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It’s time to think about winter preparations for your fleet. Although Cat® equipment is built to operate in the toughest of conditions, a few simple procedures will keep your machines running at their best. Suitable for all types of Cat equipment, here are 10 tips for keeping your construction equipment in great operating condition during the winter months.

1. Install the correct lubricants and condition hydraulic hoses.
Before it gets too cold outside, install the correct engine, hydraulic, transmission and final drive lubricants for your exact machine. Before starting the machine, check each level to ensure there is enough fluid for proper flow. To do so, check each dipstick and, if the oil drips, then it is fluid enough. NEVER use oil that has been diluted with kerosene.

Additionally, the outer wrapper of hydraulic hoses can crack when flexed in colder temperatures. For best results, apply an arctic hydraulic oil for colder months and normal machine use will condition the hydraulic hoses.

2. Store equipment in enclosed storage facilities and keep fluids at room temperature.
When your machine is not being used, it’s best to keep it out of the elements for an easier start and fewer man hours brushing off all of the snow accumulated. If your machine is off the clock during the winter months, make sure you detach any attachments and store them away separately to avoid damage to hinges and joints. Always keep fluids and oils at room temperature to avoid freezing.

3. Use block heaters.
In most cases, a block heater is often the simplest way to fire up your engine in cold weather as it increases the temperatures of the engine and hydraulic fluid. To help speed up the warm-up process, block the radiator to restrict cold air from the fan.

4. Keep batteries fully charged and warm.
Cold weather requires your batteries to generate nearly twice as many cranking amps in order to turn over, so keep yours charged and warm for easy starting. If you are working in sub-zero temperatures, storing the battery indoors at room temperature when it’s not in use could help.

5. Use starting fluid.
Keep all starting fluid at room temperature and inject it only while the engine is cranking. WARNING: Starting fluids are highly flammable and toxic, so ensure proper storage when not in use. Never store them in the operator’s compartment.

6. Always, always, always—run the engine until it reaches operating temperature.
Help prevent the intake and exhaust valves from sticking by running your engine until it reaches operating temperature before you begin each day’s work.

7. Ensure your tires are properly inflated.
Check your tires at the beginning of every shift to make sure they’re filled to the proper pounds per square inch for your machine. As we all know, colder weather can cause them to lose air more quickly. Always inflate your machine’s tires in a heated area to help the tire bead seat better. For best results, Caterpillar recommends using dry nitrogen gas to inflate tires to eliminate ice crystals, which hold the valve stem open in the tires and cause unnecessary deflation. Dry nitrogen is available from local Cat dealers.

8. Conduct a visual inspection.
The easiest 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, cuts and worn spots on all hydraulic hoses, belts and tires. Also, remove any snow, dirt and debris from tires or undercarriages. Before the winter, schedule an undercarriage inspection.

9. Store Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) properly.
DEF freezes at prolonged exposure to temperatures of 12° F or lower, so make sure the area you choose to store it in is well-insulated. In addition, DEF does thaw out, so store the fluid in an appropriate container to avoid it bursting during expansion.

10. Always fill the fuel tank at the end of a shift.
Avoid a frozen fuel tank (and a major headache) in the morning by filling up at the end of each day. Always keep the fuel storage tank clean of water, debris and sediment by draining the water from the water separator on a daily basis before refilling the tank.

For even more tips download Caterpillar’s Cold Weather Recommendations Manual.

*Tips originally published by Kelley at Cleveland Brothers Cat.