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Posted: 01/26/2018

5 Steps to Keep Your Skid-Steer Loader From Taking a Snow Day

Bobcat S630 skid-steer loader clears snow with a snowblower.

When the project calls for winter work, contractors count on skid-steer loaders to keep the operation running. Skid-steer loaders are tough enough to make the transition to the cold. And they have the versatility to move from general construction work to snow removal and back with ease. Before you let your skid-steer loader out to take on the snow, follow these seasonal maintenance tips.

1. Change fluids with the season.

There’s nothing like an insulated mug of hot coffee to get you through a brisk winter’s day. If your skid-steer loader could talk, it would tell you the same. Filling up with the proper cold weather engine oil, coolant, hydraulic oil and fuel minimizes maintenance problems.

  • Engine oil – You’ll need an engine oil viscosity that matches the temp outside. A 10W-30 is a common factory-fill that performs down to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. For better cold weather starting and lubrication, use a 5W-40 synthetic oil. They typically protect down to 40 below.
  • Engine coolant – Antifreeze is just as important for your skid-steer loader as it is for your car or truck. Test it and top it off before work begins.
  • Hydraulic oilSynthetic blends provide good cold weather fluidity. Depending on where you live, you may need a high-performance hydraulic lubricant. They’re custom blended to give you peak flow in subzero temps.
  • Diesel fuel – In extreme cold, diesel fuel will gel. Normally, a No. 2 grade diesel fuel may be fine, but you will want to switch to an alternative diesel fuel if an extended cold snap is coming your way. If the temperature will be above 15 degrees F, you can use 100 percent Grade 2-D fuel. For temperatures down to -5, use 50 percent Grade 2-D fuel and 50 percent Grade 1-D fuel. Switch to 100 percent Grade 1-D fuel for temperatures below -5 F.

 

Your Operation & Maintenance Manual has a recommendation for the oils, fluids and fuels specific to your machine and cold weather conditions. Double-check your loader manual before you change fluids to match the season.

2. Fill up cold tires.

Remember that experiment from science class where the balloon shrinks from the cold? The same thing happens to your tires. When the temperature drops, so does the air pressure. Cold weather also makes the rubber go stiff. If you notice your tires sagging after a dip in temp, fill them up to capacity. Repair any leaks suffered in the busy season. A small leak or nail in the tire is easy to put off in warmer weather – you may only have to fill your tire once a week. In winter, once a week can turn into once a day. You’ll eliminate a lot of wasted time and ensure that low tire pressure doesn’t sap your pushing and lifting power throughout the day.

3. Charge the battery.

It takes a little longer to get going in the mornings when it’s cold – for both you and your loader. You layer up and crank the heat to power through, only to find your skid-steer can’t even power on. Freezing temps force your skid-steer loader’s battery to crank twice as hard to turn over, deliver fuel to the engine and start up. Before the next project or snowfall, run a load test and check wires and connections for wear or corrosion. Even a small defect can result in a loss of cranking amps, leaving you with a dead battery and freezing your project.

4. Check the cab comfort features.

Your mom never let you go out into the cold without a stocking cap. Smart woman. Freezing temps are no time to test your toughness. Don’t let your skid-steer leave the garage without checking everything that keeps the cab warm. Inspect the door and window seals to make sure heat won’t escape. Test that the heating, defogging and defrosting systems are all working. If any of those systems goes out on the job, it will make for a long, uncomfortable day for you or another operator.

5. Prep commonly used attachments.

You dreaded shoveling as a kid. Digging out of a snowstorm meant hours of back-breaking labor – and less fun in the snow. If only you had a skid-steer loader back then. With the right attachment, a loader transforms into a snow removal machine.

Attachments deserve the same attention as the loader itself. Inspect the hoses, cylinders and guards, cutting blades and edges for signs of wear or damage. If the attachment requires hydraulic fluid or lubrication, check the levels before you head out into the cold. This is especially important for snow removal attachments that have been collecting dust in your garage since spring.

Construction projects don’t shut down for three months just because it’s a little chilly. Sure, the weather plays a bigger role. But many jobs move along as if winter never came. Talk to your dealer about the preventive maintenance steps and snow removal attachments you need to keep your machine from taking a snow day.

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