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10 Tips to Prepare Your Heavy Equipment for the Winter Season

By: Kelley Sloyer
November 12, 2015

10 Tips for Winterizing Construction Equipment

If this winter is anything like last year’s, it’s not too early to start thinking about preparations for your fleet. For those of us in the northeastern side of the U.S., we know how unpredictable winter can be and those frigid cold days can arrive as early as October and linger around until April.

Although Cat® equipment is built to operate in the toughest of conditions, a few simple procedures will keep your machines running at their best. Suitable for all types of Cat equipment, here are 10 tips for winterizing your construction equipment and keep them in great operating condition during the winter months.

1. Install the correct lubricants and condition hydraulic hoses.

Before it gets too cold outside, install the correct engine, hydraulic, transmission and final drive lubricants for your exact machine. Before starting the machine, check each level to ensure they are fluid enough for proper flow. To do so, check each dipstick and, if the oil drips, then it is fluid enough. NEVER use oil that has been diluted with kerosene.

Additionally, the outer wrapper of hydraulic hoses can crack when flexed in colder temperatures. The hoses will still function properly and carry oil at the expected pressure, but to avoid having the hoses crack, condition them before the temperatures drop. To do so, operate your machine so that the hydraulic oil temperature reaches 150℉ and continue running it for an hour. For best results, apply an arctic hydraulic oil for colder months and normal machine use will condition the hydraulic hoses.

2. Store equipment in enclosed storage facilities and keep fluids at room temperature.

When your machine is not being used, it’s best to keep it out of the elements for an easier start and less man hours brushing off all of the snow accumulated. If your machine is off the clock during the winter months, make sure you detach any attachments and store them away separately to avoid damage to hinges and joints. Always keep fluids and oils in room temperature to avoid freezing.

If a blizzard hits, you won’t be stuck digging your machine out like this guy…
Team Digs Out Cat Equipment from Blizzard

3. Use block heaters.

In most cases, a block heater is often the simplest way to fire up your engine in cold weather to increase the temperatures of the engine and hydraulic fluid. To help speed up the warm-up process, block the radiator to restrict cold air from the fan.

4. Keep batteries fully charged and warm.

Cold weather requires your batteries to generate nearly twice as many cranking amps in order to turn over, so keep yours charged and warm for easy starting. If you are working in subzero temperatures, storing the battery indoors at room temperature could help when it’s not in use.

5. Use starting fluid.

Keep all starting fluid at room temperature and inject it only while the engine is cranking. WARNING: Starting fluids are highly flammable and toxic, so ensure proper storage when not in use. Never store it in the operator’s compartment.

6. Always, always, always…Run the engine until it reaches operating temperature.

Help prevent the intake and exhaust valves from sticking by running your engine before you begin each day’s work until it reaches operating temperature. Additionally, give your machine a nice stretch and cycle through all of the machine’s functions to distribute warmed oil until they all operate with ease.

7. Ensure your tires are properly inflated.

Check your tires at the beginning of every shift to make sure they’re filled to the proper pounds per square inch for your machine. As we all know, colder weather can cause them to lose air quicker. Always inflate your machine’s tires in a heated area to help the tire bead seat better. For best results, Caterpillar recommends using dry nitrogen gas to inflate tires to eliminate ice crystals which hold the valve stem open in the tires and cause unnecessary deflation. Dry nitrogen is available at Cleveland Brothers branch locations.

For recommended inflation pressures, download Cat’s Tire Pressure Recommendations.

8. Conduct a visual inspection.

Winterizing Construction Equipment - Tire Inspection
The easiest way to check if your electrical wiring, attachments and hoses are wearing or being damaged is to take a look at each, and all of your components, before daily operation. Look for cracks, cuts and worn spots on all hydraulic hoses, belts and tires. Also, remove any snow, dirt, and debris from tires or undercarriages. Before the winter, schedule an undercarriage inspection with your local Cleveland Brothers Service department.

9. Store Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) properly.

DEF freezes at prolonged exposure to temperatures of 12 degrees or lower, so make sure the area you choose to store it at is well-insulated. In addition, DEF does thaw out, so store the fluid in an appropriate container to avoid it bursting during expansion.

10. Always fill the fuel tank at the end of a shift.

Avoid a frozen fuel tank (and a major headache) in the morning by filling up at the end of each day. Always keep the fuel storage tank clean of water, debris and sediment by draining the water from the water separator on a daily basis before refilling the tank.

By taking the appropriate steps to keep your machines running in the winter, you’ll be better prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws at you! See your Cleveland Brothers parts & service rep for even more tips or download Caterpillar’s Cold Weather Recommendations Manual.

Are there any additional steps that you take to prep for the winter? If so, we’d love to hear about it. Share your tips in the comment section.


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Superb blog! I was searching a particular way to set undercarriage parts. From your blog, I found learning material which is really important to care for specific parts. thanks for sharing. I will wait for next one.

I think your advice to always keep the engine running until it reaches operating temperature is really smart. My wife always starts the car and then drives off without letting it warm up first. Granted, a car and some power equipment are not quite the same, but the principle is the same. You do not want to push the machinery when it is not properly prepared. Thanks for the great ideas!

I like your tip to run the engine until it warms up. Simply giving the oil time to warm up the whole machine will help your heavy equipment run smoothly for the whole winter. The last thing you want is to find out that one of your machine’s functions has gotten stuck, so cycling through the functions every day like you suggested will help prevent that. Thanks for the tips.

Very Informative article. It’s true that when it comes to construction equipment, regular maintenance is one of the most important factors especially to cut down maintenance cost. Thanks for information.

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