Don’t Freeze Up — Tips To Simplify Changing Oil in Cold Weather

Sep 15, 2023

If plummeting temperatures stress you out, just imagine what they do to your equipment and field service technicians. While changing oil in cold weather is necessary, it can take a toll on both people and machines. Working in subzero conditions quickly induces fatigue. And as the mercury drops, oil thickens and equipment becomes more reluctant to turn over due to the increased oil friction resistance and decreased battery efficiency.

However, delaying preventive maintenance is not a successful strategy. Don’t wait for freezing temperatures to catch you out in the cold. Be prepared with the right procedures, fluids and equipment to keep your machines and technicians productive. We’ve broken down our top tips for changing oil in cold weather.

Keep the oil flowing

Oil viscosity is the key differentiator in cold-weather operations. It measures the resistance of the oil to flow at different temperatures — ultimately determining the thickness or thinness of the oil. This is perhaps one of the most important properties of oil because viscosity provides the lubrication film between metal parts. The viscosity needs to be thick enough to prevent metal contact while being thin enough to prevent excessive energy loss.

Temperature changes can influence oil viscosity, which makes changing oil in cold weather more difficult. You’ll need the right oil to match the conditions. The oil must remain sufficiently viscous at high temperatures, but it can’t be too thick at low temperatures. The oil must remain robust across a wide temperature range to handle cold starts in the winter and normal internal operating temperatures.

When selecting the appropriate oil, pay particular attention to the number before the W in the oil specification. That number stands for the winter viscosity. A lower number means it is more fluid at a colder temperature. For instance, a 5W-40 engine oil is thinner in cold temperatures than a 10W-30.

Since viscosity is dependent on temperature, consult the equipment owner’s manual and make sure you are using the recommended oil for the temperatures you will be operating in. Equipment operator manuals may suggest different oils for varying temperature ranges.

Changing oil in cold weather

Never perform ‘cold’ oil changes, regardless of the weather outside. Best practice dictates oil should always be warm so it flows freely and drains completely. Start the engine to circulate the oil prior to the oil change or perform the oil change shortly after the equipment has been shut down for the day.

Running the engine immediately prior to an oil change also helps ensure better removal of contaminants from inside the engine. When the machine is working, contaminants from wear, the combustion process and the environment are suspended in the oil.

Shortly after shutting the machine down, these contaminants settle out to internal surfaces and the bottom of the oil pan. If you change the oil after the engine has been at rest, these contaminants will likely adhere to the internal engine surfaces.

Get a leg up on the competition

Why not just bring the equipment to a heated shop where technicians can work in comfort? While this sounds like a logical solution for changing oil in cold weather, there are several drawbacks to consider. When equipment is integral to a jobsite’s overall operation, the time and cost to transport equipment to the shop and back results in lost productivity. This can quickly erode revenue potential.

It is often simply more cost-effective to service equipment on the jobsite, even during the cold weather months. Sage Oil Vac can help you find solutions that will give you a leg up on the competition while protecting vital assets — your technicians and your equipment.

Make it easier for technicians

Working long hours to finish changing oil in cold weather can be unbearable with a subpar lube truck setup. Using buckets to change the oil further complicates the task and exposes technicians to hot oil. Having the right tools for the job makes all the difference.

Using a closed-loop system with quick disconnects protects your technicians from oil exposure and reduces manual effort while your technicians battle the weather. Less physical effort in subzero temperatures means more productive technicians.

The Sage Oil Vac system reduces the effort required by your technicians. It uses compressed air to build air pressure and move fluids to and from tanks. Hot motor oil can be vacuumed from equipment at up to six to eight gallons per minute. This enclosed, no-pump system with sealed tanks protects both the operator and the environment from spills.

Options for enclosed trailers, enclosed trucks or even a custom system can also simplify changing oil in cold weather. Sage Oil Vac offers heated fluid tanks that use immersion heaters to help promote productivity. Coolant circulates through probes in the tank, transferring heat to the oil and enabling easier oil changes as outside temperatures plummet.

Sage Oil Vac also offers an optional heated grease probe. This allows the technician to heat grease and improve flow rates in cold weather months.

Make it easier for your technicians. Contact Sage Oil Vac and get prepared for any weather.

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