Article by Gary Bryan, National Warranty Manager
With another summer come and gone, fall is officially here, which means many construction projects are in the midst of wrapping up before winter rears its ugly head. Whether you’re using your compact equipment during the winter or putting it in storage for a few months, it is critical that your equipment is prepared for both situations.
Preventative maintenance goes a long way to protect your investment and should be done at the beginning, as well as the end of each working season. A little bit of maintenance goes a long way in ensuring that your equipment is ready to roll once spring comes around.
Prepping for Winter Time
There are many of us that continue to use our equipment during the winter instead of putting in storage. While you’re capitalizing on your investment by using the equipment year-around, it is important to take basic maintenance measures to ensure your equipment runs reliably through the harsh conditions winter can throw at us.
First, it is important that you change your fluids and lubricants to cold tolerant products that are approved to handle the extreme conditions that your machine will be operating in. Always reference your operator’s manual for the recommended specifications and contact your dealer with any questions. For proper lubrication, it’s important to use low-temperature grease on pivot joints, and to use an engine oil viscosity that matches the outside operating temperatures. Fuel and hydraulic filters, which have likely gathered moisture, dirt, and debris from the summertime, will need to be replaced.
Cold weather regions typically begin offering No. 1 diesel fuel in early fall, so it is important that you start filling your equipment with an anti-gel fuel before freezing conditions set in. Also, to minimize the risk of frozen or gelled up fuel lines, first check the operator’s manual, and, if possible, use manufacturer-approved fuel additives.
Owners also need to be aware of the new EPA compliant engines that are powering their machines and how that affects winter operation. Many newer model machines are utilizing Tier 4 emissions systems which include a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) with a regeneration process that converts the soot build up in the DPF to an ash byproduct. As a result of this, owners will not be able to idle their machines in cold weather for long periods of time because idling will cause the DPF to soot up and clog and may ultimately result in a dealer service call to rectify the problem.
Winter can also be tough on your hydraulic system and attachments. We recommend checking the hoses and connections regularly. A loose connection could cause moisture to build up inside, potentially causing the internal components of the machine to freeze and possibly burst the hoses.
Changing temperatures of warm to cold to freezing will deflate your tires a little air at a time, so check the tires regularly and check your operator’s manual for the proper PSI. During the winter, we see batteries die because they need to generate nearly twice the amount of amps to turn over a cold engine. Check your battery connections for corrosion and wear, which can lead to hard-starting problems. Also, make sure to perform a load test on your batteries before winter begins.
Be sure to check the heating and defrosting systems before the winter starts as part of your routine maintenance. Also make sure to check that the cab door and window are sealed tightly to not let the cold air inside the cab. This won’t have any affect on how the equipment operates, but it will help the operator stay nice and warm.
When switching seasons, a little preventative maintenance allows you to get the most ROI, instead of having the winter throw a wrench in your plans.
Storing your Compact Equipment
It is important to create a checklist during the winterization process to ensure you don’t miss a beat. The last thing you want is for your equipment to not function when you bring it out of storage the next busy season because you forgot a few steps on the checklist.
First, it is important to store your machines in a dry, dust-free environment for the duration of the off-season. If you don’t have dry, dust-free storage, there are additional measures you can take to make sure dust and moisture don’t settle in the important components and electrical connections. It is also advantageous to keep your equipment out of direct sunlight. This is because constant temperature changes can cause condensation to form on the metal parts, which can then freeze and cause damage to internal components.
Your compact equipment worked hard in the summer, so it is important when putting the machines away for the next few months, to give it a good thorough washing and cleaning. After a wash, look closely for any dirt or debris in the undercarriage. Next, we recommend applying an anti-corrosion protective coating to the exposed cylinder rods. It is also important to put protective covers on the air intake hose and the muffler during any long-term storage, especially if the storage is not a dry, dust-free area.
After driving the compact equipment to where you want to store it, make sure to disconnect the battery and store it in a clean and dry environment – keeping it in a clean and dry environment will keep moisture from ruining the battery.
By ensuring that you took the right preventative measures during the winterization process, you will be happy come spring time after bringing your compact equipment out of its’ winter slumber.