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Why fleet managers must winterize heavy construction equipment

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Routine maintenance and preventative care can often be the difference between a smooth day on the job site and a disastrous, hours-long stint in the repair shop for heavy equipment. Once winter rolls around, the colder temperatures can create even more problematic conditions that put heavy construction equipment and machinery through the wringer. In these conditions, breakdowns and time-consuming repairs can be common, unless the proper steps are taken to winterize and prepare for winter.

However, with the right preventative maintenance and winterization, any fleet can be ready to remain on the job, meeting deadlines and finishing up projects without delay. It may not always be the most exciting work, or seem to be the best use of a mechanic’s or operator’s time while the work is being done, but it will pay off later.

But what does winterization of heavy construction equipment or even farm machinery entail? Keep reading to learn more about what you need to do to protect your equipment, keep it running efficiently and avoid hefty repair bills because you ignored the toll cold weather can put on diesel engines and other essential components that make your equipment operate as desired.

Store equipment properly

Whether used or unused over the cold, winter months, heavy equipment needs to be stored properly if you expect it to start up when you need it. There’s a little more forgiveness involved for equipment that is still frequently used, but any piece of machinery that may sit for a length of time in the cold, potentially open to any sort of winter precipitation, could pose problems when the operator goes to start it up when they need it next season.

That’s why proper storage preparation steps need to be taken for any heavy equipment. In fact, skip these steps, and you will find the damage done can be just as severe as not winterizing equipment that will still be used in cold weather.

How to prepare heavy equipment for winter storage

Preparing heavy equipment for long-term storage over the cold, winter months involves several steps.

First, it’s important to remove attachments that you have installed on the equipment and lubricate accessories. In addition to that, you should raise machinery tires onto planks to make sure they do not freeze to the ground, which can result in damage from becoming frozen to the ground for a length of time. Any equipment that has buckets and arms should have those apparatuses raised off the ground for storage for similar precautionary reasons.

Also, any heavy equipment that contains water or fluids should have those components drained over the winter to avoid freezing.

Finally, if the temperature in the storage area may ever drop below freezing, then it is a wise idea to remove batteries and store those at room temperature to prevent loss of energy. Plus, when reinstalled, a battery that’s been warmed up is much more likely to operate as intended compared to a battery that’s either been left in the equipment or placed in an area that is too cold.

Keep equipment ready to roll

Now, for operators who still need equipment ready to go in cold weather, there are other steps to take to ensure that they remain at peak performance.

One of the first things to do is to make sure that tires stay inflated to the right level. Tire pressure naturally drops as temperatures plummet. Equipment with low tire pressure is not going to operate well. Not only will the tires themselves be prone to uneven wear and potential cracking, equipment alignment, steering and traction can also suffer from improper tire pressure. ‘

Keep the undercarriage clean

While we are focused on the lower elements of equipment, keep an eye, too, on the undercarriage. Winter precipitation and conditions can cause serious issues for equipment when all that slush and mush gets pushed and plugged into the underside of your heavy equipment and machinery, especially if you continue to operate the equipment throughout the winter season.

Always make it a point to clean machinery of mud, snow or any other buildup that remains at the end of a work day. While you are cleaning, be sure to keep an eye out for any loose parts that need to be tightened or replaced to keep the integrity of the undercarriage intact.

Fuel tanks should stay full

Paying attention to fuel levels is always important, but it takes on even more significance in the winter. That’s because a fuel tank that has reached low levels could be at risk for freezing, meaning the equipment won’t be able to start nearly as easily when you need it to.

The best way to avoid this potential problem is to keep fuel levels topped off and to drain and clean water separators on your equipment following every use.

Start the day by running the engine

In cold weather, make sure your equipment operators always run machinery engines long enough to reach the right operating temperature before they start using the equipment. This simple step will prevent intake and exhaust valves on the machinery from sticking.

Your operators can also work any of the equipment’s primary functions before needing them for the job to keep oils and lubricants distributed and ready to go when work needs to be done.

Minimize idling

Equipment often has to work harder in colder weather. That’s just a fact. But you can give your fleet machinery a leg up by training operators to minimize idling.

Too much idling consumes more fuel and can cause even more wear on certain parts, including air filters that feed the engine and keep it running. While air filters can be cleaned and other filters can be replaced, it’s always best this time of year to keep preventative maintenance top of mind.

Learn more about cleaning air filters

Keeping air filters clean can do wonders for your fleet, no matter the time of year. Learn more about the benefits of Filter Blaster technology and consider why your equipment – and bottom line – might see positive results from cleaning filters rather than replacing.

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