Your operations do not stop once the weather turns colder. During this time of year, it is important to prepare your forklifts and other material handling equipment to ensure continued reliable performance — despite the frigid environment.
Failing to prepare equipment for winter can lead to increased malfunctions and maintenance requirements, as well as damage to machines and components. In the sections below, you will learn about winter forklift maintenance, why it is important and how to conduct it properly.
How to Prepare Equipment for Winter
When you set out to prepare lift equipment for winter — including forklifts, lift trucks and other machinery — there are several types of maintenance to conduct:
- Standard preventive maintenance: Flush and replace coolant and antifreeze systems, check batteries and charging systems, inspect exhaust systems, and check tire pressure and tread. Also, be sure to inspect and replace system filters.
- Winter-specific maintenance: Check the freezing point of your antifreeze and, if necessary, replace with antifreeze with a lower freezing point solution. Replace standard air in tires with dry nitrogen to avoid ice crystals forming around valves. Install snow tires on outdoor equipment, if necessary.
- Respond to any outstanding maintenance issues: Verify that all warning lights and other issues are addressed prior to the harsh winter months, when conditions and repairs are more difficult. If your equipment is in need of a tune-up, take those steps prior to winter, as well.
Storing Lift Equipment During Winter
Even if you do not intend to use material handling equipment during winter, there are still special steps to take for proper cold-weather storage. Be sure to:
- Drain all engine fluids, including fuel.
- Lubricate all required points, so that components do not seize up over the winter.
- Remove the battery and store it separately, at room temperature. Batteries are especially susceptible to cracking and other damage due to cold. They will lose their charge if stored improperly.
- Cover equipment for extra warmth, whether storing it indoors or outdoors.
Using Lift Equipment During Winter
There are also unique considerations for equipment use during the winter in order to ensure safe and reliable operation. To properly prepare equipment for winter use, follow these steps:
- Follow proper winter maintenance for forklifts: Be sure that you or your technician have carried out the steps described above. These include checking and replacing fluids, checking batteries, and ensuring good tire pressure as well as environment-specific tires, if necessary. Also be sure to inspect all work lights and brake lights.
- Use an engine warmer: An engine warmer makes it much easier to start the engine in cold months. In addition, be sure that the engine is fully warmed up before initiating operation.
- Keep a full fuel tank: When it comes to diesel, it is important to keep a full fuel tank. This way, you reduce the chance of ice crystals forming within the tank. Refuel at the end of each workday.
- Check and clear air intakes: Snow or ice can quickly block air intakes, leading to malfunction and the potential for damaged equipment. Clear intakes before and, if necessary, during operation.
- Regularly check tire pressure: Tire pressure can drop quickly in cold weather. Check the pressure several times during operation to assure the continued safe function of forklifts and other equipment.
The Consequences of Failing to Winterize
Neglecting these steps can result in numerous issues, ranging from minor inconveniences to damaged equipment and safety concerns. Just a few of the problems that can occur from failing to winterize equipment are:
- Difficulty moving and starting equipment: If equipment is not covered and protected, it may become snowed or iced in, requiring additional time to free it. Further, improper winterizing can make it more difficult to get engines and other equipment started.
- Dead batteries: Whether or not you are using equipment over the winter, a cold battery will quickly lose its charge. Always keep batteries at room temperature (as mentioned above).
- Dangerous operation: From snow-covered brake lights, to depressurized tires, cold weather conditions can create safety issues with equipment operation. In especially harsh conditions, it is important to continue checking fluid levels, tire pressure, work lights and other components during operation, as well as prior to operation.
- Damaged equipment: In cold weather, batteries can get damaged, lubrication points can freeze or seize up, and valves and tanks may freeze and crack. Preventive maintenance is a much better and cheaper investment than equipment replacement if these issues occur.
With these guidelines in mind, you are ready to prepare, store and operate your equipment throughout the harshest winter months. So, grab a cup of hot chocolate, keep calm and lift on!