Tips to get your winter-maintenance spreader ready

By James Truan

Imagine a teacher walking into the classroom on the first day of school in the fall having not touched a textbook or lesson plan since the spring. Or a professional athlete on opening day who hasn’t picked up a ball or hit the gym since the final play of the previous season. Chances are that these individuals are not ready to perform as expected.

Whether they realize it or not, winter maintenance contractors may have salt or sand spreaders in a similar unprepared situation as they get ready for another season of snow and ice control. Nothing good can come from sending a spreader into battle at less than 100 percent. That’s why it’s a beneficial practice to run your spreader through a pre-season maintenance checklist to ensure it’s in good working order before the snow flies and another winter season begins.

Keep it clean

The first thing to do is give the spreader a good, thorough cleaning. Simply propping the spreader up on its side and hosing it out with water is all that is needed to achieve adequate cleaning. If using chemicals during the cleaning process, keep in mind that alkaline-based cleaners like those containing acetone, benzene, leaded gasoline or brake cleaner should not be used when cleaning hoppers made of polyethylene, as they can damage its structural integrity.

Take a look

When the spreader is clean, it is the ideal time to inspect the hopper for scratches and chips in the paint or finish. These areas should be touched up to reduce the possibility of corrosion and rust. The only time this step may be skipped would be for hoppers constructed of polyethylene, simply because the poly material resists corrosion. Components should also be looked over during this time to see if any are in need of replacement or repair.

Treat with grease

Speaking of components, while they will vary from one spreader to the next, every unit will have at least some moving parts and connectors that require lubrication. For example, units featuring electrical connections for components should have a coat of dielectric grease applied to all terminals. If moving parts such as bearings, chains, or conveyors exist, all need lubrication. Check the owner’s manual to determine lubrication requirements.

Don’t tense up

Contractors using spreaders with belts, chains or conveyors should be sure to adjust the tension before the season starts. This will vary depending on the spreader, so consult the owner’s manual before making modifications. However, some aspects of tension adjustment are universal, such as making sure the drive belt or chain is never overtightened. Also, before attempting to adjust conveyor belt tension, make sure there is no sand or deicing material trapped underneath the belt.

Engine extras

If an engine powers the spreader, it should also be cleaned prior to beginning work. This can be done by simply spraying the engine with water to remove any residual salt to guard against corrosion of metal engine components. And don’t forget that the engine will need regular attention throughout the season. Keep up with oil and air filter changes, spark plug inspections and other maintenance checks suggested by the engine’s manual.

Hints for hydraulics

For hydraulically powered spreaders, be sure to change the hydraulic fluid to the type and viscosity recommended by the pump manufacturer. Also, inspect all hoses and fittings for any signs of damage or leaks.

Set to spread

Taking just a few minutes to perform these simple tasks is all it takes to ensure your spreader will be ready for the upcoming season. When winter finally does arrive, the snow and ice certainly won’t be slowing down. Make sure your spreader doesn’t either.

James Truan is vice president of sales and marketing at SnowEx,

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