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5 easy steps to get equipment winter ready

Winterizing equipment is important whether machinery is to be used or stored

September 12, 2023  By Steve Benedict

The five main areas to consider for winterizing equipment are machine cleanup, fuel, coolant, battery, and general storage. Photo credit: KIOTI Tractor Photo credit: Pixel Shot/Adobe Photo

As winter approaches, the shift in temperature brings more than just the anticipated snowfall and the biting cold winds. It brings with it the essential task of preparing and winterizing your equipment for any challenging conditions. 

Preparing your machinery for the cold season will help ensure it starts up and runs when you need it. This is true whether you will be using the equipment during the winter or plan to store it until spring. 

There are the five main areas you need to focus on when preparing your equipment for winter: machine cleanup, fuel, coolant, battery, and general storage. Keep in mind that some of these tasks might not be necessary, depending on how frequently you will be using your machines.

Also, every machine has different maintenance needs. Your dealer is an invaluable resource for guidance and support when preparing your equipment for the chillier months.

Keep your machine clean
When it comes to equipment maintenance, cleanliness is key. Start by simply removing dust and debris from your equipment. This simple step helps to avoid rust and corrosion that could reduce your machine’s useful life. It also makes it easier to spot any existing damage or signs of wear and tear.

During this thorough cleanup, look for any missing or loose parts or bolts. These can compromise the integrity of your machine and should be replaced promptly. 

Even small chips or scratches on the machine need attention and repair. They might seem minor, but left untreated, they could become gateways to more extensive damage. 

Check your fuel
Your next area of focus should be the fuel, especially if you’re putting your equipment away for the winter. If fuel sits stagnant for long periods of time, you may have a hard time starting your equipment up the following season. In that case, you may need to completely drain the fuel out of the tank or replace fuel lines if they end up clogged. 

For diesel-powered equipment, be sure to add a fuel conditioner, an additive that ensures the fuel does not degrade. For gas machines, use a stabilizer to keep the fuel from gelling and clogging the system. When using, make sure to run the machine for about 15 minutes to ensure it mixes properly. Be sure not to skip that second step – running the machine is what circulates it through the fuel system, thereby preserving the entire system, rather than just treating the tank. This helps prevent moisture from accumulating, eliminating unnecessary maintenance and downtime. 

If, on the other hand, you’re planning on using your machines throughout winter, the care process is slightly different. All machines, irrespective of fuel type, should use winterized fuel. This type of fuel contains additives that prevent gelling, ensuring your machine runs smoothly even in the coldest months.

Maintain proper coolant levels
Even in winter, machines generate heat, and managing this heat is vital for the smooth operation of your equipment. That’s where your coolant comes in. Drain the existing coolant and refill it with a mixture of coolant and water in an appropriate ratio for winter use. This might seem like a mundane task, but the right coolant-to-water ratio is crucial to prevent your machine from overheating.

Your dealer can guide you in determining the best ratio, based on your location and the specific climate conditions. You can confirm the correctness of this ratio by using an antifreeze tester. This simple tool can help you avoid potentially expensive damage.

Protect the battery
Batteries bring life to the machine, and they can be sensitive to colder temperatures. If your machine is going into storage for the winter, it is advisable to disconnect the battery to prevent any excess drainage during these inactive months. If possible, store the battery indoors, in a space where it is protected from extreme temperature fluctuations.

If you have access to power in your storage areas, consider using a trickle charger. This device provides a low, steady charge that prevents the battery from discharging completely, allowing it to remain connected. 

On the other hand, if you operate your machines during winter, ensure you run the equipment at least once or twice a week. Regular use will help maintain the battery life and keep it from dying prematurely.

Store the machine correctly
Proper storage is another crucial factor for keeping your machines in prime condition during the winter months. The ideal location is a fully enclosed shelter – such as a garage or shed – that protects your equipment from the elements. While plastic covers may seem like a viable solution, they can hinder air circulation and promote condensation, which can lead to rust and other problems.

Before storing, perform routine maintenance on your machine. Refer to your owner’s manual for guidance on routine maintenance needs. It’s also a good practice to change the oil before storage, so your machine is ready to go when spring arrives. 

Don’t forget to check the tires. Make sure they are well inflated, to help prevent flat spotting or excess vibrations when you go to drive it come springtime.  

Another factor often overlooked is the damage rodents can cause. They can seek shelter in your machines and chew on wires and other parts, causing extensive damage. Use a rodent or vermin deterrent to avoid any unwelcome surprises when you take out your equipment in the spring.

A little maintenance goes a long way
Winterizing your machine is a critical preventive measure that keeps your equipment in top condition, prolongs its life, and ensures it’s ready for operation when you need it. Take care of your equipment, and it will either be ready to tackle whatever the winter months throw at it or be healthy when you’re ready to get back at it in the spring months. 

A little maintenance goes a long way in avoiding significant headaches later on. Winterizing your machines might seem like a laborious task, but the return on investment is substantial. It’s not just about making sure your machine works; it’s about ensuring it lasts. It’s about protecting your investment and maintaining the integrity and efficiency of your equipment.

As you feel the chill in the air and see the leaves changing colour, remember it’s a signal not just to prepare yourself for the colder months, but also your machines. Take the time to do a comprehensive cleanup, check your fuel and coolant levels, look after your battery, and ensure you have the right storage conditions in place. 

With these measures, you’re not just preparing for winter, but also for a more efficient spring.

Steve Benedict is product line manager, turf care, for KIOTI Tractor.

This article is part of the Fall & Winter Prep Week Week.

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