Having trouble getting revved up about the encroaching winter season? Chances are your heavy equipment is too! The harsh effects of dipping temperatures, heavy snow fall, cold wind and freezing conditions during the winter can be problematic for people and heavy equipment alike. No need to fret, however, over what mother nature has in store. Preparing your equipment for the elements is as easy as putting on your hat and boots. Just follow these simple steps to put some spring back in your engine and have Jack Frost singing the blues!
Step 1: Treat Your Fuel
Diesel fuels are comprised of paraffin wax that serves as a natural lubricity agent. As the ambient temperature of fuel drops, the wax begins to form large square-shaped structures. These structures can cause fuel to gel, clogging your fuel lines and filter. To protect against gelling, use a cold-flow improver (CFI) or a diesel fuel specially formulated for low temperatures. CFIs include de-icers and wax settling agents which extend the operability of the fuel. When utilized at the recommended treatment ratio, winter fuel treatments, such as Schaeffer Diesel Treat 2000, supports improved fuel economy benefits, faster warm-up, reduced emissions, rust protection and improved cetane ratings. A cetane number (CN) is an indicator of the combusion speed of diesel fuel and compression needed for ignition. As a general rule, the higher the cetane number, the faster the fuel will ignite and the more completely it will burn. These attributes are important because as the fuel burns faster and more completely, the engine experiences faster cold weather start-up, increased performance and lower emissions which can be harmful to the environment. Typically, diesel engines operate well with a CN from 40 to 55 during the winter season. If temperatures drop between -4 degrees and -20 degrees, upgrade from a minimum fuel rating of 40 to a 50 cetane rating.
Step 2: Change Your Filters
Whenever possible, keep extra fuel filters on hand and be sure to empty your fuel water tap before temperatures take a dive. Although fuel gelling can be an issue, it’s freezing water in fuel storage tanks and filtration that typically plugs filters during the early winter months. Replacing water-absorbing filters and draining the water separator regularly can go a long way in helping to avoid damage to engine components such as fuel pumps and injectors.
Step 3: Maintain Your Battery
The battery is arguably the pulse of your engine. Therefore, it is imperative that you care for yours by cleaning the battery terminals and making sure that connections are tight. Conduct a visual inspection of your battery, checking for signs of corrosion, dirt or moisture, as these will drain the battery’s life. As temperatures decline so will your battery’s power. At 32 degrees Fahrenheit, a fully charged battery only has a 65 percent cranking capacity. Your engine’s starting requirements, on the other hand, increase from 100 percent to 155 percent. Therefore, be sure to recharge your battery when its capacity drops below 75 percent. When not in use for an extended period of time, batteries should be removed and stored inside.
Step 4: Check The Coolant System
Preventative maintenance is key. Be sure to check for radiator leaks, plugged or hardened hoses and cracked belts. Tighten any loose hose clamps and check coolant levels and anti-freeze strength. Coolants (or anti-freeze) protect your engine from freezing while defending components against corrosion. In addition, they play a critical role in sustaining overall engine heat balance by removing heat. Your coolant level should be one inch over the top of the radiator core and free of contaminants. Be sure that the coolant you are using has a freeze point conducive to the type of climate you are facing. While water provides the best heat transfer, glycol is also used in coolants to provide freeze protection. Ideally a 50/50 ratio of coolant to water will keep your engine running. However, in colder climates a 60/30 coolant to water ratio is recommended. Additionally, avoid using hard water or water that possesses a high mineral content. Hardness levels below 300 ppm of chloride and 100 ppm of sulfate are suggested for best results.
Step 5: Winterize Your Machine’s Tires
Check your tires daily during the cold winter months, as cooler temperatures can cause tires to lose air faster than in warmer weather. Tires should be checked for proper tire pressure and wear marks. When inflating, do so in a heated area whenever possible to help improve the tire bead seal. Such measures will ensure the proper functioning of your equipment and help you stay on track all winter long.