you’ll also want to loosen the tension on the tracks. Finally, drain the fuel and store your machine in a dry, dust-free environment for the duration of the off-season. Keeping your equipment out of direct sunlight can also be beneficial, as constant warming and cooling from the sun on metal parts can cause condensation to form, freeze and cause damage to internal components.
Prepping for Winter Work
For those of use who use our equipment throughout the cold months, there are also several basic maintenance measures you can take to ensure that your equipment runs reliably through the winter.
Compact equipment won’t run efficiently if it doesn’t have the proper engine oil, coolant, fuel and hydraulic fluid for operating during the winter. Always refer to the operator's manual for instructions on filling machines with the correct fluids for winter conditions. It’s important to use a low-temperature grease on pivot points for proper lubrication, and to use an engine oil viscosity that matches the outside operating temperatures.
Also, change out your fuel and hydraulic oil filters. They have likely collected moisture and debris from operating during the summer, which can cause problems if left for the winter.
The wrong type of fuel can also cause problems in extreme cold. No. 2 diesel fuel can gel at low temperatures. It is possible to use manufacturer-approved fuel additives to minimize this risk, but check your operator’s manual first. Folks working in extremely cold regions may also want to consider a cold-weather-rated No. 1 or blended diesel fuel. Also, be sure to top off your antifreeze.
During the winter, batteries need to generate almost twice the amount of amps to turn over a cold engine. Check your battery connections for corrosion and wear, which can cause hard-starting problems, and be sure to have a load test performed on your batteries before the winter hits.
As the air pressure drops along with the temperature, the tires on your wheel loaders will sag. Deflated tires can cause serious downtime, so check the operator’s manual for the proper PSI and inflate the tires accordingly.
Don’t forget about your hydraulic system and attachments. Be sure to do basic visual inspections regularly on the hoses and connections. Also, check the manuals — some attachments require additional maintenance procedures during the cold months.
Last, but absolutely not least, take good care of the operators! Snow removal operators can spend hours upon hours in the cab, so it’s really important that they stay comfortable, and out of the weather. Make sure that the heating and defrosting systems are part of your routine maintenance. Check the cab window and door seals and be sure to use a cold temperature-rated wiper fluid.
Regardless of the season, well-maintained equipment will operate more smoothly and efficiently on site, will break down much less, and the cost of ownership will be reduced, by minimizing costly repairs. Remember, putting a short amount of time into a proper maintenance routine will extend the life of your equipment, and allow you to count on it for years to come.