The harvest season will soon come to a close, and before you know it, temperatures will drop and snow may start to fall. Some states experience frost as early as October, so properly winterizing your equipment to prepare for the cold will ensure fewer maintenance and operating issues come spring.
Preparing Machines for Winter Use
Farmers are outside year round, using equipment throughout the winter months for livestock care, snow removal and even digging into frozen ground. The importance of proper equipment care and maintenance in cold, snowy weather is amplified due to wintry conditions.
Especially in newer, technology-driven machines, electronics are at a greater risk for damage in the cold. Sub-freezing temperatures not only slow response time, but battery-powered electronics will also lose their charge faster. Both the engine and electronics can be damaged beyond repair if they freeze over the winter and then thaw in the spring.
The chance of damage to the engine and other components can be greatly reduced by letting the machine warm up and following these additional tips prior to equipment use:
Before the cold arrives, replace the lubricant in each compartment with one featuring the highest oil viscosity allowed based on your region’s typical ambient temperature. More information on lubricant viscosities can be found here.
Store starting fluids at indoor room temperature, and only inject starting fluid while the engine is cranking.
Use coolant designed for use in the lowest expected outside temperature. To avoid damage, allow the engine to cool before adding antifreeze.
If the engine isn’t warm enough for startup, obstruct the radiator with a piece of cardboard to block cold air. This will increase engine temperature and heat hydraulic fluid more quickly.
After startup, let the engine run until it reaches operating temperature to help prevent the intake and exhaust valves from sticking.
The battery should be kept fully charged and warm. In subzero temperatures, it may help to bring the battery inside to store it at room temperature when not in use.
To avoid fires, scorched wiring or a melted battery case, never use a torch or other open flame to heat components.
Tips for a Proper Winter Maintenance Routine It’s important to wash down equipment after every use to remove salt and dirt. Park your machine on wooden planks to prevent it from freezing to the ground. Salt is especially damaging, as it can corrode and rust the frame and other metal parts. Take these additional steps to keep your machine up and running for the duration of the winter season:
Top off fuel after every use to prevent freezing.
Check the air intake daily for snow and ice, and remove all dirt from the tread so it does not freeze into the tires.
Use dry nitrogen gas to inflate flat tires to eliminate ice crystals, which can hold the valve stem open in the tire. You can find this at your local dealer.
All rubber parts, including hoses, tires, drive belts and electrical wiring should be inspected weekly for cracks and other damage.
Proper care and maintenance before the cold hits will improve performance and reduce repair costs down the road. To learn more about suggested tips for cold weather operating and storage, read our safety guidelines.
A general outline for proper machine use is only the start of cold weather preparation. Conditions, applications and resources vary greatly across the country. For more information specific to your machine and climate, consult your local Cat® dealer or visit us online.
We’d like to hear about your approach to equipment use in cold weather.
What tasks do you use agriculture equipment for during the winter?
Has your equipment ever been damaged during winter months? What caused the damage and how have you prevented it from happening again?
What maintenance tasks do you add to your winter routine?
How long do you typically let the engine run on a freezing cold morning?
What preventative measures do you take to protect your battery?
What other practices have you found helpful to optimize machine performance in the cold?
I am a Pre-Field Agriculture/Product Application Representative for Caterpillar. I recently graduated from North Carolina State University with a dual degree in Agriculture Business Management and Agriculture Science, concentrating in Leadership and Environmental Technologies. I focus primarily on the relationships between customers, dealers, and the product specialists for the Building Construction Products division. Growing up on a beef cattle farm, I have several years of machine operation experience and agricultural knowledge. Thomas Jefferson said it best in that, "Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness."
I’m a Compact Wheel Loader Product Application Specialist for Caterpillar in North America. I have 11 years of experience, including roles in the field as a dealer technical support representative, and as a distributor business model consultant. I graduated from North Carolina State University with a Mechanical Engineering Degree, and wanted a job where I didn't have to sit in front of a computer all day. This job allows me to get out and get my hands dirty, with the goal of providing solutions to customers’ machine needs.
I am a Marketing Communications Specialist for Caterpillar with over twelve years of experience marketing the Cat brand to customers in Latin and North America. My goal is to arm customers with the information needed to make well informed purchase decisions; to maximize the value of Cat machines by using an array of Cat Work Tool attachments; and to minimize the total cost of ownership by using Cat parts and Cat Dealer service.
I am an expert Operator and Application Specialist for Caterpillar concentrating on products used in the construction trades industry. I operate, evaluate and train on Cat machines and Work Tool Attachments worldwide. I have a Degree in Agricultural Engineering, Craftsman Certified and was named Apprentice of the Year 1981 at the University of East Anglia, UK.
