Guide to Winterizing Your Heavy Equipment
Your machinery must maintain its running ability all year long, even in the cold of winter. Winterizing your heavy equipment ensures it will work in subfreezing temperatures. If you fail to follow proper winter equipment maintenance, the machines could sustain severe damage that will net you expensive repair bills.
Importance of Winterizing Your Equipment
The heavy equipment in your fleet needs care before the winter weather drops into subfreezing temperatures. Just as your car must get winter tires, antifreeze and engine preparation, so, too, does every piece in your machinery fleet. Whether you will continue to use your fleet occasionally during the winter or need to store it over the cold months, winterizing will ensure your equipment will be prime for use.
Ice and cold are extremely destructive forces. Without preventing ice build-up in your machinery and parts from the wintry weather, you may find yourself needing to replace numerous components in your fleet. Even after the weather warms, you’ll need to give your vehicles another inspection and repair parts to prepare them for the spring.
If your company does not operate during the winter, you’ll need to get your fleet ready for storage. Long-term storage in the cold can be just as harmful to your heavy machinery as using it during the winter. Though the steps needed to ready equipment for storage and use over the winter differ slightly, both processes are critical for maintaining your company’s heavy equipment.
Preparing Heavy Equipment for Winter
Winterizing your machinery requires inspecting and tending to multiple systems. But how you prepare the equipment will depend on whether you will use it before the spring. Machines that will get regular use and those that are stored must be thoroughly prepared to avoid problems when you next take them out for use.
As you change your equipment for winter storage or use, conduct a thorough visual inspection to look for worn parts. Lubricate any moving parts, including door hinges. Check the viscosity of the oil and select a lubricant based on the temperatures your equipment will experience over the winter. Lower viscosity oils perform better in colder temperatures because they flow smoothly.
Just as the lubricant for parts needs changing based on the temperatures, so does your machinery’s engine oil. Change the oil before the weather turns cold. Of course, change your oil filter and air filter when changing the oil, regardless of if you will store or use your equipment. If you’d prefer someone change the oil for you, use our mobile lube service. We come to you and even have heated oil for speedier oil changes in chilly weather.
Add antifreeze rated for your climate to the engine. Whether you will store or use the equipment over the winter, the radiator could still freeze if you have plain water or warm-weather coolant in it. Antifreeze in the engine prevents an expensive mishap when you next use the machinery.
Storing Equipment Over the Winter
If you intend to store your equipment throughout the winter, you must get it ready for long-term storage. Remove any attachments from the equipment for storage in a separate place at room temperature. If you haven’t already, lubricate the accessories and the machinery. A high-viscosity lubricant will not drip off your equipment in the cold, and it will coat the parts better than a low-viscosity grease.
Drain all liquids from the engine, including the fuel. Removing the fuel with the engine running ensures you get all the diesel out. Additionally, remove the battery and store it at room temperature to keep it from losing its charge. If any systems in your heavy equipment store water or fluid, drain those and dry them thoroughly to keep the storage tanks from freezing.
Any equipment in storage, place a tag clearly labeling it as stored and not ready for use. The labels will prevent the machinery from inadvertently attempting to take the equipment out before it’s prepared for warmer weather. If you have covers available, cover the equipment to protect the machinery from dust and scrapes during the winter. Additionally, even a tarp covering the vehicles will keep the temperatures slightly warmer, adding further protection from the cold.
Readying Equipment for Use Over the Winter
To prepare your equipment for over winter use, you’ll need to exchange a one-time pre-season maintenance with daily and weekly tasks. Freezing weather and ice can take their toll on the diesel engines in your heavy equipment. If you don’t care for your machinery daily, you could pay to replace the vehicles instead. A small amount of prevention will go a long way toward keeping your business running.
Using Equipment Over the Winter
When the temperatures freeze, you don’t want your equipment to do the same. Here are the things you need to check every day when operating your machinery in chilly weather.
- Battery: If the temperatures freeze in the storage area, remove the battery and keep it at room temperature to prevent draining it excessively. A warm battery operates much better than a cold one.
- Engine starting: Use an engine warmer to warm the engine. The engine warmer will thaw out the engine block and make it easier to start. To further facilitate starting, use starter fluid. Before beginning operation, run the engine until it reaches its full operating temperature. Never operate your equipment while the engine is still cold. If the engine is still cold, the exhaust or intake valves could stick.
- Air intake: At the end of the day, always check the intake for snow or ice. In storage, the snow and ice can melt and later refreeze if taken back out.
- Tires: Clear off snow or ice from the tires and park on planks to prevent the tires from freezing to the ground. Check the tire pressure regularly. If the pressure drops, which may occur in colder weather, use dry nitrogen to refill the tires. Dry nitrogen prevents ice crystals which could damage the air valve on the tires.
- Fuel: Refill the fuel tank at the end of each day. A full tank has less likelihood of producing ice in it than a partially filled one. Also, switch to diesel for lower temperatures. Depending on how cold it gets where you operate your equipment, you may need to change from 2-D to 1-D diesel fuel or use additives. Failing to switch to cold-weather fuel could cause the diesel to gel in the lines, clogging the fuel system and preventing operation. Empty the water separator to keep the water from freezing and causing damage.
