Heavy Equipment Battery Care for Winter
Heavy equipment batteries can drain during the cold winter months, unless precautions are taken. Following a few simple battery maintenance steps will help you prevent downtime when it’s time to start back up for the spring season. Follow our battery protection best practices below.
Check heavy equipment battery terminals
Battery protection starts by making sure the terminals are tight. Whether you’re storing your equipment for the winter or working through the season, you should inspect the terminals for corrosion, rust, dirt, and debris, and remove any that you find. Use a toothbrush and a terminal brush, plus a little battery cleaner to clean the terminal and get rid of anything that may interrupt the connection from working correctly. Always take the battery out of the machine before you clean it, and check the terminals at the beginning and end of winter storage. If you’re working during the winter months, you should check the terminal connections each month.
For additional protection of your heavy equipment battery terminals, add a little dielectric grease to the terminals to help prevent corrosion.
Inspect heavy equipment battery electrolyte levels
Checking electrolyte levels is an important part of battery maintenance. The electrolyte mixture consists of sulfuric acid and distilled water, and it connects all the equipment battery’s electrodes. Over time this liquid can leak, evaporate, or freeze, so it’s important to monitor its condition.
It’s important to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands while handling the battery. To check the electrolyte levels, remove the battery from the machine, and clean it to avoid contaminating the fluids. Open the battery port covers and look down into the battery. The fluid should completely cover each electrode. Then, make sure electrolyte levels in all your heavy equipment batteries are up to the full indicator and above the top of the lead plates. If the electrolyte levels are lower than suggested, refill the electrolyte up to the recommended levels, using the instructions provided by the construction equipment manufacturer.
Any time you are operating equipment in extremely cold weather, make sure the fluid in the battery is not frozen before beginning any work.
We recommend checking electrolyte levels before and after winter storage.
Use heavy equipment battery blankets
Heavy equipment batteries can freeze if the machines are left out in the cold, rather than stored in a covered area. Once frozen, it can take up to 30 hours for the fluid to thaw. Battery blankets can help protect the battery from freezing if there’s no option for storing the equipment in a warmer environment.
What to do if you’re not using your machine
Storing heavy equipment inside some sort of sheltered area is ideal. Maintain an indoor temperature of about 40°F. If you aren’t using your heavy equipment during the winter months, or aren’t using it very often, a battery tender can help prevent power loss in heavy equipment batteries.
Overcharging a battery can shorten its life cycle or even cause it to catch fire, so the low voltage battery tender which delivers a charge equal to the battery’s rate of self discharge is the best option for heavy equipment batteries in storage.
If the machine is not going to be used, charge the batteries fully, then disconnect the terminals. The alternator, clock, GPS, and other items will draw down the battery over time, even if there is a battery shutoff switch. If you need to keep the GPS live during winter non-usage periods, you must use a battery tender to keep the battery charged and prevent lead sulfate from building up on the battery plates, hindering performance.