When temperatures drop, you have to make sure your heavy equipment is up to the challenge. To help out, we’ve put together some machine winterization tips for both operational and seasonal storage.
Look at the label on your coolant to make sure it complies with ASTM standard D-621. It should also have a freeze point low enough for your climate. If the coolant in your engine freezes, it can crack the engine block and lead to very expensive repairs. Use a fluid analysis, refractometer, or hydrometer to test for proper coolant concentration levels.
Fuel conditioner keeps your fuel from freezing and ensures your engine starts in freezing temperatures. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the amount of conditioner required. Always match the fuel conditioner to the type of fuel you’re using (e.g., low sulfur).
If your fuel filter is clogged, moisture will build up in your fuel and possibly freeze, causing your equipment to run poorly or fail to start. Be sure to empty the water traps in the filters before cold temperatures arrive. To prevent downtime, have an extra set of fuel filters on hand in your cab.
Diesel engines spray ether into the air system to assist the engine when starting in cold temperatures. For older equipment that have ether spray bottles, ensure your bottles aren’t empty. For newer pieces of equipment with an automatic ether system, check the connections and hoses for cracks.
Block heaters will help ensure fluids remain at the right temperature and viscosity, even in cold temperatures. If it isn’t working properly, the oil may thicken, making it harder to turn the engine over and adding unnecessary stress on the battery. Plug in the block heater to make sure it’s working, and then touch the hoses to see if they are warm.
Large dust particles and debris that build up in the summer months can hurt machine performance and should be removed. If you don’t remove them, then snow and ice can collect around them, letting moisture into the air system, which could lead to engine failure.
Corrosion around battery connections causes less voltage to be transmitted and increases the strain on the battery. Corroded connections can drain the battery, preventing your machine from starting. Periodic inspections for corrosion reduce the chance of having a drained battery.
If your equipment has a diesel engine, it’s important to either drain it or leave it completely full if you’re storing the machine during the winter months. Draining the fuel tank can take some time and effort, but it eliminates the possibility of condensation forming there and spreading throughout the engine. Condensation can lead to a clogged fuel filter, which can then lead to clogged fuel lines, carburetors, and injectors.
It’s important to run your machine after cleaning the engine and replacing the oil. Doing so allows a protective film of oil to coat the internal parts. The oil coating acts as a rust preventative. Pour a 50/50 mixture of water and antifreeze into the coolant system before running as well, to protect the cooling system to -34°F.
You should not store discharged batteries. Colder temperatures slow the discharge rate of fully charged batteries.
Try to start your equipment once a month, but avoid starting it in extremely cold temperatures. Find a time when temperature is above freezing to start the machine and operate the hydraulics for a brief time.