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7 Tips for Keeping Your Heavy Equipment Operating This Winter

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Old Man Winter has made his return felt throughout much of the country. For heavy equipment owners and operators, that means making sure you take the right steps toward keeping your machinery operating at a high level even as temperatures reach their lowest levels of the year.

Here are seven tips on what you can do to protect your equipment and what to watch for this winter.

1. Check your fuel

Moisture and other contaminants in the fuel wreak havoc on fuel injection systems. Cleaning the fuel tank cap and vent, making sure the cap is working correctly and checking the fuel filter can go a long way in preventing costly repairs.

You'll also want to ensure your diesel supplier is providing you with high-quality fuel. Since operating heavy equipment in cold weather tends to increase the chances of fuel quality issues, including condensation or other contaminants finding their way into fuel, it's best to have a supplier whose fuel doesn't sit for long before being used.

While operating your heavy equipment, try not to idle too much. It wastes fuel and can lead to condensation build-up, according to CASE.

2. Charge and keep your batteries warm

Winter is hard on your equipment's batteries. That's why it's important to keep them charged and warm. Advice from CAT indicates your heavy equipment batteries need double the cranking amps to turn over.

Keeping your batteries charged will makes sure your engine starts when you need it to.

Make sure batteries are kept warm while charging and don't attempt to charge or jump-start frozen batteries.

If you do have to jump-start an engine, and when multiple people are involved, makes sure to communicate clearly before jump starting to avoid dangerous situations.

3. Keep fuel, hydraulic and air filters clean

Just like the rest of the year, preventing contaminants from making their way past filters is key during winter. It's important to keep your fuel, hydraulic and air filters maintained and clean this time of year.

Your heavy equipment's air filter is the engine's first defense guarding against contaminants. Our Filter Blaster air filter cleaner products can help you keep your machinery's air filters cleaner and longer-lasting. That leads to less fuel consumption, better engine performance and less maintenance.

Taking steps to make sure your filters are well-maintained will help prevent the need for that costly maintenance.

4. Give your equipment more time to warm up

Lower temps mean it's going to take more time for your equipment to sufficiently warm up before use. Make sure you give your equipment the time it needs.

There are a few ways you can limit the amount of time your heavy equipment will take to warm up.

First, you can store your machinery in an enclosed space to keep it out of the wintery elements. You should also keep fluids and oils at room temperature so they don't freeze.

Starting fluids should also be stored at room temperature. However, make sure to handle these flammable and toxic fluids with care and follow all directions for proper use to avoid unsafe situations or damaging your engine.

If you want to make starting in winter easier for your machinery's engines, then you can also have block heaters on hand or installed.

These devices increase engine and hydraulic fluid temperatures, which make starting engines in the winter a much easier process.

5. Check your tires

Cold weather is especially hard on tires. Winter is not the time to have questionable tires on your equipment.

Keep an eye out for even tire wear, clear debris and check for cracks or chunking. If you see chunking, or the tire's center is worn and smooth, then they need to be replaced. Always keep tires inflated and remove any counterweights when not in use.

Equipment World suggests that to help prevent damage to tires and tracks, both of which can sometimes freeze to the ground, park your equipment on a raised surface, such as planks or old tires. Don't park in mud or on surfaces that could freeze at night or when temperatures drop.

6. Inspect your heavy equipment daily before and after operating

It's a great idea to check your heavy equipment daily during winter. Make it a habit to have you and any others on your team inspect machinery that's going to be used each day.

Keep an eye on electrical wiring, attachments and hoses that could be damaged. Check all of these - and your tires - for cracks, cuts or overly worn areas.

Be sure to clear away snow and other debris from the equipment's undercarriage. The undercarraige should be inspected before winter.

7. Operate as conditions allow

If there's snow or ice on the ground, then adjust operating speeds and equipment handling accordingly. Heavy Equipment Guide advises winter-time operators to minimize high speeds, limit on-road travel and alternate turning directions to avoid unnecessary downtime.

Be careful not to put too much stress on machinery when attempting to dig deeply frozen ground. Additionally, while operating heavy equipment on frozen or icy ground, keep in mind that wheels and tracks can slip, which could pose risks to other machinery, people or structures on the site.

If deadlines allow, you can try to schedule shifts during the warmest periods of the day.

You also need to be realistic when considering when the weather conditions are just too poor to operate safely or in a productive manner.

Bonus tip: Make sure everything in the cab is good to go

Imagine you're on-site, preparing to hop on equipment and get to work. It's cold out - well below freezing. Then you realize you've got no heat in the cab and you can't get your windows defrosted.

Talk about time-consuming and uncomfortable. Windows can be covered in ice or get fogged up very quickly in winter.

Reduce the chance of encountering this situation by checking that everything in the operator compartment is in proper working condition before winter arrives.

Maintain heavy equipment and stay safe this winter

With these tips in mind, you'll go a long way in making sure your heavy equipment operates like it should - and keeping your operators safe - this winter.

If you've got questions about how cleaning your air filter can help prevent year-round issues for your diesel engines, contact us.