I am the National Association Manager for Caterpillar and have responsibility for customer associations and partnerships in multiple industries for Caterpillar. I have 12 years of experience at Caterpillar, and have spent most of those years in the field with dealers and customers around North America. I have always had a passion for equipment and find myself fortunate to be able to work with dealers and customers almost every day.
I am a Product Application Specialist with 16 years of experience in the industry. As a Building Construction Products Global Trainer, I focus on training dealers and customers on machines, attachments and applications as it relates to the construction, agriculture and landscaping segments.
I have been with Caterpillar for more than eight years, working in various roles including a materials engineer, a filters product manager and my current position as a parts consultant. My job allows me the opportunity to work with Cat dealers and customers providing insight on how the use of quality filters and fluids results in better equipment performance and lower owning and operating costs.
I am a marketing and sales support professional for Caterpillar. In this role, I work with our marketing and customer service teams to support or dealers and customers, concentrating on our Small Wheel Loader, Skid Steer Loader, Mini Excavator and Dozer product groups. The exchange of ideas, information and opinions about equipment and how it’s used in various industries on forums such as this blog helps me fulfill my role at Caterpillar to the best of my ability.
I am the commercial/market consulting expert for all Caterpillar tires and rims with 14 years of experience. I provide guidance in the harsher work environments of mining and industrial/waste applications. Our goal is to turn our dealers and customers into knowledgeable and trusted resources with respect to tires and rims. Our group offers training, technical support and resources to develop a level of expertise within the Caterpillar value stream that is ordinarily reserved for tire companies and local tire service providers. Ultimately, we want to provide our customers with a total Cat solution from the ground up.
I am a Sales Support Manager for Cat Financial and have responsibility for ensuring that the right financial products are available to Cat customers who purchase, lease or rent to own. 8 of my 10 years with Caterpillar Financial have allowed customer and/or dealer interaction as part of my daily responsibilities including over 3.5 years as a Territory Manager. I take personal satisfaction in finding financial solutions that work for our customers and CAT dealers.
I’m a Telehandler Product Application Specialist for Caterpillar in North and South America. I have 13 years of experience, including roles in the field as a dealer service operations and technical support representative, and as a distributor business model consultant. My telehandler passion and focus is working with dealers and customers to maximize the versatility of the product through machine and operator training.
I am a Product and Application Specialist with over 35 years experience at Caterpillar. I focus on helping you to determine the best Cat machines, work tool attachments, and services for you to use in the building and general construction, landscaping, specialty trades, and agricultural industries.
I am a Senior Regional Insurance Marketing Manager with 16 years’ experience at Caterpillar Financial Insurance Services. I have the opportunity to work with 18 North American dealers providing risk management products and services that helps the Caterpillar Enterprise ( Caterpillar, Dealers and Customers) manage their business risk. Caterpillar Financial Insurance Services offers Extended Protection Plans for machines and engines, Physical Damage Insurance, Inventory Protection Plans, Dealer Property and Casualty, Risk Management, Marine Transit Insurance and Dealer Bonds.
Jeff Brown is a marketing professional for Caterpillar Skid Steer, Multi Terrain and Compact Track Loaders. Over Jeff's 12 years in the industry, he has visited with and studied the needs of customers across landscaping, construction, and agriculture segments. Delivering innovative solutions that solve customer's problems is Jeff's main focus.
I am a North American Product and Application Specialist for Caterpillar. In this role, I have had the opportunity to represent Caterpillar at various trade shows and train customers on new Small Wheel Loader content. I graduated from Purdue University in 2001 with a Mechanical Engineering degree and have spent the past 15 years with Caterpillar in various engineering roles. Growing up in the Mid-West, I have always loved the cold and the unique activities winter enables. Unfortunately, I had to give those up when I moved to North Carolina. I don't care what people say, you never get used to a hot climate.
I am a Filter and Fluid Marketing Consultant with over 14 years experience working at Caterpillar. My focus is to ensure customers understand the importance of using superior filtration and lubrication products in their equipment.
I am a Sales Support Manager with over nine years of experience in a variety of roles with Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation. Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to gain experience in matching financial products and tailoring funding strategies to the specific needs of customers. This includes more than three years as a Territory Manager in Seattle partnered with N C Machinery, an authorized Cat dealer covering the states of Washington and Alaska.
Welcome to the Construction Trades Online Community!
This online discussion forum is for construction and landscape professionals to raise issues, voice opinions, gain insight and share knowledge so we can all build on each other's expertise.