October 17, 2016

Cold Weather Maintenance For Your IT4 and FT4 Engines

Even though the temperatures are dropping, hibernation is not an option for your fleet. Your uptime and productivity on the jobsite is essential. To keep your machines running efficiently this winter season, we have compiled some maintenance tips to keep in mind when preparing for and combating the cold when it arrives.

Winter Preparations:

  • Cold Start Aid Check: Make sure your heating elements (block heater, diesel-fired coolant heater, or glow plugs) are installed and functioning. For equipment configured with an ether injection system, confirm the ether canister is full and system is operating correctly. See more on each option below.
  • Oil Change: Review the oil viscosity recommendation chart in your operator's manual to find out which oil type is best for the temperatures you will be operating in. Lighter oil makes cold starting easier and protects the engine and powertrain from wear and tear during warm up.
  • Grease Up: Apply grease to your machine when it is warmer to reduce the amount of time you spend braving the elements when the weather turns cold.
  • Fuel Fix: Use a winter-grade diesel fuel, as this type has additives that prevent it from gelling in cold temperatures.
  • Examine the Electrical: Ensure the vehicle electrical system is fully charged, as damage can occur if the battery goes dead and freezes.
  • Cab heater: Confirm the cab heating system is operational to keep the operator warm and comfortable.

When the Cold Hits:

  • Warm Up: Allow your vehicle to warm up for the standard 5-10 minutes prior to operating; operating with cold fluids put more wear and tear on the equipment.
  • Heat Helps: There are a variety of different cold start aids that can help get your machine up and running quickly in the cold:
    • Electric Block Heater – If your machine is near an electrical outlet, this type of heater easily plugs in with an extension cord and heats up the coolant in-stream.
    • Diesel-Fired Coolant Heater – If you are operating in a remote area, this option functions on its own, using onboard diesel fuel and the vehicle's electrical system to heat the coolant.
    • Glow Plugs – These are standard in many pieces of equipment. These elements heat up when you key on and heat the combustion chamber during the wait and crank period making it easier for the cold fuel to ignite and engine to start. When starting with glow plugs remember to turn the key to the run position and wait for the indicator before attempting to start the vehicle.
    • Ether – Large engines typically have ether canisters that pipe the combustible gas into the intake when you turn the ignition, helping to ignite the fuel air mixture inside the engine.
  • Regeneration Reassurance: John Deere IT4 and FT4 machines are equipped with active and passive regeneration that keeps the diesel particulate filters (DPF) clean and efficient. This does not change even in cold temperatures and low-use situations. The after-treatment system is engineered to create its own heat to regenerate automatically, regardless of how hard you are working the vehicle or how cold it is outside; regeneration in cold weather is business as usual.
  • DEF Do's and Don'ts: John Deere FT4 engines >75hp use Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) to meet emission regulations while minimizing fluid consumption and delivering exceptional performance. DEF begins to freeze at 12 degrees Fahrenheit (-11 Celsius). Fortunately, freezing will not affect uptime on your equipment at all, as the system is designed to thaw the DEF upon startup with no impact on operation while thawing takes place. Also, repeated freezing and thawing does not harm the makeup of the DEF. When storing DEF outside the vehicle, be sure to keep it in a place that remains above freezing to ensure it can be dispensed when needed.
  • Winter Windows: Scrape ice and frost off of the machine's windows prior to operating to ensure visibility is clear on all sides.

By following these simple steps, we hope you will keep those engines warm and humming this winter.