In part 1 of our series about maintaining your yard care machines, we talked about the challenges that hot temperatures pose and ways to minimize their effects on your lawn mowers. One of the troubles with living in Winnipeg is that we are also exposed to the extreme opposite of hot temperatures with the bone rattling Winnipeg winter climate. I have personally shoveled snow at -52C with the wind. For those of you who prefer Fahrenheit that’s -62F with the wind. Our skin and organs are not the only things that can be damaged by this frigid temperatures, our snow removal machinery is also exposed to risks.
Cold weather: The first and most obvious solution to mitigating the risks freezing temperatures pose to our now removal equipment is to only use it when it’s warm out. While this is a great option in theory, Winnipeg isn’t always lucky enough to have the mercury rise during the winter months.
Let’s first understand the issues Winnipeg winters pose. For small engines like those on snow blowers, the biggest problem is how brittle it makes all of the components. This goes for the metal of the engine, the plastic parts of the chassis and sometimes even rubber components if the temperature is low enough. The colder it gets the more brittle these components get, so the most important thing to do is be very careful with your snow blowers while removing snow on Winnipeg’s chilliest days.
A proper start-up procedure in winter should go as follows. First, remove the mower from storage to a well vented area out of doors. If the snow blower has a choke or primer be sure to use both and give it at least a half throttle for starting. The colder it is, the harder the blower will be to start so be patient, because as you turn the engine over it will very slowly warm the oil up in the the crankcase. Once you get your machine started, leave the choke on to allow a rich fuel mixture into the engine to get it warm enough to sustain itself. Release the choke as the engine sounds like it’s being flooded. From there, it is important is to allow adequate warm-up time when you first start up your snow blower. Usually adequate warm-up time is at least 5 minutes before submitting the machine to any workload.
Storage of your machinery is also important and can help reduce the effects the temperature has on your equipment. If you have a heated garage, you’re golden. This is by far the best solution for small engines and it reduces warm up time greatly. If you don’t have heated storage, simply storing in your unheated garage or shed can mean a warmer storage than outside. It can also keep the snow from blowing into the motor and otherwise protect the equipment from the elements.
Finally, like during hot weather operation it is important to allow the engine to cool down by idling it for at least a minute. Taking a hot engine and shutting it off immediately only to expose it to a -20C storage environment causes a rapid temperature change for your motor. This can actually crack the block because the temperature change to your engine can be as much as 130C in a matter of minutes. Idle your equipment down to increase the longevity of the engine and reduce the chances of an engine failure, which means out of pocket expense for you and downtime as well. The last thing we want is a non-working piece of equipment, just in time for a foot of snow to fall on our driveways!
If you have a larger property outside of Winnipeg you may use a plow for snow removal. The plow will likely be operated by an electric winch or a hydraulic pump. I personally find that hydraulic plows are betters suited for Winnipeg winters, provided the proper cold weather hydro-oil is used. Check with your manufacturer for this info. Hydraulic oil can get very hot so our frigid environment can actually aide in the cooling process of the oil. The biggest trouble removing snow with plows in cold weather is how brittle it makes the frame and steel of the plow. In cold weather, be very careful not to jar the plow. The more stress put on the frame and structure of the plow the higher the chance of failure. If possible, try to avoid plowing in extreme cold temperatures otherwise a breakage may occur and you’ll be getting out the welder. Not fun. I know. Been there done that doing snow removal at 4am with 40 driveways to go!
These are only a few ways to minimize the effects of the cold temperatures on your snow removal equipment. The bottom line is that cold winters are a fact in Winnipeg and they can cause failures and breakages no matter careful we are. Expect this, take the weather into account, and hopefully you’ll be able to increase the longevity of your equipment like Hero does, so you can enjoy the same benefits we do.
In part 3, we will talk about other miscellaneous climate challenges that Winnipeg weather poses to lawn mowing, snow removal equipment and other yard care machinery; and ways for you to minimize their impact.