Winter Maintenance Checklist
When the temperatures drop and the winter months officially arrive, many tree services find themselves with a little more time on their hands. If you’re fortunate enough to live in the warm weather southern states then you may not experience a decline in jobs scheduled like some of your northern friends. Regardless, each business needs to make time for maintenance and preventative care. Winter is the perfect option for many businesses when the workload tapers off or they shift to another focus such as snow removal.
It never hurts to have a checklist. Whether you’re going to the grocery store and picking up items for that big meal with the in-laws or it’s that time of the year that you need to pay a little attention to the equipment that makes you the money. Let’s face it. No one likes equipment breakdowns or being stuck waiting for a part to arrive. Some of the pitfalls can be avoided with regular maintenance, inspection and being prepared.
Inspecting your equipment in the winter can save some potential headaches in spring. Visual inspections before putting your equipment in storage is an important step in preventative care. Even small knicks or damaged blades can lead to rust or corrosion while sitting in storage in the winter months.
Inspect for dull blades (chippers, saws, etc.) and have the blades sharpened so the equipment is ready to use for the next job. Sharpened tools reduce unnecessary wear in the slower winter months and will save money in the long run. Do a walkaround and check hydraulic hoses and fittings which can be susceptible to cracking in cold conditions. Inspect belts for cracks or wear.
Look at the removable and moving components of machinery and inspect before use to make sure they are still in the same condition after storage. Some items to pay close attention to are blades, spark plugs, motor components and casing.
Now is the time to stock up on spare parts for your equipment. Keeping some common wearable parts or replacement parts on hand can ensure that you don’t have a lot of wasted downtime in the busier months. Some items you may want to consider keeping on hand for brush chippers would be knives, for stump grinders pick up extra teeth and pockets and in general, it’s a good idea to keep filters and fluids on hand for regular service needs and to perform filter and fluid changes before storing.
Check your tires. You may want to overinflate the tires to keep them from going flat during the time in storage. Disconnect batteries and move to a dry place where the temperature stays above 32 degrees for optimum care. Remove attachments that can be damaged by the cold and store them in a room temperature setting.
For annual inspections performed at dealerships, the slower winter months can be the perfect time to get those inspections scheduled. Dealers may be able to perform work quicker in the off-season leaving you to work full steam ahead in the busy months.
It may seem like common sense but keeping equipment and tools clean will prolong their life. Taking a little time to clean off sap or other residue before storing will save you time in the spring when things can pick up fast. Clean engine components, undercarriages and inside of cabs.
Safety is always important when cleaning and caring for equipment. Blades can be sharp, motorized parts and equipment can be dangerous. Be sure to disconnect power sources and spark plugs when cleaning equipment.
Remember the enemy of equipment storage is water. Any moisture that is left behind can cause corrosion as it freezes and thaws. Always wipe down tools and equipment and remove any excess liquid or residue.
Another important step in care and cleaning is lubrication. Chainsaws or other tools with moving parts, hinges, etc. may need to be oiled before storage. This can prevent equipment from seizing and can also reduce friction, protecting equipment from the cold temperatures.
If you have equipment that runs on fuel and you plan to store it, make sure to dump the fuel or add stabilizer. Before storing, make sure the lines are cleared. Leaving gas in your equipment can cause freezing or clogging of the fuel lines and possibly more damage.
Fuel can be disposed of at your local waste management facility. If you have a large amount of fuel and don’t want to waste it, you can add a stabilizer to preserve the fuel and prevent oxidation. Stabilizers can add up to 2 years of shelf life for your fuel but are best used for one season.
Keep these tips handy for the winter season and you should be up and running with fewer delays when the busy starts again.