For heavy machinery and equipment operators and the fleet managers who oversee both, winter can be an especially trying time. Besides the less than optimal conditions in which to work, unforeseen maintenance and safety issues can arise because of the weather. With the polar vortex about to make everyone wish they were a hibernating bear or a Florida retiree, here are a few problems equipment personnel need watch out for as well as what to do when winter gets the best of your gear.
Cold weather can severely harm an otherwise good battery’s performance, because cold weather acts as a literal drain on voltage. If you’ve begun to experience an uptick in bad batteries, the problem could be the cold. Be sure to insulate batteries in every machine that’s in use during the bitter, dark months of winter, and instruct all your employees to never try and start or jumpstart a frozen battery without warming it up to 40 degrees fahrenheit first. For those machines in your fleet that are sitting idle, those batteries need to be winterized. Ideally, batteries that aren’t in use should be removed and stored at a temperature between 40 and 60 degrees fahrenheit.
Poor Tire Pressure
Dropping temperatures also results in dropping tire pressure. In fact, tires lose about one psi for every 10 degree drop. In addition to poor performance, tires with low pressure also wear unevenly, which will reduce their life and negatively impact steering, alignment and traction, which can have disastrous safety effects. Thankfully, solving this one is easy: Just add a daily tire pressure check to your preventive maintenance schedule.
The Big Freeze
Operating an excavator or a motor grader on snow and ice is just like driving a car on it; without practice and proper equipment, no one can do it very well. So be sure to tell your operators to take extra time and drive with extra caution in freezing conditions. You should also have snow tires, chains and any other equipment at the ready for when a big snowfall comes. The added expense will keep your machines on the road and your drivers safe.
A clogged or dirty air, fuel or hydraulic filter can undermine performance and fuel economy in any weather, but when it’s cold, gritty filters can also hamper starting and power. Before winter settles in, check all your filters and replace any that need it, and if winter’s already here, and you’ve got some machinery that’s starting to wheeze and cough, check the filters before you call the mechanic.
Not Enough Fluids
In really cold weather, your machinery’s fluids can thicken up, which will keep it from circulating as freely as it needs to resulting in harmful friction. Before winter hits — or after it has and you’re reading this blog — be sure to get all your fluids flushed and filled. Then, make sure your operators perform daily checks to ensure their levels are where they need to be. You especially need to be mindful of coolant and hydraulic fluids, because cold weather can cause moving parts to freeze up when oil levels aren’t what they should be.
Working on a construction or mining site in the middle of winter isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time, but by treating your machines with a little extra TLC, you can keep everything and everybody up and running.
GearJot is a fleet management app that makes it easier and most cost-effective for equipment-centered companies to maintain and extend the life of their gear. Find out more about how we can help your company reach its goals by scheduling a demo today.