Hydraulic Systems in Cold Weather

AK Snow

Junior Member
Looking for any advice anyone might have to pass along concerning maintaining and operating hydraulic loaders in extreme cold weather. I know cold can really affect hydraulic systems - rental companies here are reluctant to even rent loaders when temperatures are forecast to stay below -20F for any length of time. Specifically, I'm wondering if using synthetic oil rather than, say 10W/30 hydraulic fluid,is worth the money relative to any improvements in cold weather performance.




Senior Member
We have alway used what Cat specified for the temp,the big thing is to let the machine warmup and see what the owners manual specifys as the warm up procedure for your particular
piece of equipment.For example on our 416 tractorhoe you are to lock the rear boom and then apply presure downward for a couple of minutes or something like that.If at all possible if it is going to be really cold we park inside then keep the equipment warmed up throughout the day when not being used.


PlowSite.com Veteran
I think all heavy equipment has them, at least up here in Maine, it all does. Make sure ya have a block heater, keep the engine warm. Then just let stuff warm up for a while. If it is really cold and we get a storm, I tell equipment operators to let things idel, for 1/2 an hour if they want. It never hurts a motor to warm up, before you put it to you. Also if we store a loader on site for the winter, it is going to be plugged in.



PlowSite.com Veteran
I used to operate a Komatsu trackhoe in the oil patch in North Dakota during the winter. We would work in temps down to -30, anything colder and the drilling company would shut us down. With wind chill, temps would get down to -90 on occasion.

Our biggest problem was getting equipment started in the morning. We would put magnetic block heaters on the equip, run them off a generator. Sometimes we'd also have to tarp the engine area, and heat with a propane torch, plus run jumpers off the 1 tons. Even with glow plugs a bit of starting fluid was needed on occasion. After a couple of hours we usually got everything started, unless god forbid somebody forgot to add a fuel conditioner the last time the piece of equipment was fueled. Then we'd have gelled fuel.

Once everything was up and running, we'd let them sit for an hour or so to warm up. Then we'd climb in and cycle all the levers over and over again at a fast idle. That Komatsu sure would groan, and was awful stiff when you first hit a lever, but as the fluid began to circulate it quited down.

On a side note, it is quite amazing how tough frozen ground is. We were installing flow lines from wells to tank batteries. Our trenches all had to be 5 ft deep. A lot of the ground was frozen 5 ft deep. We had a D8 Cat with a single tooth ripper, going ahead of me in the trachoe to fracture the ground. Then the cat would go back over where he ripped, using his blade at an angle digging into the ground, working it over and over again. Then I would follow behind and dig. Some days we were lucky to make 500 feet.

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