Like many of you, our crews and equipment are in the field year-round. This wouldn’t be an issue if we were in a warmer, more temperate climate, however as a fence rental company in the Midwest, we see scorching heat and bitter cold, and plenty of snow to accompany. The extreme temperatures and excessive moisture has potential to seriously damage our equipment, so it’s important to take precautions when the mercury dips.
Maintaining Vehicles and Gas/Diesel Machinery
No one wants to run out of fuel during a service call or operating on-site. Pay attention to fuel and fluid levels, and keep extra fluids on hand if your equipment or truck tends to burn or have a slow leak. Perform a seasonal safety check of the hoses, wires, seals, and bushings and replace anything that looks worn or cracked, as extreme temperature fluctuation such as 10 degrees to operating temp and back to 10 only exacerbates issues. On larger displacement vehicles, a block heater is helpful overnight to be assured of an easy start in the morning. Also, be sure you don’t spend excessive time warming up the engine. It’s nice to make a cabin comfortable for the occupants, but in reality, even on the coldest mornings, a couple minutes is enough for the lubricant to circulate a motor, just keep the RPMs and engine load lower until the engine reaches the normal operating temperature. Also, if there are fluids that have a temperature range, such as coolant/anti-freeze or different viscosity lubricants, be sure to replace with season-appropriate compound.
Cold Weather & Battery Drain
Ever notice how slow-starting vehicles can be in the winter? It’s not necessarily thick lubricant or metal expansion (it actually shrinks in the cold), but rather it’s a drop in the usable amperage of the battery in the cold. Always test your battery going into the cold season to know if the cells are still good or ending their useful life; replace if necessary. But, even the best battery can have a hard time turning over a cold motor on the coldest days. Pro tip: turn on the headlights or create a draw on the battery for at least 30 seconds to warm up the cells, then try turning over the motor. Equipment that is used infrequently during winter months, consider placing on a trickle charger to keep the cells healthy.
Hoses and Rubber Fittings
Just like hoses and wires under the hood, hydraulic and pneumatic hoses can become brittle leading to extra effort on the part of the worker, but also extra stress on the hose and fittings. If possible, store hoses in a heated garage or warehouse overnight so they will be compliant when needed. Also, some materials will adapt to temperature fluctuation better than others. Certain poly-hybrid pneumatic hose compounds fair better in the cold than more traditional rubber.
We hope these tips help you keep your equipment operating during Jack Frost’s worst this Winter!