Preventive Maintenance Steps to Take for Utility Equipment Before Winter

By Emily Newton

Winter is often considered the worst time to work in the water and sewer industry. Cold temperatures cause pipes to break, leading to endless queues of emergency calls from panicked homeowners as their homes slowly flood with icy water. Worse still are the frozen sewer lines, causing waste to back up into the house or leak into the surrounding area. It is essential to be prepared for these occurrences before temperatures start to drop and emergency calls start flooding in.

Follow this preventive maintenance checklist to ensure everything is ready for the upcoming winter season.

1. Complete Frequent Inspections

Most modern equipment will have some sort of warning light or alert that informs you when something is going wrong. This can be useful for sudden failures, but waiting for the light to turn on before you address any problems is a recipe for disaster.

Instead of waiting for things to fail, each piece of equipment should be subjected to regular and frequent inspections. Sometimes, just giving each item a once-over can make it easier to prevent equipment failures from taking your equipment offline.

Opt for cursory inspections before the start of each shift, and before the start of each new job if a particular piece of equipment is being problematic. Even something as simple as a visual inspection can make all the difference if something is starting to fail before it begins to prevent other symptoms.

2. Check the Manuals

Each piece of equipment will come with a user manual, often including a maintenance schedule that details when a piece needs to be taken offline for regular inspections and maintenance. Once you understand the day-to-day operations of a piece, it’s easy to disregard the information that these manuals provide. However, disregarding the manufacturer-recommended maintenance schedule will end up resulting in problems.

In this case, it’s really as simple as reading the manual and implementing the schedule provided. Each manufacturer will provide a schedule that will help you keep your equipment running.

3. Test and Maintain Emergency Generators

Emergency generators will be essential in any situation where flooding makes it dangerous to keep the home’s power on. It may also become necessary if there are frozen or broken pipes in homes where winter weather has caused the local power grid to fail. Before they’re necessary, take the time to carefully inspect, test, and maintain any emergency generators that are part of your tool arsenal.

This will include but isn’t limited to checking and changing all fluids, inspecting belts for signs of undue wear, and ensuring the generator starts easily and runs smoothly whenever necessary.

The same sort of maintenance and testing can and should apply to anything that functions with an internal combustion engine, from generators to fleet vehicles and everything in between. Take special care with used equipment or those with lots of operational hours. When buying used, be sure it’s a dealer that stands behind their refurbished or remanufactured goods to ensure your assets keep working all winter long.

4. Apply or Reapply Rust Inhibitors

Regardless of how well a piece of equipment is maintained, if it is made of metal and exposed to water — which is likely when working on broken or frozen pipes — it is susceptible to corrosion and rust. Before the winter season begins, take the time to apply or reapply rust inhibitors to any equipment this is likely to be exposed to water during the winter season.

Rust inhibitors come in a variety of forms, from permanent powder coats that adhere to the exterior of the device, to lubricants that need to be applied regularly to prevent water exposure from causing oxidation. Choose the ones that are best for your situation. If you opt for single-use inhibitors, ensure they are reapplied before each shift.

Reapply Grease and Lubricants

Speaking of lubricants, before the winter weather creeps in is the perfect time to reapply grease and other lubricants to ensure everything with moving parts will function properly, especially during the cold winter months. Keep in mind that cold weather will cause grease to harden up and seize, leaving you struggling to keep up with demand.

Companies that operate in areas that experience extremely low temperatures should take steps to ensure that all lubricants, greases, and oils used in their equipment are rated for those temperatures. Look for viscosity modifiers or labels that indicate that the grease or oil will function as intended in cold weather.

5. Monitor Lines for Leakage

Water lines aren’t the only things that might leak once the temperature starts to fall. Hydraulic and pneumatic lines are also prone to leakage when the weather starts to change. As part of your regular inspections, ensure these lines are being monitored closely for signs of leakage or failure. They should also be inspected to ensure that all the connection points are secure and there are no signs of rust or damage on any of the lines.

A leaky line might not seem like the end of the world until you find yourself on a job site unable to complete a task because a vital piece of equipment is failing.

6. Consider Bringing in Manufacturer Services

We’ve already mentioned reading the owner’s manual, but that may not cover all the bases. Some manufacturers may offer maintenance and repair services, at a premium cost, to help you ensure everything you’re going to need is ready to go when the first emergency calls start flooding in.

This can be a valuable resource if you don’t keep a trained maintenance crew on staff, or have a specialized piece of equipment that is challenging to maintain and difficult to repair. These services are akin to taking a car back to the dealership to be serviced. If this is part of your plan, make sure you schedule your appointments early so you aren’t competing with other companies that might be trying to do the same thing to get ready before the winter season starts.

Be Ready for Anything This Winter

It can be hard to predict what Mother Nature might do during any given winter season, but that is no excuse to enter the cold months unprepared. These preventive maintenance steps can keep your fleet and all your equipment moving forward no matter how cold it is outside.

Emily Newton is a construction and industrial journalist. She is also the Editor-in-Chief for Revolutionized Magazine. Keep up with Emily by following her by subscribing to the Revolutionized Newsletter.

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