- Antifreeze: Wintry weather requires antifreeze capable of handling the lowest predicted temperatures. Wait until after the engine cools entirely before putting antifreeze in your machinery.
- Rubber components: During use in the cold, rubber parts can dry out quickly, causing cracks. Add assessing the rubber parts of your equipment to your weekly roster of maintenance chores during the winter.
- Oil: Ensure proper viscosity and easier starting by switching to a synthetic oil during the winter. Though slightly more expensive than conventional oils, synthetic offers better operation in the cold. Use a multi-blend or fully synthetic oil such as a 5W-40. The 5W represents proper viscosity at lower temperatures compared to a 15W oil. The W stands for winter in the oil grade. The second number indicates the thickness of the oil when the engine warms. In the winter, lower viscosity oils flow easier and put less strain on your engine during cold starting.
- Exterior: Road salts can corrode the paint and components of your heavy equipment. When you park the machines at the end of the day, rinse off any dirt and salt.
Though cumbersome, these daily tasks will ensure your fleet remains ready for operation the next workday.
Preventative Maintenance and Winter Use
It requires experience and training to properly winterize your fleet. Many machinery owners take on this task themselves. It’s possible to prepare all your equipment if you plan well and schedule it before the temperatures drop too low.
However, things can happen in your business. Sadly, the cooler temperatures also herald the start of cold and flu season. Many companies have numerous employees call in sick this time of the year. You could find yourself short-staffed just when you need to get your equipment ready for the winter. Alternatively, sudden, severe weather could enter your local forecast, giving you only a few days of notice before you need to have your machinery ready. These common scenarios occur more often than you think.
Even if you’ve winterized your equipment in the past, you may find yourself needing help with the process or needing additional preventative maintenance services. And if you’ve never undertaken to prepare all your heavy equipment for freezing weather, consider asking for professional assistance. We offer a range of preventative maintenance services including mobile lube service and a fluids analysis lab.
- Fluid Analysis Lab: When changing fuels or oils, you must keep up with how the new products perform in your equipment. Regular analysis of your fluids can help schedule service for your machinery at an optimized time based on how the fluids wear out in your vehicles. Our fluid analysis lab examines oil, fuel and coolant. We return most results online within 24 hours of submission so that you can get make plans for better maintenance of your heavy equipment, including during the winter months.
- Lube Service: For oil changes, we offer a mobile lube service. This service makes it easier to get your fleet ready for winter by converting to the right oil for peak performance in freezing temperatures. Because we understand how much weather affects oil viscosity, we heat the oil, so it flows into your equipment faster, even in the cold.
- Product Link: Collecting data about your equipment components is critical to creating a proactive maintenance schedule. Because the wear on parts can change with the weather, having updated information throughout the year will help you plan for the winter. Product Link electronically gathers data about the idle versus working time of your equipment in addition to alerting you of unauthorized use. You’ll know exactly which parts need replacements at each maintenance service.
- Condition Monitoring: Our Condition Monitoring includes everything above an inspection every 250 to 500 hours. While you may not necessarily need such a comprehensive service package, at least consider integrating some of the same procedures into your preparation for the winter.
The Consequences of Failing to Winterize Equipment
Not winterizing your equipment has several dire consequences, depending on how much the preparation lacked. Some of these effects from missing important winterizing steps are below. Don’t let these scenarios apply to your fleet. Properly winterize all your equipment for either long-term storage or use through the winter.
- Not parking vehicles under cover: Covered areas protect your heavy equipment from damage done by snow, ice and freezing weather. You need to keep your machinery protected from the elements whether you intend to use it over the winter or not. If you park your equipment outside, you may find yourself needing to dig the vehicles out of snow banks.
- Not changing the oil: Oil does not last forever. Forget the myth you may have learned that oil cannot wear out. It can. And if you continue to use dirty oil, it will not lubricate your engine as well. Additionally, if you use a high viscosity oil in freezing weather, it will move too slowly and draw more power from the engine, making starting harder and wearing your engine’s components.
- Not warming the engine completely: Diesel engines should not be operated while still cold, especially in the winter. Failing to wait for the engine to properly warm to operating temperatures could cause the exhaust valve or the intake to stick.
- Using regular air in the tires: If you don’t fill your tires with dry nitrogen, ice crystals from moisture in the regular air can prop open the valve. An open valve will cause your tire pressure to drop. Additionally, regular air will lose pressure in freezing temperatures more readily than dry nitrogen. Tires with low pressure reduce fuel efficiency by making the engine work harder.
- Not lubricating parts: If you don’t correctly lubricate moving parts before the winter, come spring, you may have immobile parts that have rusted in place.
Clearly, you’ll save your equipment and headaches by properly winterizing your heavy equipment. But we understand that this is a significant undertaking. If you need assistance with preparing your fleet for winter, you can contact us at Wheeler Machinery Co.
Let Wheeler Machinery Help You Winterize Your Heavy Equipment
Let our professionals at Wheeler Machinery Co. help you prepare your heavy equipment for the coming winter weather. With our headquarters in Salt Lake City, we know about winter weather and how to properly ready your fleet. You can contact us online with our online form. Alternatively, schedule service with one of our experts with our service request form. If you’d prefer to talk to one of our team members, give us a call at (435) 789-0635. We’d love to hear from you to help you maintain your machinery for this winter and throughout the year.