How to: Run Bridge and Road Construction Equipment Right During the Winter

Now that winter is here, it’s time to take special care of your equipment so it performs well throughout the whole season and makes it to spring. Our proven tips and techniques will help you do just that.

Engine and hydraulic fluids

Cold weather impacts fluids in a big way. Temperatures below freezing make them behave differently in the summer months. Cold engine oils and hydraulic fluids are thicker when they’re cold. Forcing them through cold, stiff hoses can result in backups and system failure. Using equipment when fluids aren’t warm enough is the most common cause of wintertime component failure. 

It’s critical that you warm up machines for a few minutes before using them on cold days. You must allow your engine oil to come up to the proper temperature before running machinery at maximum levels. It will help prevent the risk of cold, thick oil blowing out gaskets or O-rings inside the engine. 

Once the engine is warmed up, start cycling through a few basic functions. This will allow hydraulic and other fluids to warm up and circulate through systems and help prevent seal damage and other types of equipment issues and failures.

Finally, slowly begin using the attachments to your equipment. They’re generally more exposed to wind and cold temperatures than any other components. Always take time to cycle them, allowing them to warm up before full-on use. 

When you start running machinery at normal levels, proceed with caution until you’re confident that everything is warmed up and working properly.

Tip: Many machines used in bridge and road maintenance and construction work come with features that help them perform effectively during the coldest months of the year. These include things like engine block heaters, heavy-duty batteries, grid heaters, rear defroster systems, fuel filter heaters, and water separator heaters. Purchasing new equipment with these features will help make winter work easier and more effective.


Equipment batteries often fail in cold weather. To prevent this, it’s critical to ensure that they’re fully charged before you run machinery when temperatures are low. Cold weather increases cranking demand, and a weak battery may not be able to turn on a piece of equipment. It could also harm computer systems, cause fault codes to flash and warning lights to go off. It might even lead to equipment failure, which could result in costly repairs or the need to purchase replacements.

To avoid these problems, allow a machine to run long enough to fully recharge the battery after cranking and before beginning work. Another option is to connect the battery to a charge maintainer overnight to ensure full-charge starts in the morning, even on the coldest of winter days.


Another critical equipment component that you must pay attention to in the winter are tires on machines that have wheels. The regular tires that are fine for use in the summer aren’t going to provide adequate traction to operate in snow and ice. It’s a good idea to switch to tires with siping tread patterns and sharper tread edges to grip better in snow, ice, and slush. If you’re not sure which tires are best for your equipment, check with the manufacturer or your equipment supplier.

Also, cold weather can also impact tire pressure. Always check that tires are filled to the proper levels before using any piece of equipment with wheels. If they’re not, take care of the issue immediately. Improperly filled tires could result in accidents and injuries, and equipment won’t perform properly.


Equipment lighting that’s adequate most times of the year might not be good enough in the winter, when sunsets happen earlier and winter weather might make them less effective. If you think that this could be the case with your equipment, add additional lighting, which will increase safety and productivity on dark winter nights and in the snow and fog.

An alternative

If you don’t feel confident preparing your equipment for winter use, consider leasing it from a company like Bridge Masters. We’re the lift equipment experts. You’ll always know that when we deliver equipment to your bridge worksite, it will be in perfect working order and ready to use all year long.

Finally …

Don’t take risks when you use machinery in the winter. If you have any doubts, check online, contact the manufacturer, or consult with your supplier. They’ll be able to advise you on proper storage, maintenance, and use in the cold and dark months of the year.