Cold weather does funny things to construction equipment. If you plan to
operate your skid steer throughout the winter, here are a few tips to
keep in mind when preparing for cold weather. There are many cold
starting options for skid steers, including glow plugs, block heaters,
grid heaters and starting fluid (ether). We recommend and build glow
plugs into our skid steers, which are more efficient at heating the
cylinders for better starts. Other solutions will work as well, but it’s
important to note that ether can be particularly harsh on the engine if
If you do have a skid steer with glow plugs, do not turn the engine
until the glow plug indicator on your control panel has gone out. That
light indicates that it is still heating and is only ready to crank when
the light goes out. The battery is another critical factor. Perform a
load test on the battery before the cold weather hits to ensure it
operates at full strength under load. A strong battery will have
sufficient amps to crank the starter in cold temperatures. Replace a
weak battery before getting caught short. Keep a trickle charge on the
battery if necessary to ensure it remains fully charged and ready to
crank the engine. Perhaps equally as important is the location of the
battery. Battery placement closer to the starter allows for a shorter
battery cable and less draw on the battery.
Some skid steer models also offer a master electrical shut-off switch
(standard on Case machines). This prevents any draw from occurring when
sitting idle — important during winter months. It’s important to check
both the level and the condition of engine coolant, which lowers the
freezing point of water-based liquid. Ensure the coolant is at the
proper level and that the mixture matches the manufacturer’s
specifications. The coolant system should also be pressure-tested.
Lighter viscosity engine/hydraulic oil is typically recommended during
winter months. It allows the oil to flow more quickly to the engine when
it’s cold-started. Specially formulated engine and hydraulic oils are
also available for operation in the northernmost regions with extremely
cold temperatures (Canada, Alaska, the U.S. northern plains). Users
should consult manufacturers’ recommendations when selecting coolants
and oils for winter operation. Companies that plan on operating
throughout the winter should also top off the fuel tank at the end of
each day to prevent condensation.
Keeping all grease points well greased helps keep out moisture and dirt
and prevents rust, freezing and seizing. These points should be checked
daily. If you do plan periodic use throughout the winter, but do not
intend on shutting it down completely, make sure to take the machine out
and exercise it every couple of weeks to get all of the fluids moving
and to ensure all systems are working.
Are you shutting down till spring? Your operator’s manual will provide
you with a very specific procedure for shutting down your skid steer for
the winter. Each model is different — especially as machines evolve
from carbureted to fuel injection systems. Follow these procedures to
the letter and you’ll be ready for the thaw.
Warren Anderson is a brand marketing manager with Case Construction Equipment, based in, Racine, Wis.