Here’s 5 tips to prep your equipment for winter storage

doosan equipment
By Allison Grettenberg, Doosan Infracore North America

As the construction season winds down and colder weather blows in, now is a good time to start thinking about what needs to be done to your heavy equipment, such as excavators, wheel loaders and articulated dump trucks, before winter. 

If your equipment won’t be used until after the ground thaws, you should strongly think about properly storing your equipment and attachments.

Your equipment will require preparation and maintenance before and after storage to ensure reliable operation once it returns to service. Tips you should consider include storing your equipment out of the elements, checking fluids and filters, inspecting tires and tracks, as well as examining hydraulic hoses and attachment connection systems. 

Prep for storage

First, complete pre-storage preparation tasks as listed in your machine’s operation and maintenance manual.

Review the manual for recommended intervals and a checklist of winter maintenance items, as well as oil and fluid recommendations. It’s always a good idea for you and your operators to request maintenance training and assistance from your local equipment dealer on proper techniques. Furthermore, familiarize yourself with decals and key maintenance points on the machine before winter hits.

Thoroughly clean the machine of grease and debris, including the engine compartment. If you are storing your excavator, clean out the undercarriage.

All machine components should be properly lubricated, and exposed cylinder rods should be greased to reduce rust and moisture while in storage. In addition, clean the machine’s cab. Some equipment manufacturers offer an optional on-board air compressor to easily remove dust and debris. 

After the machine has been cleaned, complete a walk-around. Look for signs of obvious machine damage. Replace worn or damaged parts. At a minimum, document items that will need attention prior to spring. 

Additionally, check the cab door and window seals to ensure there are no leaks or cracks, install a new windshield wiper blade and add low-temperature washer fluid. Replace any burnt-out bulbs to ensure your operators have the appropriate lighting. This will help reduce downtime, once you decide to return your equipment to service.

Check fuel, oils and filters

If you are getting close to your next preventive maintenance scheduled date, replace hydraulic fluids, fuel and filters before storing your equipment. Always refer to your operation and maintenance manual to determine what the proper fluid levels are for your equipment.

When you are filling fluids make sure they are properly filled with room for expansion, especially for machines with diesel exhaust fluid (DEF).

In very cold temperatures, DEF can freeze, machine reservoirs are designed to accommodate; however, make sure to keep bulk DEF in heated storage during the winter months. Purity and concentration are critical with DEF and can be affected by temperature, so work with your local dealer to better understand how to store and handle the fluid. 

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Before storage, place a fuel stabilizer in the fuel tank and run the engine for a few minutes to circulate the stabilizer to the pump and fuel injectors. If there is a possibility you will take the machine out of storage before winter, add an appropriate gel-additive to the fuel. In addition, drain water from the water separator on your machine.

Then, fill the fuel tank at the end of your last shift. Condensation in the fuel tank can cause start-up issues at the beginning of spring.

Last, inspect the air filtration system and use the correct replacement filter to reduce the risk of premature engine failure.

Disconnect the battery

Cold weather can do a number on your battery. Always disconnect the battery and store it in a cool, dry place above 0 Celsius to reduce the potential for battery discharge. 

For batteries that need to be charged periodically, a trickle charger can be connected to help maintain voltage at a slower rate, improving the battery life. Battery connections should also be inspected and cleaned at this time. Corroded terminals can cause starting and charging issues.

Protect it from the elements

When your machine is not being used, protect it from the elements. It’s best to keep it out of the elements, preferably in an enclosed and heated facility. 

If you are not able to keep equipment inside, park the machines in a dry, protected shelter, out of the wind and direct sunlight. If possible, cover the equipment with a tarp to block out moisture and prevent snow buildup that could impact internal components. 

When you start your equipment, use a block heater to assist starting the engine and let it run until it gets to its working temperature. This helps prevent the valves from sticking and distribute oil where it is needed. 

Prep attachments

Excavator and wheel loader attachments deserve the same maintenance as the machine to which it is connected. Perform visual checks of attachment components such as hydraulic hoses, cylinders, guards, cutting edges and teeth for damage before storage. In addition, attachments should be stored inside and out of the elements. 

When ready to store, lower attachments to the ground. If you have an excavator, the blade, if equipped, should also be lowered to the ground. Once those steps have been completed, tag the machine to indicate it is ready for storage.

Keeping your equipment out of winter elements is critical. By following these five tips, you can make sure your equipment is in good working condition once spring rolls around.