Construction sites run throughout the year, both in the cold and hot seasons. It’s winter, and we, inevitably, have to deal with the cold. However, the effects of cold are not limited to humans and animals. Caterpillar construction machines, despite their sturdy build, even regularly maintained with high grade Cat spares, are also affected by cold and bad weather.
The implications are diverse, as we about to find out…
Cold affects the battery.
Have you ever had a difficult time starting your machine on a freezing morning? The engine just coughs and stop. This is a result of a battered battery, due to low winter temperatures. In this case, the power on the battery is insufficient to start the engine. Low starting power is due to the drop in the battery’s efficiency.
The battery does more than usual in the winter. There is the rain, fog, and with the sun setting earlier, headlights are more frequently used. Much battery energy also goes into defrosting the already frozen machine.
How do you know a tired battery?
There are a few symptoms. If the machine is a new model, you will get a dashboard notification about a discharged battery. Otherwise, watch out for issues with the starting of the machine. In most cases, the headlights offer lesser illumination, and the light intensity even decreases when the machine is in use.
How do you fix this?
The simplest solution is a fully charged battery. Always ensure that your battery voltage is around 24 volts (a voltmeter is required). Watch out for the levels – complete very low levels with demineralized water.
Is the alternator affected?
It is important to note that the battery continues to power the electrical part of the construction machine even when at rest. However, this responsibility falls on the alternator once the engine starts running.
What this means is that a malfunctioning alternator can contribute to a poorly performing battery. For instance, if the alternator belt may retract. Watch out for a shrill sound during operations; it indicates a worn belt.
If your alternator is not delivering sufficient energy to power the battery, check and ensure that your alternator belt is in the best condition. The last resort, however, will be to change your alternator completely.
How does a pilot start help in starting your engine?
What a pilot start does is to start the engine immediately, even in the harshest weather situations. Although it is mostly used on cars, this aerosol works on construction, agricultural, and industrial machines. It is designed to work with all engine types. To use the pilot start, spray the inlet of the air filter quickly. The resulting mixture moves into the combustion chamber through the intake valve. Thus, the air and fuel mixture become more combustible, and the engine starts without delay.
Although the pilot start performs miraculously, it is not ideal for continuous use. Consider it a one-off hack to start your engine on those very cold winter mornings.
The coolant is a potential culprit.
The antifreeze properties in construction machinery coolants ensure that the liquid stays unfrozen, at least to a certain temperature. However, if the coolant is in use for a long time, the antifreeze properties diminish.
You can determine the glycol content of any coolant by withdrawing some of it from the radiator using a density meter. The graduated float gives the minimum temperature before freezing. The ideal coolant must be resistant to a temperature of -15 or -20 degrees.
Avoid raising the liquid level with the water, especially in the summer. Also, do not use coolants without antifreeze properties, because the cold will force the coolant to freeze at temperatures higher than the ranges suggested on the can.
The volume increases when the liquid becomes frozen, leading to possible cracks in the engine head, blockage in the water pump, and eventual bursting of the radiator. For best results, do not use your coolant for more than two or three years.
Do not leave out the engine oil, oil filter, and transmission oil.
The oil in your construction machine is not immune to the adverse effects of cold. While the oil does not freeze, the thickness increases, and fluidity decreases. Thus, the battery and starter motor become more stressed. If this happens, you need to change the oil filter and the engine oil.
The transmission oil is not left out – more thickness leads to transmission issues, thus, necessitating a regular change. For construction machines running in a very cold area, it is best to tune the viscosity of the engine oils, transmission oils, and grease.
How do you read an engine oil grade?
You will most likely see something like ‘20W50,’ ‘15W50,’ or ‘0W30.’ There are meanings to every figure or letter in the line.
The first number represents the cold viscosity. A lower viscosity number means more fluidity in cold weather.
The ‘W’ represents “Winter” for all-season oils.
The next figure after ‘W’ indicates the hot viscosity, which means, the ability of the oil not to liquefy or evaporate.
The hydraulic oils and equipment greases from oil tankers and manufacturers are specifically made to withstand extreme temperatures.
Go for protected fuel.
Low temperatures affect fuel. What you get from petroleum product distributors between November and mid-March are additive fuels. So, it is important to discard condensation water from your fuel tanks and filters. You do not want anything like an ice cube impeding fuel supply.
The body of the equipment is not left out.
Harsh weather conditions also affect the equipment as a whole. When the ground is frozen, it becomes more challenging to do earthworks. It is even more severe in regions where the ground is frozen deeper down, for instance, France.
In such cases, the steel of the equipment breaks on the ground. The resulting force shakes the cabins of the construction machinery.