Cold Weather Machine Safety

Cold weather affects motorized equipment — not only the engine, but the hydraulic systems as well. Equipment that does not operate smoothly or predictably is a safety hazard to operators and other workers near it.

You should apply engine coolants and hydraulic hose lubricants in the fall before cold weather actually sets in. Throughout the winter, it is important to plan extra time to let the machine warm up. When you park a machine for 16 or more hours, both the engine and all of the operating systems will be at ambient temperature, which in winter can be 20° or lower on many mornings, well below normal operating temperature for the equipment. Failing to warm the engine could result in material damage, accidents and injury to workers due to engine stalls and jerky, uncontrollable actions of the hydraulic systems.

If you don’t allow the engine to warm completely, the cold can damage engine valve components. When an engine runs below normal operating temperature, it doesn’t completely burn the fuel and oil in the combustion chambers. The result is soft carbon deposits, which will interfere with valve operation, and can cause burned valves, bent pushrods and other damage to valve mechanism components. To avoid valve damage, always run the engine until the coolant temperature is at least 82° Celsius (180° Fahrenheit).

One major equipment manufacturer suggests that you begin the warmup with the hydraulics. They recommend that the operator run the engine at less than one-third throttle and slowly move the control lever in order to lift the attachment, then lower the attachment slowly. Continue the sequence: raising, lowering, extending and retracting, extending the travel during each cycle. We refer to this as exercising the equipment. Exercising the equipment will bring the machine and its operating components up to the appropriate operating temperature, which will ensure smooth and safe operation of the equipment.

Remember, keep machines in good running condition and plan that extra time for warmup.

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