Winter can wreak havoc on your compact equipment. Even equipment like a loader that runs like a champ in the spring and summer can end up suffering after exposure to cold winter weather.
Performing a few simple maintenance tasks can be the difference between a stalled out machine and a ready-to-run one when you need it most. Caring for your machines through the winter is simple when you follow these easy guidelines:
1. Antifreeze and corrosion proofing. Antifreeze is a chemical additive that lowers the freezing point of water-based liquids. As the temperature gets colder and reaches temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, make sure your antifreeze is up to the necessary rating for your area. Many people prepare for the average low temperature they experience throughout the season, but the best way to stay protected is to prepare for the lowest expected temperature, plus 10 degrees lower. Antifreeze also inhibits corrosion. Antifreeze keeps everything in the cooling system of your equipment from rusting. Refresh your antifreeze in your equipment every three years to keep your protection strong.
2. Battery care.Disconnect the battery in your applicable equipment and store it in a clean, dry environment. A charged battery is less susceptible to damage from cold weather, so be sure it’s fully charged before storing. It’s also a good idea to run engines once a month throughout the winter to avoid any issues when starting up your equipment again in the spring.
3. Cover it up. Winter brings snow, frost, harsh temperatures and other weather that can harm equipment both internally and externally. Keep your machines covered if you don’t have a protected area to store it. Storing it in a shed or placing a simple cover on top provides protection from chipping paint, cracked seats and damage to wires, hoses and other important parts.
4. Drain fuel. Fuel left in your machines’ tank all winter will turn stale and create an unpleasant odor when restarting. Also, any fuel left untreated in the system may gel or attract moisture and create unwanted fuel characteristics that could damage vital fuel system components. For diesel equipment, it’s best to treat your fuel with a conditioner including anti-gel to prevent moisture build-up and gelling in extreme conditions. It’s smart to run your diesel engine at least once a month to keep things in working order.
5. Vital engine care. Engine care means ensuring proper engine oil, coolant, fuel and hydraulic fluid levels. However, this is a “sometimes” step for winter care, because it only applies to equipment that will regularly be used during the winter. Check the operator’s manual for instructions on winter conditions to determine the proper level of these fluids. Use low temperature grease for lubrication. Beyond correct fluid levels, use the proper type of fuel. For example, because No. 2 diesel fuel has a tendency to gel at low temperatures, consider using a cold-weather-rated No.1 diesel fuel. Again, don’t forget to top off your antifreeze.
6. Tires and lubrication. Tire pressure decreases over time. This is especially true when temperatures fluctuate, common in the winter. Properly inflating your tires is key to yearlong maintenance and more so during the winter. Storing your equipment through the winter with tires under low inflation could lead to tire cracking and deterioration. Also, lubricate and grease all points on your tractor, loader, etc., before storage to help ensure that moisture does not penetrate into vital areas. Too much moisture can lead to rust and costly, unwanted repair issues down the road. Furthermore, locking your clutch pedal and setting the brakes will separate the disc from the metal friction points and help prevent rusting and freezing issues by reducing condensation inside the machine.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on TurfMagazine.com.