As the frost begins to form and the days grow shorter, it’s clear that winter is approaching. For those in the agricultural and construction sectors, this means it’s time to prepare machinery for the colder months. Tractors and excavators, with their complex hydraulic systems, require special attention to avoid costly repairs come spring. Here are best practices for storing your hydraulic machinery during winter.
1. Cleaning Your Machinery:
Before storage, it’s essential to thoroughly clean your tractors and excavators. Remove dirt, debris, and any remnants of the work environment. This not only prevents corrosion but also allows you to inspect the machinery for any damage that may need to be addressed before storage.
2. Choose an Appropriate Storage Location:
The ideal storage location is indoors, away from the elements. If this is not possible, choose a flat area where water cannot pool and cover your machinery with a breathable tarp to protect it from moisture and precipitation.
3. Fluid Management:
- Check and Change Fluids: Ensure that all fluids are at the recommended level and consider changing them before storage. Fresh oil has fewer contaminants, which can reduce the risk of corrosion.
- Ensure that your coolant system has adequate antifreeze to prevent freezing and cracking in the engine block.
- Add a fuel stabilizer to the tank and run the engine for a few minutes to distribute it through the system. This will prevent the fuel from deteriorating and protect the engine.
4. Battery Care:
- Store the battery in a location that is shielded from extreme temperatures. A climate-controlled environment is ideal to prevent the battery fluid from freezing or excessive discharge.
- Use a smart trickle charger or a battery maintainer that can keep the battery at optimal charge without overcharging. This is particularly important for lead-acid batteries. If a trickle charger is not available, fully charge the battery before storage and then disconnect the negative terminal to prevent discharge through the vehicle’s electrical system.
- Before storage, clean the battery terminals with a solution of baking soda and water to neutralize any acid and prevent corrosion. Rinse with clean water and dry thoroughly.
- Check for cracks or damage to the battery casing. Damaged batteries should be replaced to avoid leakage of battery acid.
5. Protecting the Hydraulic System:
- Use a high-quality hydraulic fluid that is suitable for cold temperatures to prevent thickening.
- It is imperative to depressurize the hydraulic system before storage. This involves running the engine at idle and operating all hydraulic functions to release pressure. This process helps to prevent leaks and stress on hydraulic components, which can be worsened by cold temperatures.
- Retract all hydraulic cylinders to prevent rod corrosion. If the cylinders must be left extended, consider applying a coat of clean hydraulic oil to the rods to protect them from rust.
- Inspect all seals and hoses for damage. Replace any that are worn to prevent moisture from entering the system during the temperature fluctuations of winter.
6. Tire and Track Care:
- For tractors, ensure all tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure to prevent flat spots from forming during long-term storage. If feasible, lifting the machinery off the ground using proper supports can alleviate pressure on the tires and suspension system.
- For excavators, tracks should be inspected for any signs of wear and adjusted according to the manufacturer’s specifications. During winter storage, however, it’s wise to slightly relieve the tension to prevent unnecessary strain on the tracks and undercarriage components, as they can contract in cold temperatures.
- Inspect tires for any punctures, tears, or signs of wear that could worsen over the winter. Check the tracks for any damaged or worn links and rollers.
- Remove any mud, stones, or debris from the tread of tires and tracks to prevent rust and corrosion.
7. Rodent Prevention:
- Use wire mesh or metal wool to block any small openings through which rodents might enter. Pay particular attention to exhaust pipes and air intakes.
- Ensure the storage area is free from any food sources that could attract rodents. This includes grains, seeds, or even residue from such materials.
- There are various repellents available, ranging from natural deterrents like peppermint oil to commercial rodent repellents. Strategically place these around and perhaps even on the machinery.
- Periodically inspect the storage area and machinery for signs of rodent activity. Quick detection can prevent extensive damage.
8. Final Walk-Around:
Do a final inspection of the machinery before leaving it for the winter. Look for any exposed areas that might need attention and address them accordingly. By adhering to these best practices for winter storage, you not only protect your investment but also ensure that your tractors and excavators are ready to perform once the thaw comes. The importance of depressurizing your hydraulic system cannot be overstated; it is a crucial step that can save time and money in potential repairs. Take the time now to prepare your machinery, and you’ll be setting yourself up for a smooth transition into the next working season. To be ready for the spring, check out our website for all your hydraulic needs!