For many contractors in the Midwest, construction season is year-round despite the cold and snow. Whether you will store your heavy-duty equipment until spring or operate during the winter months, there are steps you can take to properly prepare your machinery for the upcoming winter.

Storing Your Construction Equipment for Winter

Before storing your construction equipment away for the winter, always be sure to conduct a multipoint check of your machines to ensure the tires, brakes, and parts are in working order. Lubricate or replace worn parts before stowing the equipment. Fall is also a good time to verify the hours on the machine to determine whether or not it’s due for some required maintenance. As always, the owner’s manual is a good resource to consult when it comes to maintaining your industrial equipment.

Store Equipment Indoors if Possible

Keeping your construction equipment in an enclosed facility during the harsh winter months will protect it from the weather elements, allowing it to start easier when you are ready to use it again. Labor is also saved with indoor storage by eliminating the need to brush off accumulated snow. Remember to disassemble any attachments and store them separately to protect hinges and joints from damage.

Protect Equipment Stored Outside

Doosan crane in winterIf it’s not possible to store your equipment inside, park it in a safe place outside away from any muddy areas. It’s also a good idea to jack skid-steer wheels about an inch off the ground to prevent flat spots on the tracks. To avoid unnecessary wear and tear, try parking your machines on wooden boards so they don’t freeze to the ground. Other outdoor storage tips include:

  • applying a thin layer of grease or petroleum jelly to all exposed cylinder piston rods to combat rust
  • retracting hydraulic cylinders
  • lowering attachments to the ground
  • releasing the hydraulic pressure
  • removing the battery and storing it in a dry, warm place (remember to charge periodically)

Lastly, cover the equipment with a tarp to block out moisture and prevent snow buildup. You’ll also want to start the engine until it gets up to working temperature once a month. Then, check the fluid levels and operate the controls to make sure everything is still operating correctly.

Operating Industrial Equipment in the Winter

For contractors who still need to operate their equipment during the winter, following these tips and the recommendations listed in the owner’s manual of the machine will reduce the likelihood of breakdowns and premature equipment failures.

Check Fluids and Filtration Regularly

Extreme cold weather affects oil and fluid viscosity, which can cause wear to your equipment. In extremely cold climates, check to see if arctic hydraulic oil is appropriate for your machine.

  • Make sure all components are properly lubricated to reduce wear and tear.
  • Clean the fuel tank cap or vent thoroughly, inspecting for water and sediment in the fuel.
  • Fill the fuel tank after every shift to avoid freezing.
  • Inspect the air filter periodically for damage or debris that could hinder its maximum efficiency.
  • Replace the air filter regularly.

Inspect Cooling Systems and Hoses

Cooling systems, reservoirs, and hoses should be inspected and maintained frequently in order to prevent freezing and corrosion. Coolant also lubricates shaft shields and minimizes cavitation, which is a condition that can erode components.

  • Flush coolants and replace them according to OEM standards and intervals.
  • Confirm coolant in the radiator is always filled to the cap.
  • Inspect the cap for relief pressure.
  • Ensure coolant concentration remains at 50%.

Keep the Battery Charged and Clean

Cold weather itself doesn’t have a large impact on the lifespan of your battery, but it can cause stress to certain components. The best way to maintain your equipment’s battery throughout the winter season is to keep it fully charged, allow it to warm up before starting, and clean any dirt, debris, or corrosion. Avoid frequently starting and stopping the machine as this action doesn’t allow the battery to fully recharge and can cause problems to the battery and the equipment.

Maintain the Machine’s Undercarriage

The undercarriage of an excavator or backhoe is the most susceptible to wear and tear, particularly in the winter. Fall is a perfect time to schedule your annual undercarriage inspection to ensure your machine is ready to take on the harshest season. You should conduct a visual inspection every day to keep the undercarriage clear of mud, snow, and debris and to check for any loose or worn parts.

Inspect the Tires

2000 Terex All-Terrain Crane tires

In addition to maintaining the undercarriage every day, you’ll also want to make sure the tires receive a daily inspection. Keep the tires inflated to the proper tire pressure, remove debris, and vigilantly look out for any signs of cracking or chunking. Make sure the tires wear evenly, and if you notice any sort of damage or cracking, you must replace them. To avoid added stress, remember to remove counterweights when not in use.

