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Mechanics Corner: 5 tips to prep your wheel loader for winter weather

Allison McNeal for Progressive Dairyman Published on 31 December 2016

Ensure your wheel loader is properly maintained and prepared for winter conditions. Follow these five tips to help you get the most out of your wheel loader this winter.

1. Review manufacturer’s operation and maintenance manual

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It may seem like common sense, but it can’t be overstated. Review your wheel loader’s operation and maintenance manual for recommended intervals and a checklist of seasonal maintenance items as well as fluid recommendations.

Ideally, you and your wheel loader operators should request maintenance training and assistance from your local equipment dealer on proper techniques, and familiarize yourself with decals and key maintenance points on the machine.

Your wheel loader operation and maintenance manual should instruct you on what machine components should be inspected regularly. They include the following:

  • Fluids and filters
  • Battery
  • Tire pressure
  • Heating and defrosting systems

2. Check fluids and filters

Colder temperatures can affect a wheel loader’s ability to run efficiently, especially if it does not have the proper engine oil. That is why it is important to match wheel loader fluids to the proper ambient temperatures. Most wheel loader manufacturers recommend CJ4 engine oils to protect the machine’s vital engine components.

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“If you use incorrect diesel engine oil, it can cause costly damage to the machine’s internal components,” says Mike Stark, Doosan wheel loader product specialist. “These components can become plugged, corroded and, ultimately, not work efficiently.

Make sure to refer to your owner’s manual for instructions on filling your machine at the recommended intervals with the appropriate fluid in the correct increments.”

Also, verify the quality of fuel you are using from your provider, checking to make sure water and other contaminants are not present in your fuel.

“Switching to a special winter-blend fuel – typically No. 1 and No. 2 diesel – can help you prepare for cold temperatures,” Stark says. “Investing in quality fuel that is blended appropriately for the climate and season may give you better peace of mind, lower your consumption, provide fewer filter changes and deliver long component life.”

“It’s a good idea to top off the diesel tank at the end of the day or shift,” he says. “Overall, it’s a good practice to follow year-round. It reduces the air in the tank. The wheel loader heats up during the day.

When the operator turns it off, it cools down, and no matter what, you start getting condensation in the tank.”

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Another item to consider is the type of after-treatment system, especially those machines equipped with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) meeting Tier 4 emission standards. SCR components require diesel exhaust fluid (DEF). This aqueous solution is susceptible to variations in hot and cold temperatures.

“In very cold temperatures, DEF can freeze, so wheel loader owners should make sure they keep DEF in storage during the winter months,” Stark says. “Purity and concentration are critical with DEF, so make sure to work with a local dealer to better understand how to store and handle DEF.”

Stark also recommends inspecting the air filtration system and always using the correct replacement filter to reduce the risk of premature engine failure.

3. Inspect tires, batteries and components

Winter maintenance also means checking the tires, batteries and other wheel loader components before using or storing the machine. Undetected leaks or improper inflation can lead to premature wear and potential tire failure over time.

“Using L3 radial tires may be best during winter because they provide good traction in snowy conditions,” Stark says. “Inflating tires with nitrogen gas is a good alternative to assist in maintaining proper tire pressure.”

He recommends all wheel loader owners become familiar with the manufacturer’s operation and maintenance manual for proper psi, and inflate the tires accordingly.

Before cold weather hits, it is also important to inspect the wheel loader’s battery and charge it if needed. “There is always a draw on the battery, so unless the battery has been maintained or disconnected while stored, it will slowly run down and will need to be charged before use,” Stark says.

Additionally, check the cab door and window seals to ensure there are no leaks or cracks, and install a new windshield wiper blade and add low-temperature washer fluid. Be sure to replace any burned-out bulbs to ensure your operators have the appropriate lighting when working in low light or at night.

4. Store the wheel loader inside

Cold weather requires batteries to generate nearly twice as many cranking amps in order to turn over. If possible, in extreme cold when the temperature falls below zero degrees Fahrenheit, keep your wheel loader in a heated facility; it’s easier on the machine.

“If owners are not able to keep wheel loaders inside, it is important to park the machine out of the wind,” Stark says. “It is also advantageous to keep the equipment out of direct sunlight, if possible.”

5. Cool down after working

Going through a cool-down procedure after a shift is a good practice to follow. “If you’re working hard, even in very cold weather, everything heats up,” Stark says. “If you let it cool down, it benefits the engine life.

A lot of people immediately stop the machine when they are done working. Wait a few minutes before you shut off your engine.”

By following these five tips, you can be better prepared to keep your machine running strong all winter.  end mark

Allison McNeal is a technical writer with Two Rivers Marketing out of Des Moines, Iowa.

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