Preparing Your Construction Equipment for Winter
Winter construction is coming. And whether you own or rent heavy equipment, you're going to be liable for any of the damages that happen to the machine because of the cold. That's why, for many contractors and construction workers, winter equipment maintenance is incredibly important in reducing maintenance costs.
Here are 7 construction equipment preventative maintenance strategies you and machine operators should use to protect your equipment in the winter to reduce any heavy equipment repair needs:
1. Keep Up Your Engines Warm
Heavy equipment engines love the heat. However, in the winter, small jobs aren't always capable of heating up the engine to its desired capacity. That's why engine block heaters can be a necessity during the winter. They can help keep your engine at a healthy heat so they're not cold starting on jobs and damaging the machine in the long term.
2. Watch Your Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF)
Fortunately, more and more machines have telematics that will do this for you, but you need to keep an eye on your DEF volumes, especially when temperatures dip below freezing. That's because DEF can freeze which could damage the machine if started. If it is below freezing, we recommend only running the machine after you've heated up the engine and oils with a block heater.
When storing DEF, keep it in a heated room, especially during the winter. Because the purity of DEF can be affected by the weather, we recommend reaching out to our team or a local dealer on the best methods of storing your diesel exhaust fluid.
3. Use The Right Oils, Gases, and Fluids
Different machines may require different oils. And sometimes, different seasons of the year require specific types of fluids. It's important to always refer back to the owner's manual or manufacturer guidelines on which oils, gases, and fluids to use and when. This requires constant fluid analysis. Here are a few things to look out for:
Brake fluid. If it gets too cold, braking fluid can freeze and stop you from being able to brake safely on a job site.
Check fluid levels and fill the fuel tank every night. You always want to reduce the amount of condensation in your liquid tanks because that's what is going to cause freezing. Filling them up or draining them every night is mandatory for preventative maintenance on heavy equipment.
Pick the right coolant. Not all coolants are made for the same temperature. Make sure to have the right one, especially working in extremely cold environments. And again, make sure it's topped off so no condensation is built up.
Replace hydraulic fluids. Before storing or starting up your equipment, you're going to want to ensure you're replacing any hydraulic fluid.
4. Idle Your Machines
Meant mostly for environments where it can get to almost -40°F or -40°C, it may be best never to turn off your machines. That's because, in this level of cold, machines may take all day to warm up. And when that's the case, you're never going to be able to get work done.
However, when idling, you cannot keep the engine running at regular speeds. According to technicians, keeping the machine at 1100 to 1200 RPMs is the best practice. This is because the regular rpm of 700 to 800 won't sustain the engine's warmth.
5. Clean Your Machines
The most expensive part of maintaining a piece of construction equipment is the undercarriage. That's because it takes by far the most damage on a daily basis. This is especially true in the winter and why they need regular maintenance. Any mud that gets caught on the undercarriage throughout the day will freeze and attach itself to the machine overnight. This will create problems moving around the job and accessing vital parts of the machine if something were to break.
Frozen mud and ice can cause damage to the tracks and create more wear and tear on the machine than necessary. Try to clean them at the end of every night in order to reduce any damages and insurance risks.
6. Maintain Your Batteries
Whether it's a diesel engine or an electric machine, batteries are at high risk of being damaged during the winter months if that equipment isn't well maintained. If you know you're not going to be using the equipment in the cold, it's best to disconnect the battery and keep it in a warm room. That way, they will be in better health in the spring of the next construction cycle.
On the other hand, if you know that the machine is expected to power through the winter, you might want to get the battery replaced. A mediocre or poor-performing battery in warm weather is going to give you nightmares in the winter.
7. Protect The Machines From Harsh Weather
Keeping machines protected from the weather on some job sites can be challenging in the winter. Ideally, you want to keep them in a warm, enclosed building. However, this just won't be the case for many contractors. In that case, you want to do your best to park the equipment in locations safe from the harsh winters of the North. This could include parking them next to a fence to protect them from the wind, covering them with a tarp, building a temporary shelter, or, worst case scenario, hauling the machines to and from the job site every day.
Winter can be harsh to our bodies and it can be just as harmful to our machines. Whether you own or rent heavy equipment, you're going to want to protect yourself from any damages that might occur during the colder seasons with effective equipment management. That's why you should create a maintenance schedule or maintenance program and stick to it every year. This realistically will also help you reduce any operating costs.
With any rentals made at DOZR, you are covered by our Rental Equipment Protection (REP).