Monday, November 10, 2014

Ready to Roll?

In the snow and ice removal business, you're only as good as your equipment. Properly functioning
equipment not only improves your performance by limiting the amount of downtime due to avoidable breakdowns, but also it decreases the likelihood of on-site accidents or costly damage to the client's property.

We consulted engineers at some of the industry's top manufacturers and compiled a checklist of issues snow and ice removal contractors should be mindful of as they conduct preseason equipment preparations.  This checklist will assist in making sure trucks start, plows push and spreaders throw throughout the long, cold winter months.

  • Give the exterior a thorough visual inspection.
  • Clean out the cab and discard all trash.
  • Examine tire tread thickness and inflate to the proper pounds per square inch.
  • Start the engine and make sure it operates at proper running levels.
  • Pop the hood and check all hoses and belts for obvious wear.  Replace as necessary.
  • Change the oil.
  • Replace the air filter.
  • Top off fluids.
  • Check fuses.
  • Check and/or replace all vehicle windshield wipers.
  • Examine all headlamps, auxiliary lights and the heater.
  • If ballast (sand or solid blocks) is used for traction and maneuverability, secure it to the vehicle to prevent shifting during plowing.
  • Make sure to outfit the plow with a plow bag (see It's In The Bag), two shovels (snow and spade), extra tow straps, a couple bags of deicing material, a first-aid kit, an extra jacket, and a blanket.
  • Clean and tighten all accessible and visible electrical connections.
  • Coat electrical connection with dielectric grease.
  • Examine the hydraulic system for leaks, cracks or damaged hoses.
  • Replace any worn or broken parts.
  • Drain hydraulic fluid and replace.
  • Check all mounting points.
  • Tighten all fasteners.
  • Examine blade assembly for any surface rust or chipped paint.  Repair and paint as necessary.
  • Check all fluids - coolant, engine oil and hydraulic.  Change if they are near their scheduled intervals (250 to 500 hours).
  • Inspect filters.  Change if necessary.
  • Check the fuel and drain any water or sediment buildup.
  • Inspect the attachment's hydraulic hoses and check for leaks.
  • Ensure the connection to the attachment and attachment carrier is secure.
  • Make sure the hydraulic hoses don't rub against other objects or become pinched, disrupting the flow of oil to the attachment.
  • Maintain attachment couplers with routine cleaning.
  • Clean dirt or debris from couplers with a rag and cleaning solvent.
  • Grease all pivot points.
  • Check display panel indicator lights.
  • If applicable, test the cab's heater to ensure it's working properly.
  • Examine light housing for cracks or damage.  Replace as necessary.
  • Check and replace burned out bulbs.
  • Check electrical connections and all fuses.
  • Install new auxiliary and flashing lights for safety according to local regulations.
  • Remove the spreader and perform a thorough visual inspection.
  • Check for broken or missing pins and clips.  Replace as necessary.
  • Examine all welds for cracks.
  • Secure all covers.
  • Examine the hopper and remove all foreign objects.
  • Check hydraulic fluid levels.
  • Test hoses and couplings for leaks.
  • If using an auxiliary engine, start the engine and check its levels.
  • Verify the spinners and augers rotate freely.
  • Try all lights.  Replace as necessary.
  • If not completed before post-season storage, drain all fuel from tank, supply lines and carburetor bowl.
  • Change engine and gear case fluids and refill to recommended levels.
  • Check chute controls' operation and adjust accordingly.
  • Clean and inspect spark plugs.  Replace if necessary.
  • Inspect cables for cracks, frays, corrosion and wear and that their conduits seals are properly fitted.
  • Inspect all belts for excessive cracking, glazing and wear.  Replace if necessary.
  • Inspect friction disc for excessive wear, cracking, glazing and melting.
  • Examine rake shaft shear bolts for damage.  Lubricate via grease fittings.
  • Examine and lubricate all service points, such as hex shaft, gears, chains and sprockets.
You may be ready to roll, but without updated data you might as well be stuck in a snow drift.  Don't even consider yourself finished with your preseason check-up until you've evaluated and updated your client information.  Have you confirmed the following?
  • Emergency numbers for clients and crews  
  • The hours clients are open for business.
  • Special areas that need to be treated first.
  • Specific needs and service requests.
  • Current information and data for plow books.
  • Hazards and hot spots on site maps, as well as areas snow can be placed this season.
Always refer to your equipment owner's manuals for additional preseason checkpoints or to troubleshoot particular problems.  

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