By Nick Minas
Although fall cleanup and end-of-season maintenance are top of mind right now, now is the time to start preparing for winter. Whether cold weather marks the end of your work year, or starts the snow removal season, a little planning will ensure you are prepared for the coming months.
Working through winter
For many professionals, winter has become a busy season, especially as more businesses expand their capabilities to include snow removal. During the demanding season, it is vital that you have the right equipment, implements, and maintenance plan to keep your business up and running.
When severe weather hits, the last thing you want to experience in the moment of impact is downtime on a machine. It is vital to plan ahead with your equipment fleet, keeping a close eye on any needed maintenance to ensure you are ready to go at the first flurry. Work with your dealer to set up a plan for routine maintenance, and schedule ahead if snow is in the forecast. By planning ahead, you can avoid any unnecessary downtime when you need every machine on the job.
Work with your local dealer to ensure your parts inventory is stocked ahead of time. Ensure your parts storage area is well organized, and keep detailed records of what parts you are using and how many you have stocked. Your dealer can help you identify what parts you regularly use and the right amount to keep at the ready to best meet your business needs. From there, the dealer will help you develop an easy restocking plan, ensuring you have the parts you need so you are not stranded when roads are blocked by snow.
Your dealer can also help you with any equipment needs for the winter season. Your spring equipment can be extended to winter through optional cabs designed to protect your operators from the elements. If snow removal is a key part of your winter services, consider equipment — such as front mowers, compact utility tractors and utility vehicles — that can be equipped for snow removal and salt spreading. Look at attachments and implements that enable you to use these machines for winter jobs. Snow blowers, snow throwers blades and brooms are ideal for efficiently removing snow, and can be easily attached and detached. Utility vehicles can be equipped with bed sprayers, enabling the operator to efficiently spray de-icer.
When selecting equipment or attachments/implements, connect with your dealer, who can help simplify the equipment selection and purchase process. Talk your dealer through your business and needs to help determine what equipment is the best for your desired applications. Once you narrow down the equipment and attachments/implements you are interested in purchasing, your dealer can help you determine the best purchasing solution to meet your needs. Your dealer is a dedicated partner and will help you navigate the process.
If winter marks the end of your work year, it is the perfect time to take advantage of the downtime and prepare your business and equipment for next spring. Before storing your equipment for winter, take time to properly service machines so that they are ready to go when the warm weather arrives.
After a busy season, thoroughly clean your machines. Throughout the spring and summer, your machines have likely accumulated a good amount of debris, which can have long-term effects if left untouched over time. A good wash will prevent rust and corrosion. After cleaning, give your equipment a once over, looking for any missing parts, chips or scratches. Repair and replace as necessary so that your machine is ready to go come spring.
Take advantage of any winter downtime to tune up your machines, performing any necessary routine maintenance or major repairs. Refer to your owner’s manual to ensure that you are completing the necessary maintenance to avoid downtime down the road. Look over your machine, inspecting everything from bolts to belts. If parts are worn or loose, replace. Check your filters and clean or replace as needed. It is also a good time to perform maintenance tasks like oil changes. Keep a close eye on tire pressure and examine the tire tread for wear. As you are doing all this, keep a record of the work you do so that you remember what has been done when you start up again in spring.
Once you have gone over your machine and prepped it for spring, properly store your equipment, lubricating and covering grease fittings, per your owner’s manual. Additionally, add fuel stabilizer or remove fuel completely. The fuel stabilizer will prevent separation that can lead to corrosion. After adding the fuel stabilizer, run the engine for five minutes. You should also change the engine oil and check coolant if your equipment is liquid cooled. Finally, remove the battery, clean up its terminals and charge it in the off-season.
Take advantage of the downtime to revamp your fleet and business practices. As mentioned above, work with your dealer to identify any older equipment that may need to be replaced, and consider additional equipment that you will need to anticipate or help meet business growth goals. Your dealer can help your with this process and prepare a quote. Consider all payment options, including upfront cash, financing offers and leasing offers.
Whether winter means that your business is picking up or settling down, there are key things you should be doing to prepare and take advantage of the time. If you are in the snow removal business, prepare for winter weather by ensuring your fleet is equipped and good to go. If not, use the downtime to get your business prepped and ready for spring. By acting now, you can ensure your business is prepped when the next job arrives.
Nick Minas is product manager at John Deere Commercial Mowing.