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How to Safeguard Operational Reliability of Lubricants for Machinery and Heavy Vehicles during Winter

by FUCHS Lubricants

Winter is here and cold weather has set in. No matter the temperature, vehicles and machines have to work friction-free and at full capacity. To remain fully operational during cold periods, there are various elements to consider. 

The typical example is forestry, mining, agriculture and construction machinery, which have to deliver all year round. And when the mercury falls, that’s when it’s important to safeguard operational reliability. There are five key elements that are important: the cooling system, engine, axles, transmission and hydraulics. 

50/50 – A GOOD MIX

Having the correct proportion of glycol in the coolant will prevent the cooling system from freezing, but the correct type of glycol also protects against rust or corrosion. To ensure full protection for both cold and corrosion, mix 50/50 water and glycol. This will prevent freezing down to -37°C. To increase the protection, use 60% glycol and 40% water. This will prevent freezing down to -53°C, and don’t forget to check the mixture or to change glycol regularly as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

ENGINE OIL

It is preferable to use engine oils developed with the latest technology and made for modern engines which manufacturers optimise for higher output and lower fuel consumption. These oils are required to do a tougher job than previous demands. This includes coping with a broader temperature range, extended working hours, and protect after-treatment systems such as diesel particulate filters.

Thinner, low-viscosity oils have long been a trend in the light-vehicle segment, but these products are now making a breakthrough in heavy vehicles and construction machinery. These oils increase operational reliability in winter and reduce abrasion on components such as bearings in cold starts.

The oil will flow more easily and reach all parts of the engine more quickly. Engines can also run longer between oil drain intervals, and with less down-time for maintenance which means higher productivity. This is not only when the weather is cold, but all year round. Another advantage of low-viscosity engine oils is that they can contribute to lower fuel consumption, up to 2%. 

With a large fleet of machinery, it’s worth choosing a higher quality universal oil. This will simplify handling, benefiting reliability. Having fewer products to manage reduces the risk of refilling with the incorrect oil, which can lead to damage or stoppages. For forestry, construction and other heavy vehicle industries, my tip is always to opt for a 5W or 10W oil. That way you know the oil will do the job even under tough winter conditions. 

TRANSMISSION AND AXLES – FUEL SAVINGS, LONGER LIFE

This is perhaps the simplest area and there’s only really one tip to give – follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. For transmission oils too, the development trend is clear: low viscosity oils are making more of a breakthrough. The advantages are the same as for engine oils: they offer better low-temperature properties, fuel savings and longer life. With the right oil in the systems, the interval between services can often be doubled. 

HYDRAULICS – CHECK THE VISCOSITY INDEX

You can go a long way by considering one important aspect: the hydraulic oil should have a viscosity index of 150 or more. This means that the product will work over a broad temperature range, which safeguards operation whether it’s warm or cold. Modern hydraulic systems work under high pressures and heavy flows. This in turn places higher demands on the oil. The key aspects are air separating properties, water separation, and the oil retaining the right thickness the entire time between oil changes.

Finally, a positive word for ester-based, eco-friendly hydraulic oils. They have very good lubricating properties and are gentle in the environment. These products are something of a standard in the forestry industry today. The construction sector too is increasingly demanding eco-friendly products in the machines.

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