Cold Weather Maintenance Tips

Winter weather can be tough on even the toughest of machines. Follow these 10 tips to keep your construction equipment in great operating condition all season long.

1. Install the correct lubricants and condition hydraulic hoses.

Before it gets too cold outside, install the correct engine, hydraulic, transmission and final drive lubricants for your machine. Before starting the machine, check each level to ensure there’s enough fluid for proper flow. To do so, check each dipstick – if the oil drips, you’re good to go. Never use oil that’s been diluted with kerosene.

Additionally, the outer wrapper of hydraulic hoses can crack when flexed in colder temperatures. For best results, apply an arctic hydraulic oil for colder months, and normal machine use will condition the hydraulic hoses.

2. Store equipment in enclosed storage facilities and keep fluids at room temperature.

When your machine is not in use, keep it out of the elements for an easier start and fewer man hours brushing off accumulated snow. If your machine’s off the clock during the winter months, detach any attachments and store them separately to avoid damage to hinges and joints. Always keep fluids and oils at room temperature to avoid freezing.

3. Use block heaters.

Because it increases the temperatures of the engine and hydraulic fluid, a block heater often is the simplest way to fire up your engine in cold weather. To help speed the warm-up process, block the radiator to restrict cold air from the fan.

4. Keep batteries fully charged and warm.

Cold weather requires your batteries to generate nearly twice as many cranking amps to turn over, so keep yours charged and warm for easy starting. If you’re working in sub-zero temperatures, storing the battery indoors at room temperature when it’s not in use may help.

5. Use starting fluid.

Keep all starting fluid at room temperature and inject it only while the engine is cranking. Warning: Starting fluids are highly flammable and toxic, so ensure proper storage when not in use. Never store them in the operator’s compartment.

6. Always run the engine until it reaches operating temperature.

Help prevent the intake and exhaust valves from sticking by running your engine until it reaches operating temperature before you begin each day’s work.

7. Ensure your tires are properly inflated.

Check your tires at the beginning of every shift to make sure they’re filled to the proper pounds per square inch for your machine. Colder weather can cause them to lose air more quickly. Always inflate your machine’s tires in a heated area to help the tire bead seat better. For best results, Caterpillar recommends using dry nitrogen gas to inflate tires to eliminate ice crystals, which hold the valve stem open in the tires and cause unnecessary deflation. Dry nitrogen is available from your local Cat dealer.

8. Conduct a visual inspection.

The easiest way to check if your electrical wiring, attachments and hoses are wearing or damaged is to take a look before daily operation. Check for cracks, cuts and worn spots on all hydraulic hoses, belts and tires. Also, remove any snow, dirt and debris from tires or undercarriage. Before the winter, schedule an undercarriage inspection.

9. Store Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) properly.

DEF freezes at prolonged exposure to temperatures of 12 F (-11 C) or lower, so make sure the area where you store it is well-insulated. In addition, DEF does thaw out, so store the fluid in an appropriate container to avoid bursting during expansion.

10. Fill the fuel tank at the end of a shift.

Avoid a frozen fuel tank (and a major headache) in the morning by filling up at the end of each day. Always keep the fuel storage tank clean of water, debris and sediment by draining the water from the water separator on a daily basis before refilling the tank.

Thanks to Cat dealer Cleveland Brothers for these great tips.

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