By Bill Zak
WITH SNOW and winter weather on the horizon – if not in your region already – make sure to get your logging equipment ready for the harsh conditions of the winter months. Freezing temperatures, frozen ground, snow and ice can put a strain on your equipment. Follow these tips to make sure your machines are ready to work in the snow and cold this winter.
1. Follow the Manual
First, review the machine’s operating and maintenance manual for recommended service intervals, a checklist of seasonal maintenance items, and oil and fluid recommendations. The manual will explain which machine components should be regularly inspected, including fluids and filters, the battery, tire pressure, grease intervals and heating/defrosting systems. By following a good preventive maintenance program, as outlined in the manual, you can better prepare your equipment for winter.
You and your operators should also request training on proper maintenance techniques from your local equipment dealer. They will help you become familiar with decals and key maintenance points on the machine.
2. Switch to a Winter Fuel
As the temperature drops, switch to the appropriate diesel fuel. Diesel is commercially available in many grades, the most common being No. 1, No. 2, and a winterized blend.
No. 1 grade diesel fuel has lower energy components than its counterpart, No. 2 grade, because paraffin (a type of wax) has been removed from the chemical mix. The absence of this chemical allows it to remain in liquid form during the winter months. The downside of No. 2 diesel is its tendency to transform into a thickened gel when the temperature drops. This often leads to hard starts and other complications during winter.
Winterized diesel fuel is a combination of No. 1 and No. 2. The blend holds a higher concentration of No. 1 grade fuel and is used when temperatures become too cold, starting at 14 degrees. The combination of both grades should contain enough energy components and lubricant properties to reduce the chance of the chemical mix gelling in colder temperatures.
Investing in quality fuel blended appropriately for the climate and season may give you better peace of mind, lower your consumption, provide fewer filter changes, and deliver long component life.
3. Change Engine Oil
Colder temperatures can affect your machine’s ability to run efficiently, especially if it does not have the proper engine oil. In cold weather, oil gets very dense and might have a hard time at start-up circulating through the system without proper lubrication. However, if the oil is too thin, it won’t stick to the components.
We recommend using 10W40 genuine engine oil to protect a machine’s vital engine components if you are working in a climate ranging from zero to 100 degrees. If you are in a region where it gets colder than zero degrees, switch to a different blend engine oil, like 5W40.
Using the incorrect diesel engine motor oil can cause costly damage to your machine’s internal components. They can become plugged or corroded, ultimately working inefficiently or not at all. Refer to your machine manual for instructions on filling your equipment at the recommended intervals with the appropriate fluid in the correct increments.
4. Check the Battery
Before winter weather hits, inspect your machine’s battery and wires to make sure they haven’t frozen or become stressed due to the temperatures. There is always a draw on the battery, so it will need to be charged after use unless it has been maintained or disconnected while in storage.
In ideal conditions, say 75 degrees, you can expect to get 95-99 percent capacity out of the battery. However, if the temperature is 32 degrees, the battery will only deliver around 75 percent of its capacity. In certain extreme cold storage applications, where the temperature is zero or lower, delivered power can be as low as 40 percent of capacity.
Batteries should always be fully charged in cold weather. A trickle charger can be connected to help build the voltage at a lower rate, which can improve battery life. It is a good idea to inspect and clean the battery connections. Corroded terminals can cause hard-starting and charging issues. You can also use a battery blanket to help keep the battery warm when the machine is not in use.
5. Inspect Diesel Exhaust Fluid
Diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) is now used in almost all Tier 4 Final engines and it will freeze in temperatures below 14 degrees. When adding DEF, leave room for expansion; DEF can swell in volume in the winter months.
Storing DEF in the shop or fueling area is another consideration. Make sure you have stored your bulk supplies of DEF where they can’t freeze; otherwise, you’ll have to thaw them out before dispensing.
6. Adjust Engine Coolant
As you run the engine, inspect the coolant to make sure it is free of impurities. If the coolant in your engine needs to be replaced, choose the best grade for your machine and region. For your machine to perform well in colder weather, the antifreeze mix must be properly blended.
To prevent the coolant from freezing in sub-zero temperatures, use a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze. In less severe cold you can use a higher percentage of water, like a 60/40 mix.
7. Use a Block Heater
Warm up the engine before starting work with a block heater — available as an option on most forestry equipment. Running the engine for 5 to 10 minutes gives it a chance to warm up, making it easier on your equipment and essential components.
The heater makes it easier to start the machine and reduces wear on engine components. Waiting for the engine oil and coolant to heat up helps ensure you won’t damage the engine.
8. Prep for Storage
When you are done with your equipment for the day, park it in an enclosed, heated facility or out of the wind, if possible, to protect it from the elements.
Cold weather can be brutal on forestry equipment. By following these tips, you can better prepare your machines for whatever winter throws at them.
Bill Zak is wheel loader product manager for Doosan Infracore North America. Doosan Infracore North America markets and supports the Doosan brand of products that includes dozers, crawler excavators, wheel excavators, mini excavators, wheel loaders, articulated dump trucks, material handlers, log loaders and attachments.
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With snow and winter weather on the horizon – if not in your region already – make sure to get your logging equipment ready for cold temperatures.
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