Operating an aerial lift in cold weather is no fun for your operators and your aerial lift can be negatively impacted as well!
Slow hydraulic operation along with those creaks and groans you hear from both the aerial lift and your operators are not indicators of top performance.
To ensure a long life and optimum performance on the job site let’s look at ways to prepare your aerial lift for cold weather operation. Then we’ll take care of your freezing operators.
PREP YOUR MOVING COMPONENTS
Water can seep through seals and brushings on your aerial lift. That water, once frozen, can easily damage the moving parts of your machine. Use a low-temperature lubricant to grease all the moving components. It’ll reduce that chance of water getting into the sensitive areas of your aerial lift.
CHECK YOUR BATTERIES
Make sure your battery will function in cold weather. Check the amperage and voltage capacity - found in the owner’s manual - and for the ability to operate in cold temperatures.
Keep the batteries charged. Discharged batteries and batteries with low acid levels will freeze more easily.
CONSIDER USING SPECIALTY ENGINE OIL
If you’ll be operating in extremely cold temperatures, you may want to consider switching to a cold climate oil designed for sub-zero temperatures. Your typical oil will lose stability as the temperature drops.
Cold climate oils come in synthetic and non-synthetic options. While synthetic may last longer, use caution when switching to synthetic from your usual oil. You may experience leaks, weeping around hydraulic cylinder seals, and lower life expectancy from pump seals.
Take care to pick a lower oil viscosity that will remain stable in cold temperature ranges. What is viscosity and how does it relate to temperature? Viscosity is the thickness of a substance. For example: molasses has a high viscosity. The cold temperature increases the viscosity of your oil (thickening the liquid) which makes it more difficult to flow through the engine. That’s why you’ll want to look for a low viscosity oil which is thinner and flows more easily.
LOOK INTO COLD WEATHER PACKAGES
Many aerial lift manufacturers offer cold weather packages for your equipment. These packages include a variety of items hand-picked to improve your aerial lift’s cold weather operation. A typical cold weather package could feature any of the following options:
- Full synthetic engine oil
- Battery blanket
- Oil pan heater
- Freeze plug heater
- Hydraulic reservoir blanket
- Auxiliary power unit battery blanket
WARM UP YOUR AERIAL LIFT BEFORE COLD WEATHER OPERATION
Giving your equipment time to warm up allows the oil to flow through the system and heat up the hydraulic components. It’ll help your engine and transmission to function better too.
If you need to accelerate the warm up process, a hydraulic oil heater will do the job. It uses heating elements that are inserted into the hydraulic oil tank and runs off your machine’s power. Getting the right size heater with the right amount of heating elements is essential, so you may want to refer to your aerial lift dealer.
WARM OPERATORS ARE HAPPY OPERATORS
Now that your aerial lift is properly prepared for the cold weather, let’s see what we can do for your operators.
For warmer and more productive personnel, platform heaters are an option. Keep in mind: they run off your machine’s power and they’ll add to the weight on the platform which means you’ll have to factor that added weight into your overall capacity calculations.
Preparing your aerial lift (and your operators) for cold weather operation translates to better performance on the job.
Read more on preparing your aerial lift for winter weather.