Adjust Operational Habits

Operators shouldn’t aim to just get through the winter; they should work to maintain the equipment’s longevity. To ensure your machine makes it through or even beyond its projected lifespan, contractors will have to adjust their habits in cold and snowy weather conditions by minimizing high operating speeds and on-road travel. Alternating your turning directions also limits wear on the machine and prevents premature breakdowns.

Warm Up the Engine

One of the most important actions you can take during winter operation is to always run the engine until it reaches operating temperature before attempting to use the equipment. Failing to warm up the engine properly can blow out components and lead to expensive repairs, not to mention unanticipated downtime. Allow the machine to stretch and cycle through the functions to distribute warm oil throughout until all parts operate efficiently.

Keep in mind that abiding by the owner’s manual and staying on top of preventative maintenance will ensure your crane, crawler, excavator, and other industrial equipment will last for many years, and not just throughout the winter season. If you need spare parts or want to schedule routine maintenance service, contact RTL Equipment before the temperatures drop!

RTL Equipment recently delivered a new Terex SK415 tower crane to Reynolds Crane and Rigging in Madison, WI. Reynolds Crane are very enthusiastic about the future tower crane market in the Wisconsin, Illinois region, and are looking forward to keeping their new Terex SK415 busy. The crane was erected at a new construction site near central Madison, and the Wisconsin Capital Building.

Reynolds personnel were extremely impressed with the condition of the new crane when it arrived from Italy. Everything was very well organized, which allowed for efficient assembly of the crane.

RTL Equipment, Inc. is looking forward to securing more of the fast growing tower crane market. .

RTL Equipment Sells Terex Tower Crane in WisconsinTerex SK415 Tower Crane sold in Madison, WIRTL Equipment Delivers Tower Crane To Reynolds Crane and Rigging in WisconsinTerex SK415 Tower Crane - RTL EquipmentRTL Equipment now sells Tower Cranes

Recently, RTL Equipment, Inc. took a group of sixteen customers to Doosan’s ROC (Real Operation Center) in Tucson, Arizona for hands on product testing and education, combined with some fun and recreation in the desert mountains.

by Ron Hadaway

Improvements to Tier 4 engines help burn cleaner fuel and reduce air emissions. To meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fuel requirement standards, Tier 4-compliant engines—designed with high-pressure common rail (HPCR) systems and fuel injectors—use ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel.

Water can be introduced into fuel as early as the refinery stage and continue to be present through the terminal, distributor and pump stages. During cold weather conditions, water molecules can detach from diesel molecules, and because they are heavier than diesel molecules, they tend to settle at the bottom of diesel fuel tanks and bulk storage tanks. This can cause potential engine problems in equipment and lead to bacteria growth in the tanks. Today’s lower sulfur amounts in diesel fuel multiplies saturates, which increases the tendency of fuel to gel and plug the fuel filter during cold weather conditions.

The following eight fuel management best practices can help reduce machine downtime and costly injector plugging from water, debris and other contaminants found in diesel fuel.

Tip 1: Test bulk fuel tanks every six months.

When storing diesel fuel, the last thing you want is water or other contaminants in your storage tank. Water can degrade the fuel chemical structure and eventually lead to pump, filter and injector problems.

Every six months, you or a professional diesel fuel cleaning and inspection service should test your supply tanks for contaminants. A small amount of water can be removed, but if significant amounts of water or sludge are found, the entire tank should be drained and cleaned. To help monitor your supply tank, keep a preventive maintenance log for the tank that includes maintenance history, filter changes and particle counts.

Tip 2: Keep supply tank fuel filters clean.

Often machines are filled with a 5- or 10-gallon plastic container. How do you know that the container is completely clean or how the fuel was stored before adding it to the container? To bypass these issues, make sure any fuel entering a storage tank passes through a dispensing filter, which will help increase the effectiveness of the machine’s fuel filter and help prevent contaminants from entering. Additionally, fuel tank filters should be capped and the tank vent must be filtered. Tank filters typically have a 10-micron-or-fewer fuel filter to help remove moisture as fuel is dispensed through the vent.

Tip 3: Fill machine tanks at the end of each workday.

Diesel fuel can reach high temperatures during the workday. As the machine cools, condensation can form in air gaps. Make sure every machine is filled with diesel fluid at the end of the day to reduce your maintenance costs.

Tip 4: Use 2-micron fuel filters.

