Your warehouse equipment will take care of your business, your customers, and the goods for which you share a responsibility. No different from the flesh-and-blood workers who operate it, environmental stress can and will break it down and cut its lifetime usefulness short without timely, seasonally appropriate TLC to stave off the grind of the elements.
Most wouldn’t think of rugged, inanimate steel as being necessarily fragile, but winter weather can prove especially beastly to even the strongest materials. Constant moisture, daily freeze-thaw cycles, and the corrosive nature of salt scattered to melt down ice can all wreak havoc on machinery over the course of a single season, let alone year after year of laboring through ice, snow, and slush. Below are some things to check so that your equipment can always be in good condition when you need it most.
Coolant and Oil
Before and after winter sets in, it benefits oil flow to match its weight and viscosity with the outdoor temperature. A low-viscosity engine or hydraulic oil will always flow faster in winter than a heavier oil that has simply been given extra time to flow through equipment after turning it on.
An ideal 50/50 ratio of coolant and water will guarantee you engines start and run dependably, but the coldest climates may very well call for a 70/30 mix to reliably prevent freezing. Overdoing it on the water can actually increase the chances of a freeze. On the other hand, excess coolant might overwork your water pump until the stress breaks it down once and for all. Once you have a bead on an optimal mixture, make extra-sure your radiator cap maintains correct pressure and that the radiator itself is filled to the top.
Keep a Clean House
This should hold up as a year-round priority, but given the slip hazards winter precipitation can cause, particularly when frozen, and the way dirt and debris interact unpredictably with ice, snow, and slush, keeping workspaces tidy may never be more crucial to general safety.
Dirt tracked in with wet feet can spread and slowly accumulate inside machinery. Nothing good ever comes of that. It’s time to take extra care of floors, aisles, and dock areas in particular by sweeping up dust, dirt, and spills steadily throughout the day. Again, it should absolutely be a matter of common sense, but used shrink wrap or packing materials should find the garbage bins immediately.
Remember that your forklift drivers always need clear aisles to maneuver safely, Pallets and products belong properly stored out of harm’s way and conscientious employees shouldn’t waste any time organizing and restoring fallen items. Finally, few housekeeping chores should come before keeping your high-traffic dock area free from any lingering clutter, including dirt and leaves that can build up starting in late fall.
Make a habit of double-checking your batteries’ electrolyte levels starting early in the season and make a habit of keeping them topped off to their indicated optimal levels especially throughout the coldest months. While you’re at it, that regularly scheduled task can provide a convenient reminder to also test each battery’s current and the state of alternators. Terminals should always remain free of from rust and debris. Otherwise, you risk a slow drain down to a prematurely dead battery. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with removing batteries entirely when fairly certain they won’t see much use for a while and storing them within a designated building or warehouse.
Tires and Fuel
When rubber freezes, it contracts. That dramatically lowers air pressure. Check and refill tires regularly and keep an eye on worn-out treads. If your tires can’t find any traction on slick surfaces, you have an accident waiting to happen. For the record, when feasible, track-mounted equipment alleviates both concerns entirely.
Fuel tanks should always remain full, in order to avoid frozen condensation building up inside them and along fuel lines. Several fairly inexpensive fuel treatments will thaw frozen filters when added to fuel or diesel receptacles while liquefying fuel itself and eliminating moisture. That being said, always keep extra filters around for those unexpected overnight freezes between treatments. Contact an equipment company like Independent Lift Truck of Alaska if you have questions.
Stay on top of your machinery’s needs from the moment the first flakes fall, and it will always do right by you when you need it. Neglect the toll plummeting mercury can take, and you never know when it will teach you a lesson in the virtues of good maintenance the hardest way possible, costing you a bundle in down-time, repairs, and replacement along the way.