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4 Winter Maintenance Tips for Your Construction Equipment

The days are turning cooler, leaves are beginning to litter the ground, and that first hint of frost is coating the grass in the morning... Autumn is here, and winter is right on its heels. With that frigid season right around the corner, there are some basic winter maintenance tips you'll want to brush up on to ensure efficient performance from your construction equipment. Check out this list of recommended maintenance tips that will keep your construction equipment running like new:

1. Fluids. Fluids are essential to the operation of construction equipment. Although these fluids are specifically engineered to withstand harsh weather, that won't be the case without proper maintenance. The following fluids should be inspected to ensure proper operation during colder months:

  • Coolant. Most operators know that the appropriate coolant/water mixture to keep your engine running properly is 50/50 (in some parts of the country such as Alaska and Canada, a 70 (coolant)/30 (water) mixture is required). However, during the busy days and sticky heat of summer, the last thing on many operators' minds is the freeze point. In fact, some might find it convenient to treat low coolant with a quick fix like tossing in some more water or using whatever coolant they can find in a pinch just to keep the equipment running.  Add multiple operators on one machine into the mix, and you just might end up with a seriously unbalanced cooling system. Leaving this problem unchecked can lead to extreme issues once the cold weather hits--too much coolant means an overworked water pump, too little means freezing. A refractometer is the most reliable way to check your freeze point, and the radiator cap should be checked for proper pressure.
  • Oil. Engines see extra wear and tear during cold months, especially during start-up. Using a lower viscosity oil is the best way to protect your engine and ensure optimal performance. A lower viscosity oil flows more quickly throughout all the parts of your engine than a higher viscosity option. This also means it takes less energy to start your engine, which helps out the battery as well.

  • Diesel Exhaust Fluid. Newer equipment uses DEF (to reduce exhaust emissions), which will freeze at prolonged exposure to temperatures below 12 degrees. The fluid is not harmed after being frozen, and will continue to function as necessary once it is thawed. The harm comes from the frozen fluid expanding, which can cause the container to burst. Also, when DEF is frozen, it cannot be pumped into the equipment's on-board storage systems. Most new equipment has a heating element to ensure that DEF in the reservoir does not freeze, but it's also necessary to ensure that storage and dispensing systems can continue to thaw the fluid as the equipment is being used.

2. Batteries. It's common knowledge that cold weather is a battery's worst enemy. Extreme cold makes it more difficult for batteries to sustain enough current to function at their full potential, and this leads to a lot of dead batteries in the winter. Before the weather turns frigid, make sure the electrolyte levels in your equipment's batteries are filled to the proper level. Battery terminals should be free of rust, and checking the alternate to test the current of the battery is a good idea. If the equipment is being stored, the battery should be removed and stored indoors and properly maintained to avoid complete drainage. Never attempt to charge a frozen battery, as it can result in an explosion.

3. Fuel. Keep your fuel tanks as full as possible in the cold weather-this prevents condensation in the tank and fuel lines. Fuel treatments can be added to diesel tanks that prevent freezing and remove moisture.

4. Tires. Like batteries, cold weather is rough on tires. Check your tire pressure often, as the low temperatures cause reduced tire pressure. Keep an eye out for wear and cracks in tires, and consider using track mounted equipment during cold months if possible.

Extra maintenance is required during the winter to keep your construction equipment functioning properly and to avoid costly repairs. Be sure to take the time to properly inspect and maintain your equipment before operating. Feel free to contact us to learn more about proper winter maintenance. 

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