Time to Winterize: 11 Tips to Get You Through the Winter

How to transition your truck from summer to winter, plus safety tips for winter driving.
Time to Winterize: 11 Tips to Get You Through the Winter
A number of components on your trucks will be affected by cold, freezing weather. Be sure to double check that this gear is working properly.

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The cold, hard truth is: Winter is coming. In some areas, it may have already arrived. Are you ready? And are your trucks ready?

This will help. Here’s a compilation of winter-weather tips seen in Pumper.

For your trucks
Some pumpers face pretty mild winters, but up in Canada … not so much. “When it’s minus 30 degrees, you’re just trying to keep water from becoming a giant ice cube,” says Nathan Gagnier, operations manager at Canessco Services Inc. “We use water-recirculation systems in our vacuum trucks to keep water constantly moving. And the trucks are equipped with boilers to provide hot water for thawing pipelines and hydroexcavating frozen ground.” 

2. “Everyone knows that things take longer in winter … the trucks operate slower because the hydraulics slow down,” Gagnier says. “Instead of using hydraulic fluid, we use automatic transmission fluid (as hydraulic fluid) year-round on our combo vac trucks because it’s less viscous."

3. Viscosity is the oil’s resistance to flow as measured by a viscometer. The thicker (higher viscosity) the oil, the slower it will flow. The lower the viscosity, the more wear and tear on the engine parts. That is why using the recommended oil viscosity is important. It protects in both hot and cold startups. Additives in the oil prevent it from thinning too much when heated, and also prevent oil from becoming completely useless in cold weather. When it comes to your truck’s engine oil, consult a certified mechanic or people you know and trust for accurate information. As for the oil in your vacuum pump, trust the manufacturer’s recommendations. All vacuum pumps are not the same, and they don’t require the same type of oils. Hint: The oil you use in summer is likely not the same oil you use in winter. 

4. The radiator is an obvious place to start. We’re going to need some antifreeze to keep the power systems from freezing. The expected low winter temperatures in your area will dictate the antifreeze-water mix that will protect your radiator or — worse yet — your engine block from catastrophic freezing damage due to expansion. In some cases, you’ll use 100 percent antifreeze. Follow directions carefully to minimize problems. If you want to end your day of winter pumping in a hurry, try waking up to a frozen radiator. 

5. Snow and/or ice are the greatest compromise to inadequate tires holding the road. If you expect the worst conditions, you’ll need to switch to winter or snow tires. And if your state allows it and it’s customary to use them, keep a set of tire chains in one of the onboard toolboxes. More importantly, know how to put them on your tires.

6. Ball valves and knife gate valves can freeze in cold weather. There’s nothing like trying to open a valve to get the job started and it won’t move. If you have heated valves or need heated valves, now is the time to get them in place and operational. There are several different types and brands of heated valves. They are often connected through the electrical system of the truck. Before the weather turns on you, make sure these valves are working properly. Don’t forget and don’t put it off.

For your drivers
Be observant and prepared. Check weather reports before you head out and plan your trip accordingly. Be certain you have the necessary emergency equipment and extra clothing. Be observant of changing road conditions, especially on bridges and overpasses where black ice forms. 

8. Inspect your vehicle. Be certain your truck is prepared for adverse weather. Tires, wipers and lights should be in tip-top condition. 

9. Slow down! Driving too fast for deteriorating road conditions is the No. 1 cause of winter-driving accidents. Know your limitations and the limitations of your vehicle. 

10. Leave space. Create a defensive-driving cushion around your vehicle. Increase the following distance between you and a vehicle ahead of you and always leave yourself an “out” in case of trouble. 

11. Get off the road. If conditions get too dangerous, don’t drive. It’s just that simple. 


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