Winterizing Construction Equipment

November 23, 2020

Getting a slow start on a cold day costs your construction business time and money. To improve your operating costs, your construction equipment should be winterized before the weather turns cold and blustery.

Here are some areas to focus on:

  • Oil and coolant. The viscosity of your oil should match the temperature. Low viscosity allows the engine and hydraulic oil to run faster in the cold, which saves time waiting for the oil to heat up to flow. You may want to switch to synthetic oil for the winter. Although it’s more expensive, it offers better performance in colder temperatures.
  • Hydraulics. Be sure your hydraulic fluid is made for the operating temperature of your equipment to avoid early failure. Also check your hoses. When temperatures get colder, a hydraulic hose may crack if the wrapper swells. To keep the hose in better condition, run the engine to bring the hydraulic oil up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit and keep it running for 60 minutes. If preparing for sub-zero temperatures, use arctic hydraulic oil.
  • Hoses. Check the hoses with a hand squeeze to ensure they are neither soft nor brittle. If hoses don’t pass the squeeze test, they should be replaced to avoid hose failure.
  • Battery. Terminals should be free of rust in order to maintain strong contact and minimize the potential for the battery to drain slowly and unexpectedly. The electrolyte level should be at the appropriate level, and you should check the alternator to make sure the current of the battery is adequate. If you don’t plan to use the vehicle or equipment during the cold months, remove the battery and store it inside a building at room temperature.
  • Fuel. The fuel level should be kept full during the cold months to prevent condensation in the tank or fuel lines. You can also use a fuel additive to thaw frozen fuel lines and filters and liquefy fuel. If using diesel fuel, you may want to go from 2-D to 1-D fuel to accommodate the temperature. Also be sure to empty the water separator daily to keep the equipment free of water that could freeze.
  • Tires. Keeping tires at the appropriate inflation level prolongs the life of the tires. Colder weather reduces tire pressure, so be sure to check the level periodically. If possible, inflate the tires in a warm setting to increase the bead seal. Look at the tread for wear to make sure you can count on the tires once snow arrives.
  • Rubber components. Rubber parts can dry out quickly in the cold, which causes them to crack. These parts need to be inspected regularly to ensure they remain in good working condition.
  • Run the equipment until it reaches operating temperature. Before you use a machine in cold temperatures, run it in idle until the engine reaches full operating temperature. This way, youll prevent valves from sticking in the intake and exhaust systems. As you run the machine, activate each of the functions for a minute to distribute oil throughout the machine body. This gives the machine a workout and helps keep the engine and its functions in proper working condition.
  • Exterior. Any equipment used around road salt should be rinsed off at the end of the day to minimize the potential for rust and corrosion.
  • Off-season equipment. Equipment you don’t plan to use over the winter months must also be winterized. All liquids should be drained from the equipment, including fuel. Batteries should be removed and stored at room temperature. All equipment taken out of service for the winter should be clearly marked so your staff knows it isn’t ready to use and will need to be “summer-ized” in the spring.

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