Winterizing: How to Prepare Your Excavator During the Winter

Winterizing your excavator isn’t just about readying a machine for colder temperatures. You will also want your operators to know how to react when snow falls and ice covers the ground.

In fact, planning ahead is just one small part of a winterization process involving preparation, prevention and operation.

Preparation

Make the right oil choice. Synthetic and multi-grade oil covers a range of temperatures experienced throughout the year. If you’re working in conditions below zero degrees Fahrenheit, you should consider making the switch to cold weather hydraulic and engine oils.

Watch your diesel.  In extremely cold weather, excavators should be operated with winter diesel or arctic diesel, which features a lower freezing point and a better Cold Filter Plugging Point (CFPP).  Consider additives if the proper diesel blend is unavailable. It’s also wise to fill your tank over 70 percent full to prevent moisture from condensing in your tank.

Check your coolant. As the temperatures drop, the recommended concentration of coolant goes up. Down to minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit you can use 40 percent coolant, but by  minus 31 degrees Fahrenheit you should increase it to 50 percent coolant.

Test your batteries before temperatures drop. Preparation stage is the ideal time to make sure the excavator’s battery is in good working condition. It can be up to 50 percent weaker in an extremely cold environment. Use a battery tester to check voltage and watch for performance signals.

For extremely cold weather, you may want to consider equipping your machine with certain options:

  • Engine block heaters — warms up the engine block before starting
  • Diesel powered coolant heaters — dual purpose, as it helps cold weather starting, and warming the cab
  • Water separators with heaters — helps minimize wax buildup in diesel fuel
  • Artic rated hoses — developed to handle conditions down to 40 degree below zero.

Prevention

Hydraulic cylinder rods are another area you want to keep an eye on. Repeated exposure to snow, ice and salt brine mixtures can cause chrome to rust. You want to fully retract hydraulic cylinder rods when possible and consider steam washing the excavator exterior regularly to help remove salt buildup.

Visual inspection is critical. Specifically look at the hydraulic hoses, which are particularly sensitive to wintry conditions. Freezing temperatures can cause the rubber in the hydraulic hoses to become brittle, so it’s important for operators to visually inspect hoses for cracks.

Clear snow and ice from the machine. Keeping snow and ice off the machines prevents damage and makes sure the operator’s vision does not get obscured — putting them and others at risk.

Operation

Pay attention to traction. Be extra careful if you’re operating a crawler in slick conditions. You’d be surprised how quickly a large machine can start sliding.

Be sure to give the machine time to warm up and cool down. You should let the machine warm-up when starting up to let the engine stabilize. You need to start moving the machine slowly to warm up the whole system and hydraulics. I usually recommend 90-120 seconds of idle time at the end of a work day before an operator completely shuts off the machine.

Use Volvo’s Construction Equipment dealer locator if you have more questions and want to consult a dealer about winterizing equipment.

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