Winter maintenance is a good practice anywhere

11/08/2016

There are very few places that don’t experience some level of freezing weather. So with the approach of the winter season, all equipment owners — even those in Florida — should be following these tips to prepare their machines for colder weather.

“Preventive maintenance is a good practice anywhere,” says Steve Sadler, product services manager, Doosan Portable Power. “Something as simple as making sure the coolant mixture meets manufacturer recommendations for each season is a year-round maintenance item. The adverse effects of not doing so can be as bad in hot weather as it is in cold weather if you don’t have the right concentration. The important thing is to follow the year-round recommendations by the manufacturer.”

Coolant

Sadler recommends using a refractometer to test the coolant for the most accurate reading. Coolant mixture recommendations will vary by ambient temperature. The concentration of supplemental coolant additive (SCA), which protects against scale, corrosion and liner pitting in diesel engines, should also be tested. If a machine is equipped with an engine coolant filter, the filter should be replaced according to manufacturer-recommended service intervals as buildup of abrasive materials, debris and other contaminants can clog the filter, greatly reducing its effectiveness.

Heater

Test all heater elements before temperatures drop below the freezing point. If equipped, all 24VDC heaters should be checked at each component while powered on. If applicable, all 120VAC heaters — such as a block heater, oil pan heater and battery pad heater — should also be checked by plugging them into a 120VAC supply to confirm they are operational. A heater for the crankcase breather tube may be required, and should also be tested.

Battery and fuel

Check all battery terminals for rust, corrosion and secure connections. Battery cables should be inspected for any signs of wear or damage. Batteries lose strength as temperatures drop yet require more power to start an engine. Older, weak batteries should be replaced.

It’s also a good idea to check with fuel suppliers to make sure they are providing winter blend diesel fuel versus standard No. 2 diesel commonly used in spring and summer. Winter blend fuel should meet the engine manufactures’ recommendations to avoid gelling or waxing issues. Keep fuel tanks full to prevent condensation when machines are not in use or are being stored for the season.

Oil and lubricants

Match oil blends and lubricants to the seasonal recommendations from the manufacturer. Different engine oil weights will likely be required for different climates, and will vary based on ambient temperature exposure. Refer to the operator’s manual to determine which weight of oil is recommended. Sadler also recommends having the oil tested between oil changes to detect the presence of metals, antifreeze and water. Any of these contaminants could lead to engine failure if not properly flushed from the system.

In addition to engine oil, air compressors should also use the correct airend lubrication oil for the ambient temperature as specified by the lubrication chart in the operator’s manual.

Hoses, belts and tires

Inspect all hoses and belts for wear and cracks, remembering that cold weather is especially hard on rubber. If equipment will be operational in cold climates over the winter months, checking hoses and belts should be part of a daily inspection routine. Replace as necessary to prevent delays or downtime, or unnecessary repairs at the jobsite.

Winter can also be especially hard on tires, so it’s important to check for proper inflation pressure. Cold weather condenses rubber and may cause air to escape without warning. Cracks resulting from cold weather will usually occur in the sidewalls.

Storage maintenance

“As a general rule, if equipment will not undergo daily use during winter months, it’s a good idea to start it and let it run until reaching normal operating temperature at least once every month — especially in areas where the ambient temperature will remain well below the freezing point for extended periods of time,” says Sadler. “But it’s important to reiterate that even if machines will sit idle over the winter, any maintenance precautions recommended by the manufacturer should be completed regardless. Only good things can result from performing sound maintenance procedures at the recommended intervals; a diligent service and maintenance approach has no geographical limits. It’s simply the right thing to do for the life of the air compressor.”