Exercising your equipment shouldn’t be a one-and-done effort prior to the start of the season. Making sure equipment fires up and attachments are functioning properly should be a regular operational check between storms - especially if a light winter grounds your fleet and your team for extended periods of time.
Even though equipment maintenance should have been completed prior to the season, keeping an eye on the details can have a major positive effect on equipment operations and typically at a minimal cost.
While going through this detailed inspection process, consider the maintenance history for each piece of equipment. Recalling previous maintenance needs or mechanical repairs can point out areas of priority to check. Equipment that has been stored or idle for a long period may need repairs that can make a difference in dependability. Here are a few of the key items that need attention:
Detailed pressure washing. When washing equipment, clean the plow, and wash the underside of the vehicle, too. If applicable, raise dump beds and block them open for washing. Make sure to hit the hard-to-reach places such as connections on frame rails where dirt and chemicals can accumulate. Deicers, dirt or a combination living in such locations can start the corrosion process while hiding it from view. Wash the wheels and lug nuts and inspect them to make sure they are all present and tight. This is also a good time to look at tires, and check for flat or low air pressure on inside duals.
Check the plow and the mounting device. Look for cracks, hydraulic leaks, and overall appearance. Check the cutting edge for wear.
Check the lights and electrical system. Make sure the battery is fully charged. Check all lights for operation and adjustment. Remember, just because they come on doesn’t mean they are aimed correctly to provide good visibility and safety. Inspect and repair fittings, sockets, and connections, always looking for the telltale bluish-green powder (corrosion) as an indicator of work needed. When repairs are completed, coating the connection with grease or even Vaseline is beneficial.
Inspect fluid systems. Inspect all reservoirs and hoses that carry fluid, including the windshield washer system. Look for leaks, cracks or kinks in lines that are restricting flow, and corrosion on fittings.
Check liquid deicer equipment. Make sure the pump is operating properly. If it has a gas engine, make sure it is serviced, full of fuel, and that it will start and run. Thoroughly inspect and clean the spray bar and nozzles.
Check gearboxes. Check the lubricant and oil levels in gearboxes, but also look for moisture. If moisture is present, the cost of changing it is minimal compared to the potential costs of not having done it.
Once you’ve given everything a thorough once-over and have made any necessary repairs, test the components. Establishing these processes will allow for a smoother deployment of equipment for the next storm.
- A pre-trip plow safety inspection checklist is one of the many resources available in the SIMA Operational Equipment & Safety Best Practices course, which is free for SIMA members here.
- Snowplowing Safety & Preparation is part of the SIMA training video series available for purchase here on DVD or online streaming (also available in Spanish).
- A video showing how to perform a pre-storm circle check of a plow truck is online here.
- The Tear & Teach document, available for download here, offers a refresher on how to respond to a plow breakdown while in the field
Dale Keep owns Ice & Snow Technologies, a training and consulting company based in Walla Walla, WA. Email him at email@example.com.