As we touched on briefly in previous articles, making sure the fluids in your winter machines are in top condition is just as important as performing preventative maintenance checks on the outside.
Find out what you need to know about fluid checks, as well as what mistakes you can know about now and avoid later on when prepping your equipment to take on the winter weather.
To help give your machines more of a fighting chance this winter, Matthew Banach, senior director of marketing for Gold Eagle Company, recommends landscapers turn to STA-BIL fuel stabilizer.
Originally founded for use in boats and lawn equipment, STA-BIL is a fuel stabilizer that Banach says has been around for 60 years and helps keep systems clean and fuel fresh and burnable for a longer period of time.
“Of the gas you buy today, 98 percent is E-10, which is 10 percent ethanol and the rest regular gasoline,” says Banach. “The engine will run fine on it, but you’re putting more oxygen in the fuel and that’s what makes it go bad quicker. The old fuel you’d buy would stay fresh for about 90 days when they made it; now, it’s about 30 days, depending on the quality of the fuel.”
For a landscaper, Banach admits that it might not be the biggest problem because they typically use a large amount of fuel in a timely manner.
However, Banach says what STA-BIL has run into is that before people think about using STA-BIL in the gas tank on their mower or other equipment, they don’t think about how long the gas has been in the gas tank. Before it’s even used, Banach says that gas could have gone bad, but users proceed to pour it into the machine, which results in the machine not running properly.
According to Banach, using STA-BIL when the fuel is fresh going into the winter season is really “cheap insurance” you will have to make sure that piece is going to start next year.
“Traditionally, people use it only for storage, but with the advent of ethanol-blended fuel, a lot of people, especially in high humidity environments, run STA-BIL all the time to minimize ethanol fuel issues in their equipment,” says Banach. “What we’ve found over the years is that people think about it as, this is for my mower, this is for my car, this is for my weed wacker, but at the end of the day, gas is gas and no matter what you put in, you’re going to have a similar issue.”
Banach says when landscapers are using this product, it’s recommended for use when filling up their gas can. Right from the start, Banach says to add a little bit of STA-BIL into it, so every time you fill up you know you have good gas.
“If you treat your gas when it’s fresh, not only are you treating it when it’s freshest, no matter what you put the gas in, it’s treated,” says Banach. “If you’re running through the season and maybe you don’t use a specific edger that much, you know you’ve filled that equipment up with stabilized fuel, so all you have to do is just top it off a little bit.”
All three experts agree that when it comes to this sort of maintenance, it’s much better, in the long run, to be proactive in your practices instead of reactive.
“Ethanol is harsh on your equipment,” says Banach. “The equipment is designed to run it, but it’s harsh on it. If you’re running an ethanol treatment, it’s just better for your fuel system.”
Mistakes to avoid
The biggest mistakes Doug Clark, product manager for Western Products, says he’s noticed are not making sure your hydraulic system isn’t leaking and not checking that your electrical connections are working. Clark says in his experience, if these mistakes don’t bite you immediately, they will bite you down the line.
“When the hydraulics go and the electrics go, your plow doesn’t work, your starter doesn’t work; you’re done,” says Clark. “If you don’t make sure these elements are working, you’re going to get yourself into a plow down situation at some point.”
For Tyler Jones, product manager at Fisher Engineering, the biggest mistake he’s noticed overall is that people look at the maintenance process as a chicken or egg analogy. They fix the egg (symptom), a belt is blown, so they put a new belt on it, but instead, they really need to dig into the root cause of the issue.
“If your cutting edge isn’t wearing even or if you’re replacing a cutting edge that’s only worn on the outside end, then you really should be looking at how your plow’s adjusted and how your vehicle is configured and address that issue,” says Jones. “Don’t just fix the symptom and move on because ultimately, the point of all of this is efficiency.”