How to Avoid the Hazards of Winter Crushing

Dec. 12, 2017

Winter is a hard season. The days are shorter. The nights are longer. There’s wind, and sleet, and snow.

And, of course, it’s cold.

All of those factors conspire to make winter crushing a difficult proposition.  There are simply more obstacles to production. The fewer hours of daylight, the longer startup times, and the harsh environment can wear on equipment and crews.

And yet, depending on your situation and production goals, winter crushing may be a necessity. You may need to keep your plant functioning to meet quotas and satisfy demand. If that’s true, you’ll need to face the winter head-on.

That means being properly prepared.

If you are properly prepared for winter crushing, you can, at the very least, persevere through the season without a major incident or equipment breakdown. And, while you will almost certainly produce at a lower volume than what is possible during warmer months, you can take steps to keep production at a reasonable level during the winter.

Here’s how.


1. Don’t Let Grease Freeze

The importance of using the correct type of grease for crushing equipment is well documented. In the winter, though, another hazard arises: the prospect of grease freezing causing damage to equipment.

Prevention of this is fairly straightforward: ensure that grease remains at room temperature. This may be as simple as storing grease indoors, or in a heated area. However, while it’s simple, it can’t afford to be overlooked.

Don't let crusher grease freeze during the winter. 


2. Don’t Use Summer Oils

The type of oil used in crushing machines is also important; and, different seasons call for different types of oil.

Summer oils have a heavier viscosity, and, as the weather gets colder, they should be replaced with winter oils. The lighter viscosity of winter oils allows them to be pumped more easily through the machine during cold weather. That’s important, since proper oil flow is essential for both cooling and lubrication. 

So, as you’re regularly sampling and changing oil to maintain system components, be sure to transition from summer to winter oil as the seasons change.


3. Test the Heaters

Of course, even if you’re regularly changing oil and using the correct type, a malfunctioning heater can fry things to a crisp. As the weather gets colder, heaters are important – but it’s essential to check crusher heaters for proper functioning to ensure that they don’t set oil on fire.

Most heaters are set via a temperature gauge. They’re designed to pump out heat until the temperature reaches a certain level, and then they’ll shut off. However, sometimes, they get stuck; they don’t react to the change in temperature. 

When that happens, a heater set to heat to 60 degrees will keep pumping until the temperature is more like 260 degrees. At those temperatures, oil fries. Sometimes, it catches on fire. Both scenarios can result in significant damage to equipment.

Before cranking up the heaters, test to make sure that they’re functioning properly. Keeping components warm is good; setting equipment on fire isn’t.


4. Monitor Tire Pressure

Another component to check up on during the winter months: tires. Just like car tires, the air pressure in mobile plant tires varies with the temperature. If you don’t monitor your tire pressure as the weather gets colder, you may ruin the tires themselves.

That’s not ideal, because replacements are expensive: four new plant tires could run into the neighborhood of $80 thousand.

Monitor tire pressure during the winter to avoid that unfortunate expense.


5. Practice Sound Start-Up and Warm-Up Procedures

Aside from monitoring individual components, persevering through the winter also means optimizing processes for the colder season. Committing ample time and attention to properly start and warm up machines can play a big role in helping avoid major breakdowns. 

During all seasons, there’s an understandable temptation to start entire machines at once in an effort to maximize production time. Immediate start up can be dangerous, though. Much like jumping into athletic activity without stretching can result in pulled muscles, starting an entire machine too quickly can be harmful for system components.

For hydraulically driven machines, especially, it’s essential to allow ample time for oil to warm up. Consider running one conveyor belt to begin the process instead of all belts, so that you’re not asking for too much of the system at once.

During the cold winter, proper start up procedures are integral to avoiding downtime.


6. Don’t Neglect Housekeeping

Finally, perhaps the most easily overlooked factor in avoiding breakdowns during the winter is proper housekeeping.

People tend to remember the technical factors of winter preparation easily enough. Monitoring things like oil, grease, tires, and heaters is straightforward; housekeeping may not be part of the same checklist.

Housekeeping means taking the time to remove any material that’s spilled, and being careful to ensure that no spillage comes into contact with belts or functional equipment. If it does, and if it’s not cleaned overnight, it will freeze and wreak havoc.

The biggest risk of this is often at the beginning of the winter season.

The danger is that the first freeze may arrive unexpectedly. If that happens, and if housekeeping wasn’t done in preparation, spilled materials will damage the system components as they freeze.

So, as winter approaches, be sure to monitor overnight temperatures and consistently practice sound housekeeping procedures. Doing so will go a long way toward keeping your crusher functioning well.


Take the Steps to Avoid Winter Crushing Hazards

There’s no getting around it: winter is a hard season for crushing.

But, with proper preparation and an attention to detail, you can persevere through the cold, avoid major breakdowns, and, possibly, produce at a higher seasonal level than your competition. 

For more information on how to avoid winter crushing hazards, get in touch with us.  From crushing consulting to equipment service and replacement, we can help you optimize your crushing equipment and procedures for increased production.

Let us help you thrive during the winter months – and the rest of the year.

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