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
If 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
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!