Cold Remedies: Fluid Management for Skid Steer Loaders this Coming Winter

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November 6th, 2012

As with any automobile, engine coolant -- or antifreeze -- is also an important wintertime fluid for compact equipment that should be tested according to manufacturer’s specifications prior to the weather turning chilly.Though construction slows in colder climates when the temperature dips, winter is when construction companies located in the snow belts start refocusing their skid steer loaders toward a different kind of workout. To ensure equipment stays in peak operating condition, equipment managers must begin thinking about winterizing their compact equipment as soon as the first leaves hit the ground.

As with any equipment maintenance, those responsible for maintenance should refer to their manufacturer’s owner’s manual where they’ll find a checklist of seasonal maintenance items, plus oil and fluid recommendations. Any compact equipment operator will attest that there are several basic maintenance procedures and inspections that should be performed before starting a skid steer loader. As weather turns colder, items that should be checked include fluids, oils and fuels, tire pressure, battery and cold-climate comfort features such as heating and defrosting systems.

“Cold temperatures can affect the machine in different ways,” says Mike Fitzgerald, loader product specialist for Bobcat Co.

Some of the most important winter checkup items are a skid steer loader’s fluids. If a skid steer loader doesn’t have the proper engine oil, engine coolant, hydraulic oil and fuel for operating in colder weather, an operator will find that a skid steer loader’s performance isn’t up to par. Fitzgerald says equipment managers should refer to their operator’s manual for instructions on filling their machine with the correct fluid in the correct increments.

For example, when the temperature turns colder it’s important to have an engine oil viscosity that matches the outside operating temperatures and a low-temperature grease for proper lubrication on pivot points. Do not overlook the hydraulic oil filters, which should be changed as they may have collected water and debris over the spring and summer. Changing the hydraulic oil filter will help minimize future maintenance problems, Fitzgerald says.

As with any automobile, engine coolant -- or antifreeze -- is also an important wintertime fluid for compact equipment that should be tested according to manufacturer’s specifications prior to the weather turning chilly. Not only can improper oils and coolants cause maintenance problems in the winter, but so can using the wrong fuel. While it’s typically not required to use anything other than normal No. 2 grade diesel fuel, operations in cold and far northern regions may want to consider an alternative diesel fuel and/or anti-gel additives. In extreme cold weather conditions, diesel fuel can gel.

Today’s skid steer engines burn cleaner and run hotter even in cold months. As the EPA’s engine emissions standards are taking effect in the compact equipment industry, equipment managers must be more knowledgeable about oil and fuel selection to prevent downtime issues. “Interim Tier 4 and Tier 4 engines require CJ-4 oil that has less ash content and minimizes issues with exhaust treatment systems,” Fitzgerald says. In addition to the required ultra-low sulfur fuel, additional filters on fuel storage and transfer tanks will help ensure clean fluids. – Post by Debbie McClung, a technical writer for Two Rivers Marketing, based in Des Moines, Iowa.


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