Winter is Coming: A Few Simple Steps to Prepare

Winter is coming and there are a few things you can do to protect your investments when it comes to material handling.

A diesel engine relies on compression and the heat associated with compression in order for the fuel being injected into your engine’s cylinders to combust. Upon combustion, the piston in the cylinder is forced down, therefore causing the engine’s crankshaft to turn. This process occurs in a timed fashion across all of your engine’s cylinders and keeps your engine running. Once running, the engine runs more efficiently as the engine temperature rises.

On a cold day, the heat from the compression in the cylinders may not be warm enough to ignite the fuel. This is why diesel engines are equipped with glow plugs. The purpose of the glow plug is to heat fuel being injected into the cylinder in order to create instant combustion during cold weather.

glow-plugYou’ve probably seen an indicator light on the dash panel of a diesel equipped piece of equipment that reads “Wait to Start” or perhaps an icon that looks like a little heating element. This is reminding you to wait to crank your engine until the glow plugs heat up. Once the glow plugs are hot, much like the heating element in a toaster, a timed relay will cause the indicator to go off to let you know that it is okay to crank your engine.

When the glow plugs start to get fouled or fail, your engine may not start or be hard to start, which can lead to excessive and premature wear on your equipment’s starting system. This no-start or hard-start condition could lead to operators taking the matter into their own hands by using starting aids, such as ether. Please know that this is never recommended, as internal engine damage is most likely to occur. It may or may not present itself immediately, but is washing your engine’s cylinder walls of needed lubricant and damaging the piston rings, which are necessary for the aforementioned compression. In some cases the ether can cause a cylinder to fire before its timed stroke and can cause immediate damage such as bent piston connecting rods (see featured photo). Inspection of and potential replacement of your glow plugs can save costly repairs further down the road.

antifreezeIn addition to the glow plug inspection, it is also necessary to check your equipment’s Coolant, aka Antifreeze, whether you have a diesel, gasoline, or liquefied petroleum (LP) engine. Coolant, typically a mixture of water and ethylene glycol, not only keeps your investment from overheating on those hot summer days, but does what its alias implies and keeps your engine from freezing.

A simple, inexpensive check is recommended to ensure your Antifreeze has the proper mixture to protect against freezing. Over time, ethylene glycol can break down due to rust and other debris in your cooling system and lose its effectiveness which leaves the mixture water dominant. Not only can the water-dominant mixture freeze, it also loses its ability to lubricate seals and rubber hoses, causing cracked hoses and leaking seals. As water freezes, it expands, and can lead to excess pressure in the radiator and/or passageways of your cylinder heads and engine block which can lead to costly cracks or damaged gasket material.

clearcapNow that we covered a couple of important winterization items, let us mention a great way of protecting your most important investment…your Operator. Protect them from the elements of winter by adding a ClearCap to your Lift Truck. A ClearCap is a polycarbonate cap that can be installed to the overhead guard of your lift. It offers shelter and has ribs and gutters to direct rain water away from the operator. A dry operator is a warmer, happier operator. It provides UV protection yet does not restrict the operator’s visibility like makeshift methods of shelter do. So keep those old pieces of plywood and cardboard off of your lift with a ClearCap installation.

Please contact your local CFE Equipment Corporation branch for more details and have a safe and warm winter!

-Michael Horkey