Turf Care Equipment
Tips for winter maintenance of compact track loaders
Winter maintenance of compact track loaders begins when fall arrives
October 23, 2023 By Buck Storlie
Operators using compact track loaders for snow clearing have a lot to consider when it comes to keeping their machines maintained. From keeping track of cold weather oils and fluids to making sure equipment is serviced throughout the summer months, compact track loaders require careful attention for maximum performance in snow clearing applications. To get the most out of a compact track loader, find an equipment manufacturer that offers compact track loaders built for year-round operation.
Get winter ready
Winter maintenance starts when fall hits. The first step is getting the machine ready for the weather. Make sure it uses fluids and lubricants capable of withstanding freezing temperatures. Some compact track loaders are preloaded at the factory with four-season fluids rated as low as minus 34 degrees Celsius and as high as 48 Celsius to keep the machine running no matter the ambient temperature. Keep in mind that cheaper oil might not perform as well in the cold.
Operators should also check machine components to make sure all components are high quality and all season. Check for full temperature range batteries, block heaters and other weather-appropriate features.
Engage in proper maintenance practices on the job site
Before snow clearing, let the compact track loader heat up to the operational temperature listed in the manual. While the equipment warms up, the operator can survey the area he’s working in to find any hidden obstacles. Curbs, medians and parking lot islands are difficult to pinpoint underneath a layer of snow, but knowing where they are will protect the equipment during use.
Operators should then strap themselves in and drive at safe speeds. It’s no secret that slippery conditions make it harder to brake and manoeuvre, which can cause damage to the equipment if operators aren’t careful.
The most critical action for prolonging compact track loader life comes after the shift is over. After each snow-clearing project, make sure to clean snow and ice out of the undercarriage while it’s still easy to remove. Wash away salt with a pressure washer, though make sure the equipment is completely dry before leaving it in below freezing weather or components will freeze. Leaving snow and ice on the equipment can mean a slow start for the next shift and lead to accelerated component wear.
Choose easy maintenance
Regular maintenance activities, like oil changes, daily and weekly greasing and changing fuel and hydraulic filters, can take time off the project. The key is finding a compact track loader designed with easy access to service points such as drain and fill plugs, filters and accessible grease points to cut down on maintenance times and make the entire process less of a headache.
Certain design features make a huge difference in the time it takes to do maintenance. For example, some manufacturers use insert filters that are hidden deep in the engine bay. While this saves headaches during the engineering process, it costs operators time and money when doing maintenance. Machines designed with rigid-mounted, spin-on filters in easy-to-access places save precious minutes on every filter change and allows them to get back to work faster.
Another example is grease points. Some compact track loaders feature Zerk fittings on the end of pins rather than the side, a simple change that makes greasing quick and easy. If an operator can save 10 minutes per day with more efficient greasing while working 200 days a year, he could save around 66 hours in just two years. Easy maintenance like this is a great way to save time and money all year long.
Compact track loaders see a lot of wear in the warmer months when the machine often switches back to landscaping or construction work. Avoid counter-rotations, which cause premature track wear. Use the three-point turn instead to avoid cuts in the track from abrasive materials caused during counter-rotation. Operators should also avoid spinning the tracks as this can result in cuts and unnecessary wear. Also, maintain the practice of cleaning the undercarriage after the shift to prolong track and component life as long as possible.
Throughout the year, invest in proper maintenance as listed in the owner’s manual. While the machine might be engineered for the colder months, it isn’t uncommon to switch out the compact track loader’s fluids and lubricants with the seasons. No matter what season, make sure equipment is ready for the job to come.
Buck Storlie is product manager for ASV, a Yanmar Compact Equipment brand which offers compact track and skid-steer loaders for the landscaping, forestry and construction markets.
This article is part of the Fall & Winter Prep Week Week.
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