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How to operate heavy equipment in the cold weather?

Operating heavy equipment in cold weather has its challenges and setbacks. The first thing I want you to know about starting heavy equipment in the winter is, if you don’t have to start something, don’t. The only drawback to that move is, the longer the heavy equipment sits the harder it is to get started. Most heavy equipment have a block heater that heats the coolant in the engine when plugged into the hydro, but a lot of the time there isn’t any hydro available. If you’re lucky enough to own a generator, they work well in isolated areas; just keep the gas in the generator and your heavy equipment will start.

New or fully charged batteries are the most important factor to getting heavy equipment started in cold weather. If the machine starts hard, the battery power won’t last long, then you have to boost off of another machine or a service vehicle. Make sure all battery terminals are clean and all connections are tight. If you know for sure a machine won’t start on its own, hook battery cables up and allow the machines batteries to charge for a half hour.

Modern diesel engines designed for cold weather use a pre-heater or glow plugs. Glow plugs are heating elements that warm up the air that enters the engine. They work on a timed circuit or are manually activated just before the engine is started. The colder it gets, the longer those glow plugs need to stay on to preheat the combustion chamber for a smooth start. Glow plugs are usually applied by turning the key backwards or ahead half way, wait one minute and then start. If the machine still doesn’t start repeat that process. Remember this, if the machine doesn’t start within 10-12 seconds, stop and reheat the glow plugs. Never use ether and the glow plugs at the same time, the ether will explode when it comes in contact with the hot glow plug.

How to operate heavy equipment in the cold weather?

If the machine doesn’t have glow plugs and still won’t start you can use ether, ether comes in a small pressurized can with a push down button for spraying into the air intake of the machine. Battery cables are still needed so leave them hooked up. Using ether in cold weather is a two person job; one sprays the ether while the other turns the motor over. Don’t spray the ether until the engine is turning, but just as soon as the engine starts to turn, spray ether directly into the air breather cover.

Don’t give the machine too much ether; ether is hard on a motor. Too much ether and the engine will lock up solid and after it starts it makes the loudest crackling sound, a dry sound, avoid using it if you can. Press and hold the button down for no more than 2 seconds, the machine should start in the next three seconds. The engine will turn over quite slow at first then you will hear it pick up speed, just as you think it’s going to start you can give it a one second spray to help it along. Once you learn how the machine starts, you will repeat the same process every time until cold weather is over.

There are several things that can hinder a machine from starting; the age of a machine can have an effect on its starting ability. The temperature of course has a major affect on heavy equipment! Sometimes fuel is a factor, water and condensation in the fuel tank will freeze and cut off the flow of diesel to the injectors. If you don’t see black smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe, that’s a bad sign. If a machine is getting lots of fuel, there will be smoke. No smoke…no fuel. Methyl hydrate will unthaw the ice in the tank and fuel lines, pour one litre of methyl hydrate into a full tank of fuel and wait for a half hour.

When the machine finally does start, never rev the engine up until it is warm. The cold weather makes the motor oil pretty thick; the engine won’t have instant oil pressure when it starts. Wait for about 2 minutes before you idle the engine up and let it run for 20 minutes before you give it full throttle.