March 1, 2012 by Andrew Snook
Spring may be just around the corner, but now is a great time to take note of what cold weather challenges you’ve faced this winter in preparation for next fall.
Contractors don’t typically have an array of mittens, scarves and snowpants to protect their wheel loaders in the colder months, but equipment manufacturers are outfitting their machines with the equivalent—in this case, mid-to-large-sized wheel loaders. One man who knows the importance of cold weather features on his equipment is Ben Waldner.
Waldner has worked with heavy equipment for 48 years at the Vale mining company in Thompson, Man.—a transportation hub of northern Canada—where temperatures regularly fall below -40C and blowing snow creates zero visibility. Over that time, he worked at the Thompson Open Pit moving ore. Waldner has spent 30 years operating loaders in open pit operations and an additional 17 years operating loaders for the transportation department.
Safety is always his top priority.
“Visibility is very, very important. Handling capability and sufficient tire traction are at the top of the list,” says Waldner. “And at my age, comfort is high on the list, too.”
He adds that tire air sensors for cold weather, manual fast idle engine switches, bucket weight monitors and a differential stress alarm when neutralization is activated are all beneficial when operating in cold weather.
Some of the attachments he says are important for winter operations are quick attach capabilities for a straight edge bucket, all-purpose bucket with teeth, a set of forks and a snow blade.
“I’ve seen a lot of winters from inside the cab of a loader,” he says. “If you know what you’re doing and pay attention, you can achieve safety and good production even in extreme weather conditions.”
There are a lot of different wheel loaders on the market today, with just as many—if not more—cold weather packages available for contractors.
Here are a few of the wheel loaders currently available and some of their winter-friendly options and packages:
The 1121F-series wheel loader offers contractors a cold weather package that includes: heavy-duty batteries, an air-intake grid heater for the engine’s air-induction system, a hydraulic oil cooler bypass, low-temperature hydraulic oil, and the fast-warm Hydraulic Heat Load Valve—a new feature all of Case’s F-Series loaders.
Tim O’Brien, North American marketing manager for heavy line products at Case Construction, says the valve automatically and quickly warms up the hydraulics without the operator needing to exercise the implements, allowing the machine to go to work more quickly, improving productivity.
Other features helpful for the chillier months are the heated cloth-covered air-suspension seat, defroster and the on-demand fan with the optional reversing feature, which prevents it from overcooling in cold weather.
The machines also come standard with auto-idle warm-up.
“It has a higher idle that it automatically goes in on the engine to allow it to warm up and get to work more quickly,” explains O’Brien.
The machine features advanced selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology that meets Tier 4i emissions standards, a net engine power of 320 hp (239 kW), four power modes, a lift capacity (full height) of 32,745 lb, a bucket breakout force of 49,960 lb. and a bucket capacity of 4.8 cubic metres.
The 980K wheel loader has an optional cold start/high-altitude package that features a fan pump bypass and transmission pump bypass—designed to reduce parasitic load on the engine, additional battery capacity for increasing cold cranking and an engine heater plug/cord. Other options handy for the cold weather include heated and powered mirrors and a rearview camera that can be set to start only when the transmission is in reverse.
It also features the Cat C13 ACERT engine, which meets Tier 4i/Stage IIIB emissions standard—equipped with a diesel oxidation catalyst, diesel particulate filter and Cat regeneration system—and has a net power of 369 hp (275 kW) at 1,600 rpm, a load-sensing hydraulic system designed to direct flow to implements based on operating conditions and offers parallel flow to lift, tilt and auxiliary hydraulics for simultaneous performance of functions (maximum operating pressure of 4,496 psi), a breakout force of 53,548 lb and accommodates buckets ranging from four to 12.2 cubic metres.
John Chesterman, product marketing manager of four-wheel driver loaders for John Deere says there are various options contractors can choose to make their wheel loader more winter friendly. The 844K-Series II wheel loader has several cold weather options available, including an optional start aid, engine block heater, heated mirrors to remove ice and snow, a rear camera with a radar object detection system and a heated seat.
The wheel loader features a 13.5-litre, PowerTech Plus Tier 3/Stage 2 emissio
n-certified diesel engine—with an option for an Tier 4i-certified engine—that has a net horsepower of 380 hp (283kW) at 1,600 rpm, a bucket capacity of 5.5-cubic metres (3.46-cubic metre bucket width), higher-capacity axles for increased stability and full-turn tip-load capacity, and a breakout force of 47,549 lbs.
L180G – Volvo
The L180G-series wheel loader offers a wide array of winter-friendly features, including: Automatic Heat Control (AHC) in the cab to maintain pre-set temperatures, timer cab heating, heated seat and mirrors, additional lights for better snow clearing visibility at night and a rear view camera with colour monitor.
It also offers a computer-controlled electric engine air intake pre-heater for assistance with cold temperature start up, engine coolant block heater, diesel fuel heater, front axle 100 per cent differential lock and rear limited slip differential, an Arctic Kit for extremely low temperatures (hoses, accumulators and oil), electro-hydraulic third-function hydraulics to operate winter attachments (snow blades, snow pusher or side-mounted snow wings, etc.) and a front quick attach coupler for changing attachments.
The wheel loader also features a 13-litre, six cylinder, 328 hp (245 kW), Tier 4i-certified turbocharged diesel engine with recirculation particulate filter, load-sensing hydraulics featuring variable-flow, axial piston pumps and a breakout force of 53,122 lb., and accommodates buckets ranging from 4.2 to 7.8 cubic metres.
There are many different wheel loaders out there for contractors to choose from, but some are better than others when it comes to cold-weather challenges. Check your options carefully, and make sure your workers aren’t left out in the cold.