Some fuel filters chosen for HPCR engines are highly effective at trapping down to 2-micron contaminants and removing free and emulsified water. No filter will remove all contaminants. However, using the cleanest fuel possible and an efficient fuel filter help minimize the amount of particles entering the machine. Additional fuel filter best practices include:

  • Drain the water trap daily.
  • Never prefill a new filter during installation.
  • Never open fuel connections in the system downstream of the fuel filter.
  • Use the manufacturer’s recommended replacement fuel filter.

In case contaminated fuel is used in a machine, it is best to purchase an extra fuel filter for every Tier 4, HPCR-engine-equipped machine.

Tip 5: Prepare for cold weather.

Much of the chemistry added in the ULSD fuel can present challenges for diesel fuel suppliers to consistently provide fuel that performs well in cold climates. However, you can utilize cold-weather practices, which include removing trapped water from your machine’s fuel filter daily, maintaining your machine’s battery state of charge for optimum cranking speed, installing an engine block heater and choosing the best engine oil and hydraulic/hydrostatic oil for the conditions. Maintain a cold-weather kit and follow the cold-starting procedures in your operation and maintenance manual.

Tip 6: Attend a fuel management clinic.

Heavy equipment dealers should be trained on fuel management, and they may host events to accurately relay those tips to you and your operators. On a daily basis, dealers can help assess your situation provide a plan on how to treat any fuel-related issues.

Tip 7: confirm the fuel’s cloud point.

A fuel’s cloud point is the temperature at which wax begins to drop out of fuel, creating a translucent appearance. The wax forms crystals—50 to 200 microns in size—that can quickly plug the fuel filter. The cloud point from the refinery is based on the geographic location and the time of year that the fuel is intended to be used, so make sure to ask your supplier to confirm the fuel’s cloud point.

Tip 8: Identify poor-quality fuel suppliers.

Seeking diesel fuel that meets your needs and choosing a reputable supplier are important. You may have to pay more for clean fuel, but investing in quality fuel that is blended appropriately for the climate may lower your consumption, provide fewer filter changes and deliver longer component life. Two questions you should ask before you buy are: “What micron level of filtration is used on your delivery line?” and “Is this the best fuel available for current conditions?” A good distributor will provide diesel that meets specifications for all environments.


This article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Construction Business Owner magazine. Visit to read more.


RTL Equipment, Inc. has been a major sponsor for several years of the Iowa Children’s Open golf tournament held each year at Brown Deer Golf Club in Coralville, IA. The golf outing celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, with all proceeds going to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital and the Iowa Children’s Museum, which is responsible for the Child Life Program at the hospital . This year, we are delighted to announce that the tournament raised a record amount of $144,000. RTL Equipment, Inc. would like to thank A1 Crane, Tri-State Crane, Doosan Construction, Kobelco Cranes, Tadano Cranes and Terex Cranes for their generous support of this event.

RTL Equipment Sponsors Tournament for Children's HospitalRTL Equipment Works in the Community

RTL Equipment has machines working throughout the entire country, including Iowa. This Terex HC165 was rented to Weitz Construction from RTL Equipment. The photo is of the HC165 doing heavy lifting at the Iowa State University football stadium expansion.

If you are interested in learning more about the various cranes, crawlers, wheel loaders, forklifts, and other machines available to rent or buy from RTL, browse our equipment section.


Terex HC165 from RTL Equipment

Terex HC165 at the ISU football stadium expansion

We enjoy seeing our clients working with the cranes, excavators, forklifts, and other machines they purchase from our team here at RTL Equipment. Below we highlight two cranes we recently sold here in Iowa.

The Terex AC350, and AC200 all-terrain cranes are owned by Tri-State Crane & Rigging Service of Cedar Rapids, and its sister company, A1 Crane of Dubuque, Iowa. They are being used for the construction of the new University of Iowa School of Music in Iowa City. Approximately 7000 tons of structural steel is involved in this project.

The Terex HC110 lattice crawler crane is owned by Godberson-Smith Construction Company located in Ida Grove, Iowa. The crane has been used in construction of a temporary bridge on Highway 196 in Sac County.

The Terex HC110 lattice crawler crane is pictured on the far left followed by four pictures of the Terex AC350, and AC200 all-terrain cranes.


Terex HC110 Lattice Crawler Crane in IowaTerex AC350 from RTL EquipmentTerex Cranes For Sale Terex Cranes in Iowa from RTLTerex All-Terrain Crane For Sale