Autumn is here, and with it comes some pretty serious dips in temperature – especially the further north you are. It is important that construction equipment be prepared for these icy months to avoid the threat of damage due to freezing temperatures. Here are some key areas that our maintenance technicians focus on when winterizing your construction equipment.
Oil & Coolant
Cold weather affects the viscosity of the fluids used in your equipment, which means that oil and coolants should be rated for winter use. Lubricants need the appropriate viscosity for cold temperatures expected in your region, so we refer to the manufacturer guidelines. Also, fluids may need to be replaced or topped off, which includes hydraulic fluid. Fluid levels should also be checked before each use.
It is important to always keep a close eye on antifreeze levels during the winter months. Our technicians will check manufacturer specifications for antifreeze and use antifreeze that is fully formulated pre-diluted. Also, using a winter washer fluid solution that includes anti-freeze to keep the washer fluid from freezing is very helpful.
Another area of needing attention in winter is the fuel and fuel tank. To reduce condensation from forming inside the fuel tank (which leads to water contamination and a whole host of other problems) and to prevent it from freezing, the fuel tank should be filled at the end of each day. Draining the water separator before the tank is topped off should be done as well.
A winter fuel blend for your equipment is recommended at this time of year. For example, if you expect temperatures in the range of -4°F to -20°F, use a 50 cetane rating; otherwise, a minimum fuel rating of 40 cetane should be sufficient.
When cold temperatures hit, tire pressure will be affected. For every 10°F drop in temperature, you can expect to see a 1 psi drop in tire pressure. Tires with low pressure can be a problem and are more likely to slide on slick surfaces due to a loss of traction, which is why we inflate all tires with low pressure. Tires will also be examined for cracks that may have formed during the hot summer months and will be repaired or replaced if necessary.
Another potential issue with tires lies in the formation of ice crystals. This can be prevented by inflating the tires with dry nitrogen gas.
Batteries do not work quite as efficiently during the winter months. Depending on how low the temperatures get, batteries may require double the number of cranking amps in order to get a machine started. To minimize the impact of cold weather on the batteries, keep them charged and, if possible, warm. If you know that temperatures will be dropping to subzero levels, remove the batteries and bring them indoors when not in use.
Replacing filters with new ones in the beginning of winter is important preventative maintenance. Filters usually collect the most debris and contaminants during the summer, and clean filters are a good way to start off the winter work months. MAC will replace filters when winterizing your construction equipment.
Under colder conditions, hydraulic hoses are likely to be stiff and less flexible. As a result, they have a greater chance of cracking when strained in cold weather. Hydraulic hoses can be conditioned for the colder temperatures by running the motor until the hydraulic fluid reaches a temperature of about 150°F and then running the equipment for at least an hour. MAC will repair or replace any damaged hydraulic hoses.
Additional Tips for Winterizing Your Construction Equipment
Before using your equipment, give it a chance to warm up. We recommend allowing the engine to idle until it has a chance to reach its normal operating temperature. In some instances, you may need to use a block heater to warm up the engine before operating.
It is very important to keep all fluids stored in a room-temperature shelter, and equipment should not be left outside in freezing temperatures unnecessarily. When possible, store equipment in a garage away from the elements, including snow and ice. This not only prolongs the life of your equipment but keeps key fluids from freezing if temperatures outside fall below zero.
Choosing a Hydraulic Repair Company for Winterizing Your Construction Equipment
Winterizing your construction equipment can be a major undertaking, especially if you are responsible for a fleet of machines. That’s where MAC Hydraulics can help. We have certified, experienced technicians and the right tools to prep your equipment. We can service your equipment onsite so that your operations experience minimal disruption and downtime.
MAC Hydraulics also performs hydraulic cylinder maintenance and repair and we work on pumps, motors, and valves. Our technicians will inspect and replace your hydraulic hoses. We also offer machining and welding services focusing on hydraulic components and accessories. Our onsite services are used by a variety of different industries, including transportation, railroad, landscaping, and municipal. Contact us today to see how our technicians can help you develop the ideal maintenance plan for your fleet!