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Maintaining Industrial Equipment in Cold Weather

Maintaining industrial equipment during the cold months is crucial to help it withstand the test of time and the weather. It's also an important way to keep those operating equipment safe; after all, safety should always come first. So, we've compiled this comprehensive guide on how to keep your machinery running smoothly in colder weather.

Understanding the impact of cold weather on machinery

Cold weather poses challenges for industrial equipment. The drop in temperature causes metals to contract, potentially leading to increased brittleness and a higher likelihood of fractures or failures in structural components. Lubricants tend to thicken and lose their efficacy, which can result in increased wear and tear or even the seizing of moving parts. Workers have a tough time moving around and getting a feel for the controls when they're all bundled up in safety gear, which can make working with machines harder. Choosing safety gear that makes moving easier whilst keeping operators safe is just one way to tweak maintenance plans so that everything keeps running smoothly and safely, even when it's really cold outside.

tractor in the snow

Implement a winter maintenance schedule

When winter rolls around, it's key to have a plan for keeping your gear in working condition. You'll want to check things out more often since the cold can throw a wrench in the works. Keep a close eye on things such as hydraulic lines that don't like the cold, batteries that give up the ghost faster, and tires that can become deflated. Staying on top of these can save you time, money and a lot of headaches and keep things running without a hitch, no matter how nippy it gets.

Choose the right lubricants

In cold weather, the viscosity of lubricants increases. Switch to low-temperature lubricants that maintain fluidity in colder conditions. Consult your equipment manuals for manufacturer-recommended products. Some equipment calls for food-grade lubricant, a specialised lubrication product designed to be safe for incidental contact with food, beverages, and packaging during processing in compliance with food safety standards.

Protect hydraulic systems

Hydraulic fluids can thicken in cold weather, causing slow or sluggish operation of machinery. Ensure your hydraulic systems are filled with a fluid appropriate for the temperatures you expect to encounter. Vickerlube FG Food Grade Hydraulic & Compressor Fluid, for example, is a high-performance, 20-litre blend of white oils enhanced with additives to deliver superior wear resistance and extreme pressure (EP) properties for most modern hydraulic and circulating systems. Its formulation is ideal for low-loaded bearings, low-temperature gearboxes, valve lubrication, and variable-speed drives requiring low viscosity. It’s H1 registered, so it’s safe for incidental food contact and is certified for Halal and Kosher food processing, adhering to ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 21469 standards.

Ensure proper storage

Keeping your kit somewhere you can control the climate is the best way to avoid issues like rust and parts breaking down because of the weather. If you have equipment that just won't fit inside, make sure to throw a tough, protective tarpaulin cover over it. This will keep the rain, snow, and ice off it and stop them from affecting it over time. Wrapping up your equipment properly helps keep it looking good and working great for longer.

Educate operators on cold weather practices

Educate machine operators on the unique challenges of operating machinery in cold weather. These include proper warm-up procedures and understanding how the cold can affect machinery response times.

Safeguard electronic components

Make sure to keep all your electronic bits and pieces dry and away from extreme cold temperatures, as they can break down in those conditions. If needed, throw in some heaters to keep everything at a steady, warm temperature.

Perform regular inspections

Inspect equipment more often in winter. Pay attention to signs of wear, especially on parts critical for winter operation, like heating elements or defrosting systems and act as soon as you spot something.

Invest in quality cold-weather equipment

Consider investing in equipment specifically designed for cold weather use. This might include special alloys for metal components, cold-resistant hydraulic hoses, and electrical systems designed to handle temperature extremes

Regular cleaning and removal of ice and snow

Carefully remove any accumulated snow or ice from or around machinery by brushing it off with a snow brush or shovel. This prevents potential physical damage and reduces the risk of moisture entering the machine. It's important to keep on top of clearing snow and ice from your machines. If you don't, they can cause serious damage and stop things from working correctly. When snow and ice melt, they can sneak inside your machinery and cause rust or other moisture-related problems. Regularly brushing off these cold culprits helps to keep your equipment in great shape, both outside and in. This way, you'll ensure everything runs smoothly and lasts longer, without moisture causing issues.

Update emergency and first aid kits

Make sure your first aid and emergency response kits are up-to-date and include cold-weather-specific items such as thermal blankets and hand warmers. Thermal blankets or emergency foil blankets can retain body heat in the event of exposure to freezing temperatures, and hand warmers can prevent frostbite during prolonged outdoor activities. It's also wise to stock up on wind-resistant lighters, waterproof matches, and emergency flares for warmth and signalling. Checking the expiration dates of medical supplies and updating these kits can be life-saving in a cold-induced emergency.

Plan for emergency breakdowns

Despite all precautions, breakdowns can occur. Have a plan in place for emergency maintenance, including having spare parts on hand and knowing the contact information for your local repair service.

Review and adjust as necessary

You should constantly check that your maintenance plan for the cold months is working. If something's not quite right, or the weather throws you a curveball, don't be afraid to tweak things. Keep your routine flexible so your industrial equipment stays in good shape.

By following these tips, businesses can ensure their industrial equipment remains in top condition throughout the winter months, minimising the risk of breakdowns and keeping their operations up and running. Stay proactive, and your machinery will thank you with reliable service year-round.

A warm welcome

Explore our treasure trove of insights and solutions on our website, and delve into our diverse range of blog posts for invaluable advice and top tips. For personalised guidance, Mark and Stuart from our Technical Sales Support are happy to help. Call 0808 258 3091 or email [email protected] for tailored support to transform how you navigate the winter weather.

Photograph of Debs

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Digital marketer, social media, content writer, musician, sloth-lover, tea-drinker.