Working in the Cold - Preparing Cat Machines for Winter
In Queensland it’s easy to overlook the need for winter preparations but when the temperature drops down to zero or below, especially across inland areas, it can impact the condition of your equipment in ways that’ll make sure you don’t forget the following year. The repair bills from failing to winterise your Cat heavy equipment can be steep and can take a toll on your business health, making it essential to prepare your fleet before temperatures drop, even if it’s only expected to last for a few days. While we don’t have to worry about snow and ice build-up like businesses in the Northern Hemisphere, all business owners in regional areas who’ve invested in quality Cat forestry and construction equipment will find it advantageous to take the necessary measures and winterise their fleet.
The Consequences of Failing to Winterise Equipment
Chances are your Cat machines won’t freeze over even in the coldest parts of the Sunshine State and you won’t have to deal with ice or snow, but there are a few things that you can’t afford to overlook if you’re to avoid unnecessary repair bills over the cold months.
Lubricating parts: Lubricating moving parts before the temperature drops further helps to protect cylinders, pistons and other moving parts from the added risk of corrosion in winter. Moving parts should be lubricated all year round to ensure proper operations and avoid unnecessary wear and tear, but this is especially important during the winter months.
Changing oil: Engine oil should be replaced regularly to remove water and contaminants that can increase oxidation and corrosion. In winter, this is even more of an issue, as contaminated (and high viscosity) oil moves slowly, drawing extra energy from the engine that makes it work harder and places added pressure on engine components.
Storing batteries: Both high and low temperatures can lead to the degradation of battery performance and result in permanent damage, so insist on high-quality Cat batteries and be sure to maintain them correctly. To prevent heavy equipment batteries from freezing in winter, it may be necessary to store them upright in a cool, dry area indoors.
Changing fuel: As all diesel fuels contain wax — a natural component of crude oil that also improves ignition quality — Australian Standard AS 3570 specifies cloud point limits based on the time of year and Australian climatic conditions. Depending on where you operate, you may need to change your fuel in winter to prevent waxing in cold conditions.
Equipment maintenance is important all year round, not just in winter. However, due to the effect of cold weather on machinery and, in particular, lubricants, oils and fuel, there are certain winter-specific maintenance actions that businesses must undertake to protect their heavy equipment fleet and the health of their business.
Oil & Oil Filters in Winter
As lubricants perform differently at high and low temperatures due to changes in viscosity, when the temperature hits single digits, the oil and oil filters your Cat machines rely upon become even more important. Essentially, the issue with engine oil in winter is maintaining a suitable level of viscosity or fluidity. Not only is fluid oil more easily pumped when it’s viscous, making cold starts less of a problem, but it also helps to protect your equipment’s air filter — in cold weather, engines can experience an initial pressure surge which has the potential to compromise oil filters, manifest as a more severe problem and result in catastrophic engine failure.
To choose the right engine oil, check your equipment’s operation manual. There you’ll find specific engine oil recommendations for each machine along with recommendations for cold weather. You can also contact your local Hastings Deering branch for expert advice on which engine oil to use in your region during the winter months.
As oil filters have to work harder in winter and can be put under greater strain, especially during the initial burst of pressure during a cold start, it’s imperative to ensure your Cat oil filters are in top condition leading up to winter. Again, the operational manual for each machine contains oil filter recommendations, and you can also contact your local cat equipment expert at a Hastings Deering branch near you for professional advice on winter-specific engine oil and filter recommendations in your region.
Take Extra Caution Working in Winter
As engines and other components are put under greater strain in the cold, managing cold starts correctly is key to avoiding preventable problems with your machinery. Ensuring the engine warms up sufficiently helps to protect moving parts, along with hydraulic hoses and electrical components that are prone to becoming brittle in the cold and are at greater risk of breakage. Essentially, putting a machine to work too quickly places a range of engine parts and components under greater stress and that makes them more likely to fail.
Along with their machines, operators need to take extra care of themselves during the winter months. As ice can form in cold conditions, operators must be careful climbing in and out of the cabin to avoid slipping. Additionally, the condensation that forms on windows can impede vision from inside the cabin, making it imperative for operators to exercise caution (and even stop work altogether until cabin windows are clear) when visibility becomes problematic.
Visibility can also be affected in winter due to the shorter days and headlights alone may not be enough to provide adequate visibility on the worksite. Illuminating the site with work floodlights may be necessary to provide your operators and workers with safe working conditions.
The best way to winterise your heavy equipment and protect the investment you’ve made in a quality fleet is to have your equipment serviced by an experienced and qualified Cat technician. With branches across Queensland, including regional Queensland where winter temperatures regularly drop to zero, Hastings Deering has your winter equipment maintenance needs covered. To book a Cat service and avoid unnecessary downtime as a result of failing to winterise your fleet, contact your local Hastings Deering branch.