Winter temperatures can get very brisk in the Midwest, making it critical to ensure that your machinery is safeguarded from the coldness of winter.
As winter settles in, the machines you place in your shop, equipment yard, or other storage area could end up damaged. If snow piles up on a machine it could freeze the internal fluids and drain the battery.
It’s very important to prepare your equipment that will be exposed to the cold conditions to prevent long-term damage. There are also equipment parts need to be kept in warmer temperatures throughout the year.
TIPS FOR WINTERIZING EQUIPMENT
Routine inspections of machines is required to prepare your equipment for winter. If dirt or flaws are exposed during an inspection, on-the-spot maintenance might be necessary. To ensure that each machine remains in good shape through the winter months, perform the following steps before and after each round of cold weather:
- Inspect the lights
- Check the windshield wipers
- Inspect the fluid levels
- Make sure the heater works
- Lubricate the engine parts
- Check the body for wear and dents
- Inspect the glass and mirrors
- Inspect the brakes
- Grease the joints and hinges
1. CHANGE TO THE FUEL GRADE RECOMMENED FOR WINTER
Additionally, the following items should be completed to winterize the fuel in your equipment:
- Top off the fuel tank daily
- Empty out the water separator every day
At the end of winter, empty out the tank with the engine running to rid the tank of old fuel.
2. CHANGE THE OIL
Oil changes are a basic part of equipment maintenance, regardless of the temperature. Oil flows better in warmer conditions, so it is best to switch to a synthetic base oil in the winter especially if temperatures drop below -22 degrees F.
3. INSPECT THE ENGINE
If you need to use a piece of motorized equipment during the winter, always run the engine for a few minutes first. This gives the engine a chance to warm up to the same level that it would normally be under regular spring, summer and fall temperatures.
To help prevent unexpected engine problems in a machine after months of not being used, perform the following steps when you check the engine before a start-up:
- Inspect the condition and placement of the fan belts
- Inspect the V-pulley belts for proper functionality
4. CHANGE THE oil, hydraulic and fuel FILTERS
Changing out filters is just as important for the engine as the change-out of oil. When you change the oil check the fuel filters to see whether they’re clean or need to be replaced.
Clogged filters are hard on the engine. Always have filters on hand in case you need to make a quick change. Also be sure to empty out the water trap for the fuel before the freeze of winter takes hold.
5. KEEP THE BATTERY AT ROOM TEMPERATURE
Fuel and oil are what make an engine operate, but without a healthy battery, an engine won’t come to life at all. During winter, the battery is actually the most vulnerable of all the engine components to freezing temperatures.
An engine battery works best at about 80 degrees F. When the temperature drops below that, the battery becomes less efficient. At 32 degrees F, a battery loses 65 percent of its cranking power. This increases the pressure on your engine by more than 50 percent during start-up.
If the battery temperature drops to -20 degrees F, the battery retains only 18 percent of its cranking ability while the pressure on the engine will nearly triple at start-up.
No battery lasts forever, but the quality of a battery is defined by its power and life expectancy. To keep the battery preserved for its intended lifespan, perform the following steps during winter:
- Store the battery in a warm, dry environment
- Charge the battery in advance of placing it in storage
- Recharge the battery any time it falls under 75 percent of its full capacity
- Inspect the battery for dirt, rust or moisture. Any of these can kill a battery early
- If you store the battery for more than 10 days, unplug its cables
- Store batteries in a vertical position
6. ADJUST THE COOLANT
As you check the engine with the motor running, inspect the coolant for bubbles. Coolant should always be free of impurities and rise an inch above the core of the radiator. Look for a grade of coolant with a freezing point that can handle the expected coldness in your area.
If the coolant in your engine needs to be replaced, choose the best grade for your machine and region.
BALANCE THE ANTIFREEZE AND WATER
For a machine to perform optimally in colder weather, the antifreeze mix must be properly blended. To prevent the coolant from freezing in sub-zero temperatures, use a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water. In less severe cold you can use a higher percentage of water.
7. INSPECT THE CONVEYOR
If the belt scraper isn’t preserved over time, the following problems can gradually become apparent with the conveyor:
- Deposits of gunk on the rollers
- Damage to the rollers and pulleys
- Wear and tear on the conveyor belt
The belt can also become misaligned due to a poorly-maintained scraper. Therefore, the surface condition and tension quality of the belt scraper should be checked each season.
