To ensure heavy equipment stays in peak operating condition and to minimize breakdowns, equipment managers must begin thinking about winterizing their fleet as soon as temperatures begin to drop. asp_resize_edit
For heavy equipment operators, special attention has to be paid to their equipment before they start work. In some cases, extreme overnight conditions can be detrimental to their equipment. It can lead to freezing pipelines, especially hydraulic lines, and creating problems with metal stress. Bulldozer and grader blades can often develop hairline cracks while excavator and backhoe operators often find that teeth on their excavating buckets are more easily damaged.
Heavy equipment safety is an important part of winter equipment maintenance. Pre-start-up checks need to be thorough, and maintenance issues need to be dealt with immediately. Because most heavy equipment cannot be stored in a covered and heated environment each operator needs to be more observant and diligent in their inspections.
The pre-start-up check is crucial all year long, but in the winter it’s even more important and must be completed on each piece of equipment. Learning how to look for problems like frozen pipelines, metal stress, and ice is valuable; taking the time to report and fix these issues will save time and money. Severe changes in temperature, like hot hydraulic oil running through freezing cold pipes and lines will cause stress from sudden expansion. It’s not unusual for breakdowns to occur so maintenance is vital this time of year. This is especially important if your equipment sits overnight on a jobsite.
Some of the most important winter equipment check-up items are equipment fluids. If a piece of equipment doesn’t have the proper engine oil, engine coolant, hydraulic oil and fuel for operating in colder weather, an operator will find that their equipment’s performance isn’t up to par. This can lead to slower production and aggravation.
Tips for Daily Equipment Inspections in the Winter
– Hydraulic oil filters should be changed as they may have collected water and debris over the spring and summer.
– Before the beginning of cold weather, install the correct lubricant in each compartment.
– Provide cooling system protection for the lowest expected outside temperature. Premix the antifreeze solution for the cooling system. At the minimum, the freeze protection that is provided by the solution should be equal to the system protection requirements.
– Check all rubber parts weekly for cracking and wear: hoses, tires, and fan drive belts.
– Check all electrical wiring and connections for any fraying or for damaged insulation.
– Keep all batteries fully charged and warm.
– Fill the fuel tank at the end of each shift.
– Check the air cleaners and the air intake daily. If snow is present, check the air intake more frequently
According to Bobcat product specialist Mike Fitzgerald, attachments such as snow blades, snow-blowers, angle brooms and spreaders are some of the most popular and hardest-working tools in the winter months, and deserve the same attention as the machine itself.
Visual checks of attachment components such as hoses, cylinders and guards, auger flighting and teeth, cutting blades and edges can help determine if wear is developing or damage has occurred. Some attachments also require fluid-level checks and lubrication.
Battery checks are also imperative in cold weather because it requires them to generate nearly twice as many cranking amps in order to turn over and deliver oil to the engine. There’s nothing worse than needing to quickly respond to a snow or ice storm in which the public depends on clean public walkway or roadway, only to find that it won’t start because of a dead battery.
Deadlines and costs don’t halt in the winter so neither can your equipment. Educating your employees on how to prepare and daily maintain their machines through the colder months will help keep operations running smoothly when the environment around is at its most challenging.