Cold Weather Heavy Equipment Operation

Normal wear and tear is tough on equipment, winter cold temps is also rough on equipment. Without the correct cold weather care and maintenance, heavy equipment and vehicles can be down for hours to days at a time. By taking a few extra minutes of time in preparation, your equipment can make it through the winter without losing a beat, load, or a bucket full.

Fiore and Sons has best practices we implement to keep equipment going during the cold winter months. Below are a few items can we do as supervisors, foreman, drivers, and operators to prevent damage and down time from occurring.

  • Teach and Learn: If you have any questions or are not sure about something, ask someone. Mechanics, oilers, experienced craftsmen, drivers and operators are valuable resources who will answer questions in regards to winter equipment and vehicle care.


  • Install the Correct Lubricants and Condition Hydraulic Hoses: Mechanics and oiler will make sure that the correct engine, hydraulic, transmission and final drive lubricants are installed for the correct machine. Before starting the machine, check each level to ensure proper fluid levels. Check to make sure that the small amounts on site used for top up are the correct ones for winter use. Check hydraulic hoses for cracks. Hydraulic hoses can crack when flexed during colder weather exposure.


  • Use Block Heaters: A block heater makes it easier for cold engines to be turned over by warming the oils to make them less viscous. To speed up the warm up process, temporarily block the radiator to restrict cold air from the fan.


  • Run the Engine until it Reaches the Correct Operating Temperature: Help prevent the intake and exhaust valves from sticking by running your engine before you begin each day’s work until it reaches operating temperature. Always cycle through all of the machine or vehicle functions until they operate with ease. This allows warmed fluids to be distributed through the operating systems. Running “cold” can cause hydraulic equipment to blow a hose, O-ring or other component.


  • Conduct a Thorough Visual Inspection: The best way to check if your electrical wiring, attachments, and hoses are wearing or being damaged is to take a look at each and all of your components before daily operation. Look for cracks, cut and worn spot on all hydraulic hoses, belts and tires. Check undercarriage and tires for damage. Equipment should be inspected three (3) times a day, (1) written pre-inspection, and visual inspections (2) after lunch and at the (3) end of the shift.


  • Do not Leave Food in the Equipment Cab: Insects and animals look for shelter underneath and in cabs to stay warm during the winter. One way we can do to help prevent this from happening is to make sure that equipment cabs remain clean, windows and doors closed, and make sure no food is left in the cab.


  • Keep Equipment Tracks Clean: Mud and snow will freeze overnight and be difficult to remove the next morning. Leave enough time at the end of the shift to remove mud build up off tracks. Lift the tracks off the ground and spin them in both directions to make sure that the equipment rollers are clean. Mud frozen on the tracks will increase wear to the tracks making access grease points difficult.


  • Drain the Truck’s Air Tank and Water Pump at the End of the Shift and Open the Valves: When temperatures get below freezing it is important to drain the air tank and open up the valve and if equipped the water pump. Always leave the valve open half way.


  • Position the Equipment Correctly for Maintenance: Certain pieces of equipment should be positioned correctly for maintenance. For example, it is better to leave the arm/boom of the CAT Excavator perpendicular to the ground, bucket curled. For Komatsu Excavator, it is best to position the arm/boom extended with the bucket out. For front end loaders and skid steers, the bucket should be left flat on the ground.


  • Check the Undercarriage: The undercarriage of equipment and trucks incur more wear and tear during the winter months. Slick conditions place additional demands on tires, tracks, suspension and frame. Always check for loose parts (bolts, pans, screws etc.). Also check for any cracks, debris, or damage and report immediately to mechanic and supervision.


Colder Temps are tough on equipment. By being proactive, we can keep our equipment functioning & productive throughout the winter.

“Winter is a season that requires planning and preparation because the consequences are often dire without”

Sinclair Lewis, novelist and play wright

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