When the weather gets cold, it’s important to make sure the conveyor rubber doesn’t stick to the belt. A belt is liable to fail if it contracts during freezing temperatures. If the belt gets buried under snow for any length of time, its performance will degrade considerably. To be on the safe side, the belt and any other detachable parts should be stored in a warmer place when not in use during winter.
8. CHECK THE HYDRAULICS
Hydraulic fluids should be inspected and changed or topped off right before the winter season. If oil drips from the dipstick when you pull it out for an inspection, the fluid level is fine. Make sure the suction filter and chamber are also properly lubricated.
Be certain you only use hydraulic fluids that are made to handle the operating temperature of your machine. A mismatched fluid will lead to early hydraulic failure.
As you check the hydraulic fluid, also inspect the condition of the hoses. When temperatures get cold, a hydraulic hose is liable to crack if the wrapper swells. To keep the hose in better condition, run the engine to bring the hydraulic oil up to 150 degrees F and keep it running at this temperature for approximately 60 minutes. In preparation for sub-zero temperatures, use arctic hydraulic oil.
9. INSPECT THE TIRES
The tires on any machine should be given a daily inspection. When the weather gets cold, tires have more trouble holding air inside. If possible, inflate tires in a warm setting to boost the bead seal. To prevent the formation of ice crystals, fill your tires with dry nitrogen gas.
10. PERFORM VISUAL INSPECTIONS
Each time you approach your machine, do a quick walk-around to inspect its parts. Take a look at the hoses, belts, tires and electrical wires in advance of each use. Do you see any cracks or signs of wear? As you carry out the inspection, wipe away any dirt, dust, moisture or snow that might have accumulated since the last time you checked.
11. INSPECT THE UNDERCARRIAGE
In advance of the winter season, have an inspection of the undercarriage performed to ensure that all the parts are working properly. Any issues that could potentially be compounded by ice and snow should be eliminated before the cold begins.
12. INSPECT THE HOSES
To ensure optimal performance from the hoses, test them with a firm hand squeeze. Does the rubber feel like that of any normal hose or does it seem to be in a soft or brittle state?
If a hose feels soft, it’s probably had contact with lubricants, which is bad for the rubber. A hose in this state is likely to rupture under high pressure. Alternately, if a hose feels brittle, it’s possibly been subjected to intense levels of heat. A brittle hose may crack if subjected to further heat. In either case, the hose should be replaced before use of the machine resumes.
When you replace a brittle, overheated hose, consider routing the new hose differently within the engine. This way, you could possibly spare the new hose from overheating like the old one. Whichever way you route it, just make sure the new hose doesn’t rub against other components within the engine.
13. CHECK THE FAN BELTS
As you check the engine components, inspect the tension and alignment of the fan belts. One problem that frequently arises with equipment owners is improper belt tension.
When you check the fan belts, keep the engine running at full capacity. Once a few minutes have passed, turn off the engine and feel the belts. If the rubber is hot, there’s a problem with the tension. If one belt needs to be replaced, replace all the belts at the same time to keep things consistent.
14. STORE EQUIPMENT PROPERLY
It’s important to store your motorized equipment in an enclosed facility during winter. This helps protect your equipment from the elements when wintery conditions intensify. It’s also best to store fluids in a location where ideal room temperatures — somewhere between 40 degrees and 60 degrees F.
15. USE BLOCK HEATERS
One of the easiest ways to get an engine started up in colder temperatures is with the use of a block heater. A block heater can speed up the process of warming the engine and hydraulic fluid. To make the process even more efficient, block the radiator as you warm the engine. This will restrict the fan air and allow the machine to come to life quickly despite the cold temperatures.
16. RUN THE ENGINE BEFORE OPERATION
Whenever you use a piece of motorized equipment in cold weather, it’s crucial to run the engine first. The engine must be brought to its full operating temperature before you run the equipment. This helps eliminate exhaust and intake sticking and also gives your engine a chance to “wake up” fully.
It’s also a good idea to give the newly warmed machine a quick run-through of all its various functions to keep them healthy. If a piece of equipment hasn’t been used for several months, the run-through will give you a quick idea of the machine’s immediate health. You’ll also be able to tell if any repairs might eventually be needed. If any problems are apparent, this early run-through could help you stop them before they become costly.
17. STORE DIESEL FLUID CORRECTLY
Diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) requires careful storage regardless of grade. Even though certain grades can be more helpful to an engine in colder conditions, the contents of a DEF container can still freeze. In general, DEF tends to freeze in temperatures below 12 degrees The ideal place to store DEF is in an insulated cabinet.