Winter Maintenance Tips

Everyone loves a winter-wonderland, but let’s face it, winter isn’t all fun and games, especially when it adds difficulties to day-to-day activities. These few tips can help you avoid complications at your facility this winter.

Let equipment warm up. 

It is important to let equipment run empty before moving the product. For most equipment, it is good practice to give the oil in the gearboxes a chance to warm up and allow the oil viscosity to change. With bucket elevators and belt conveyors, allowing the belts to run empty gives the rubber a chance to warm up and become more pliable. This can take strain off electric motors and other drive components. In extreme cases (e.g. train load out) it is a practice of many to let bucket elevators and belt conveyors run through the night to help guarantee equipment operation during a very critical time frame.

Check belt tension. 

Before the temperature starts to drop it is a good idea to go through and check drive belt tension along with belt tension on bucket elevators and belt conveyors. Adjustments are a simple thing to do to help prevent costly delays due to equipment failure (e.g. product plugging).

Clean out your equipment. 

Cleaning your facility and equipment is an important maintenance item that should be practiced year-round. However, being more diligent leading into and during the winter months can help avoid many issues. Pay extra attention to equipment such as distributors. Dust accumulation inside of distributor tubs can come into contact with warm, moist air traveling up through spouting from storage tanks with warm (warmer than ambient temperatures) grain. If the conditions are right (or wrong), products in distributors can freeze enough to keep the inner duct(s) from moving.

Adjusting the distributor clutch. 

A somewhat common issue which seems to rear its head during winter months is distributors that don’t operate correctly. This issue is usually attributed to the previous subjects of cleaning and adjustments of the slip clutch on the gear reducer. The slip clutch provides protection to the drive train and, in the case of mechanical blockage, will allow the motor to continue to run without damage to itself or other components. Over time, the clutch experiences normal wear and may need to be tightened to continue with normal operation. Slight wear along with dust accumulation inside the distributor and winter’s cold temps (low viscosity oil) can compound enough for this issue to present itself. It is important not to over tighten, so as to maintain the safety aspect of the drivetrain. Some electric gates utilize a gear reducer with this same slip-clutch.

Keep gates closed. 

Not all gates, but make sure fill gates – gates on top of bins – are kept closed when not in use. These gates keep moisture from rising from storage bins where grain may be warmer than the ambient temperature and into equipment/spouting. Moisture migration can cause problems such as freezing conveyor belts down, equipment plugging from frozen product build-up, along with other issues that are no fun to deal with when it’s below zero.

Consider adding a positive pressure fan…on your distributor. 

Yes, a lot of issues revolve around distributors. Some manufactures offer positive pressure fans that can be mounted directly to the distributor. The positive air pressure will eliminate most of the dust and moisture rising through spouts and help keep the inside of the distributor cleaner. It is a common misconception that these fans are supposed to blow out (negative pressure) instead of in (positive pressure). If wired incorrectly the fan will pull dust from the distributor out to the environment. Over time the fan will continue to accumulate with dust until it plugs solid and will cease to operate.

Winter is tough on equipment. With these simple steps, you will be setting yourself up to be in a much better position. At Schaefer Contracting, we can aid with seasonal maintenance, scheduled or unexpected repairs. We hope that winter treats you well. If it doesn’t, reach out to us today.