Preventative winter maintenance of the battery actually starts in the fall. There are a number of steps operators should take to start preparing their equipment for the cold winter months.
For starters, check that the battery electrolyte is up to the full indicator ring and over the top of the plates. Plates that have dried will never perform satisfactorily again. It’s also good practice to check the rated current output of the alternator and load test current output of the battery.
Operators should clean any dirt and debris from the top of the battery; it can create a conductive path and slowly drain energy. If there’s any corrosion around the posts, clean them using a little baking soda and a terminal brush. The main point here is that you want to ensure the terminal posts and cables have clean and secure contact, ensuring the best and most consistent current supply from the batteries to the machine.
If the machine isn’t going to be used for the winter and will be stored outdoors, it’s best to remove the batteries and store them indoors to prevent freezing. Any time a battery will be sitting for an extended period, it is best to connect it to a battery maintainer to keep it at a full state of charge. This will keep it ready when the time comes to use the machine.
Contrary to belief, cold temperatures don’t significantly impact the service life of a battery. However, it does induce stress, amplifying the effects of time, heat, vibration and performance of the charging system. If the machine will be operated throughout the season, it’s important to make sure batteries are properly charged.
An under-charged battery can perform well at 27 degrees Celsius, but its true condition becomes evident at -18 degrees C when starting current demands can increase by 200 percent and a battery, even in great condition, is reduced to 40 percent of its summer cranking current.
Frequent starts and stops are also detrimental because the battery is never given the chance to fully recharge.
The undercarriage of a machine represents roughly 40 to 60 percent of its maintenance costs over the machine’s service life. So in order to maximize a machine’s efficiency in the winter, proper undercarriage maintenance is essential.
Operators should make daily inspections and keep it clean of any mud, snow or debris. Carefully look for loose or worn parts, and refer to the operator’s manual for correct track tensioning and adjustment.
Whether operating the machine during the winter or storing it, make sure to schedule an undercarriage inspection once a year.
Tires require daily care and maintenance during winter. It’s important for equipment operators to take steps to reduce tire wear while operating equipment. Always keep tires properly inflated, and remove counterweights when not in use, as they put additional stress on the tires. Look for even wear, remove debris and inspect tires for any cracking and chunking. If the centre of the tire is worn smooth, or there’s any chunking, then it’s time to replace them.
7. Equipment operation in winter
In order to properly maintain equipment operating in cold temperatures and snowy conditions, operators should alter their operation habits to ensure equipment longevity. Behaviors like minimizing high operating speeds and onroad travel, and alternating turning directions can be the difference between downtime and productivity.
Another important piece of maintenance is a pre-operation inspection and the proper warm-up of the equipment. Warming up the machine reduces shock to components caused by cold fluids or hydraulic systems. The potential for blown hoses or Orings increases with colder weather. Providing sufficient warm-up time will provide an operator a more productive machine as well as increase safe operation and a more comfortable operating environment. When it comes to operator behavior, excessive idling should be monitored closely, as it consumes needless fuel, warranty hours and contaminates diesel particulate filters. Condensation can build-up in the crankcase, which promotes the build-up of acids and sludge, leading to costly downtime and potential repairs.
Protecting your equipment during the winter is a smart investment.