Breaking it down: Taking a look at individual machine prep

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Photo: FisherPhoto: Fisher

Yesterday, we explored the ins and outs of proper cleaning and preventive maintenance when prepping machines for winter. Now, we’re going to take a closer look at specific tasks that should be performed on specific machines.

Loaders and plowsEditor's Note: Updated As Of December 3, 2020, To Reflect Most Current Information

When looking at maintenance for loaders, Tyler Jones, product manager at Fisher Engineering, says you will need to check the tires and make sure they are appropriate for the application.

“A lot of times, turf-type tires or worn-out tires impede the efficiency of a loader significantly,” says Jones. “Aside from making sure it’s full of hydraulic oil and has wiper blades, people need to be budgeting to get decent tires.”

When working with snowplows, Jones says there are the obvious things to look for, such as cutting edges and necessary pins, but beyond the obvious is taking time to inspect the electrical system.

“As plow motors get worn and aged, they start to run more inefficiently and subsequently draw more electricity off the truck,” says Jones. “So, it’s a really basic tool, but any kind of multimeter is used and it will determine what the amp draw is from a pump motor.”

Jones says the typical large plow will range in the high two hundreds (280) amp. Overall, Jones says it’s a good idea to know what the amp draw is onTlc Part Two Of Three a new plow because they will vary from one plow to another. But, he adds, make sure you know what it is when it’s new so that every season you can check the amperage draw and see at what rate that motor’s degenerating.

Jones says not a lot of people think to check this, which is why so many motors are burned up when they are out plowing. Special emphasis should be placed on the motor.

Since a good bit of snow plowing takes place at night, Jones also highly recommends making sure all the lights are checked, fully functioning and aren’t cut or damaged.

“Sometimes, they can be working, but if you don’t actually look at it, you could have exposed wires that are corroded but still functioning,” says Jones.

Hoppers and spreaders

Maintenance for hoppers and spreaders, Jones says, is pretty straightforward, but in his experience, these machines tend to be the most neglected tool.

“They are obviously subject to extreme corrosion,” says Jones. “There’s electric operated, gas-operated and hydraulic operated spreaders, but they all will go down if corroded. The message for spreaders is to put them away clean and ready to go. Just getting it working is not good enough, but that’s what a lot of people do. They make sure it runs and turns, but they need to make sure that it works at the proper speed, that it’s calibrated and that it’s operating at a level similar to when it was new.”

Vehicles

When checking your vehicles, Jones notes that the cooling systems are especially important to examine.

“A good thing to do for preventative maintenance is flushing your coolant system properly,” says Jones. “Antifreeze has to be mixed depending on what type of climate you’re in to maximize cooling efficiency. Making sure that that is clean and really calibrated to the type of climate you’re in is important.”

Other aspects to note are the steering and ball joints. Oftentimes, Jones says people will complain that they wear out the front-end parts of their truck when they put a plow on it frequently.

While Jones says that’s not completely untrue, there are things that can help prolong front-end parts on trucks. Using balanced weight is a huge one, according to Jones, and should be planned well in advance and  “used religiously.”

“In essence, when you have weight on the front of the truck and not enough in the back, you have the front drivetrain doing the majority of the pushing and labor when plowing,” says Jones. “It’s really only designed to take a lesser portion of that workload, so you invert all of how the truck’s powertrain is designed when you don’t have sufficient weight on the rear end.”

One aspect that applies to both trucks and plows is headlight aiming, which Jones says not many people remember in a pinch. When carrying loaded hoppers and spreaders, Jones says since the machine is mounted so far back, it can actually change the dynamics of a vehicle and can cause the headlights to point up in the air. Or if they are adjusted for carrying a loaded hopper, once that hopper’s empty, the lights could be pointed at the ground.

“A good tip is to have your hopper half loaded and adjust your headlights per the specifications so you can be in an optimal position between a loaded or an empty set up,” says Jones.

Check back tomorrow for part 3 of this series, where we’ll look at the importance of fuel checks and winter prep mistakes to avoid. 

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