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Best Practices: Engine Maintenance During the Winter

By Ron Snyder

National Service & Warranty Manager at Takeuchi 

For the health of your Takeuchi machine, it is crucial to have and follow winter checklists for both long-term storage and continued utilization. Our guidelines below apply to all engines.

Maintenance Checklist for Storage

For starters, make sure to check your service intervals and perform the next preventive maintenance procedure for the engine. For example, if your machine has 450 hours on it and the next maintenance interval is 500 hours, the 500-hour maintenance should be performed. This is only needed if you are close to the next interval.

Following the preventive maintenance (if needed), check coolant quality and replenish or replace as required. It is recommended to flush the engine coolant and fill with long-life coolant. If the machine is equipped with a coolant heater, ensure that the system is functioning properly.

The next step is to drain the old fuel and used engine oil hydraulic oil and replace with fresh fuel and oil. You will want to completely fill the fuel tank. Also make sure before putting in new oil to replace the filters. Then run the engine after new oil is added for five minutes to allow the oil to circulate through the crankcase and internal moving parts.

Use the recommended oil that your engine needs for the ambient temperature. Using incorrect engine oil may cause premature plugging of the diesel particulate filter (DPF). In addition, the engine air cleaner element should be replaced once per year. Visually check for cracks, leaks or anything unusual with the air induction system.

Before storing your machine, be sure to follow the guidelines on cleaning a machine found in your operator’s manual. These include removing any dirt, excess oil and grease on the machine. Be sure to protect the air cleaner and electrical components from damage when using steam or high-pressure water to clean. During cleaning, check the machine for oil leaks, coolant leaks, cracks and loose bolts and nuts. Tighten or repair as necessary. 

For attachments, lower to the ground and apply grease to all exposed hydraulic cylinders. If possible, fully retract all bucket and lift cylinders so rod exposure is minimized and grease with rust-inhibiting oil any areas that remain exposed. Also, apply grease to all pivot areas and/or grease fittings.

The battery should be disconnected from the machine to prevent the battery from draining, but ensure the engine has completed its shutdown procedure. Turning the main battery power off to the engine and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) after-treatment system prior to completion can damage the system or cause it to malfunction. In addition, check the charge of the battery once per month during storage and recharge it as necessary. 

When the machine is in long-term storage, some proactive maintenance will help ensure it does not rust. Run the engine once a month for about five minutes under no load. However, do not operate the machine in an enclosed area without adequate ventilation. If the engine is stored without any running time, moisture in the air may condense into dew over the sliding parts of the engine, resulting in rust. 

If the machine has been stored for more than one year, replace the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF)/ADBlue or SCR malfunctions can occur. 

Lastly, you will want to store fuels, lubricants, grease and DEF in the prescribed places and in such a way that no water or dirt can get in them.

Checklist for Utilizing Your Machine in Winter

Similar to storing your machine, the steps for managing coolant in the winter are the exact same. However, one extra step is to review the operator’s manual to ensure you select a coolant adequate to protect the engine in what can be harsh winter conditions.

Should you plan on utilizing your machine in the winter months, a key consideration is the right oil viscosity. Check with your local lube oil supplier or OEM, or review guidelines in your operator’s manual for specific lubrication requirements.

For ambient temperatures below 14 degrees Fahrenheit, it is best to use winter ready ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel. Diesel fuel specification type and sulfur content used must be compliant with the applicable emission regulations for the area in which the engine is being operated.

DEF

DEF will freeze below 23 degrees Fahrenheit. When storing equipment overnight or in temperatures where DEF can freeze, we recommend not filling the DEF tank completely. This will allow for the fluid to expand when it freezes and prevent the tank from cracking. Even if DEF freezes in the machine storage tanks, the engine is not affected at its startup and running.

The machine and engine system are equipped to quickly convert frozen DEF to a liquid state that allows injection into the exhaust system when needed. If the DEF is frozen, the DPF regeneration cannot be performed. In this case, wait until the tank defrosts—your control system will indicate if DEF is frozen—Once the engine and diesel exhaust after treatment system are at the necessary temperatures, exhaust regeneration will resume.

To avoid evaporation, store DEF in tightly sealed containers it was originally purchased in. If a different container is used, be sure that it is an appropriate container for storage and handling DEF. The containers should be stored in an indoor, temperature-controlled environment.

The storage life of DEF varies — see your supplier’s specification — but to maintain its qualities up to 12 months the fluid should be stored away from direct sunlight and in an indoor storage that is between 12 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. If any fluid other than the specified DEF or specified qualities is used, it may damage the SCR system.

Whether you continue to operate your machine or store it away for the winter months, make sure to keep a maintenance checklist around and check off each step. With the right procedures in place, you can be assured that your machine will fire up when spring comes around.

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Our own Lee Padgett introduces our new TL10V2 vertical lift track loader.

Best Practices: Engine Maintenance During the Winter

For the health of your Takeuchi machine, it is crucial to have and follow winter checklists for both long-term storage and continued utilization.

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At Takeuchi, we are dedicated to providing parts support and cost savings to all of our customers.