Don’t Let Winter Corrode Your Equipment Fleet Assets
Construction tools and equipment are expensive. In order for your customers’ firms to turn a profit and grow, their assets must serve them as productively as possible, for as long as possible. But that’s true for your dealership as well. You have a tremendous investment in your service and repair facilities and tools, and your rental fleet is a vital asset for your business just as machinery is for your customers.
Winter Corrosion Eats Away at Your Fleet
Tough as they are, tools and equipment require proper care. Without that, your return on investment will suffer. Your winter-working machines will deteriorate unnecessarily, and you may even experience productivity problems. Meanwhile, the rest of your fleet won’t be primed to hit the jobsite as soon as possible in the spring.
We’ve already received our first frigid greetings from Old Man Winter, but it’s not too late to take extra precautions that ensure your equipment is protected from corrosion. And it’s never too late to remind your customers to take these same precautions. They’ll thank you for having your back, even if they haven’t overlooked any winterizing details.
We all recognize rust when we see it. But many of us don’t really think about what causes it. For metal surfaces, the elements are a natural hazard. When water, mud, snow or ice come in contact with the metal, a chain of chemical reactions occurs. Unchecked, it’s a natural progression:
- Moisture and air (specifically, carbon dioxide) combine to form carbonic acid.
- Carbonic acid dissolves iron atoms.
- Oxygen molecules in the water bond with the dissolved iron, forming iron oxide.
And we have rust.
If your dealership (or your customers’ worksites) are near the shore, both the salt and the dampness in the air can exacerbate corrosion problems. Equipment that works in winter also comes in contact with deicer and other corrosive chemicals. Dirt, moisture and corrosion can drain a machine’s battery as well as damage surfaces.
Inspection is the Simplest Form of Prevention
We try to protect metal surfaces with paint or specialized coatings, but over time these can wear through – especially under the harsh conditions that typify everyday construction and other heavy-duty outdoor worksites. Checking machines for damage that can lead to corrosion is one of the tasks that should be on your walk-around inspection checklist.
What Else Should You do to Prevent Corrosion?
In an ideal world, off-duty equipment should be stored indoors, where you can control the environment. Dehumidifiers and air conditioning both work to reduce ambient humidity, which can help reduce risk of rust. Even if it’s not practical to house working machinery indoors when it’s not on the job, make a special effort to store off-season equipment in a clean, dry environment.
If the equipment is working in particularly wet or salty conditions, coating it with corrosion-inhibiting chemicals may help. These coatings are designed to augment regular paint, etc. Some react directly with the metal surface, so the chemical reaction that causes formation of rust cannot take place. Others react with gases in the atmosphere to head off the rust formation process. Either way, these products can help slow the inevitable, but they cannot eliminate the possibility of corrosion.
In some cases, it’s possible to coat or plate exposed surfaces to reduce corrosion opportunities. Each works in a somewhat different way. In essence, coatings are designed to “waterproof” the surface, keeping moisture from coming in contact with the metal. Some are epoxy- or acrylic-based, some use latex, and some require radiation curing to work.
Plating produced a metallic barrier between moisture and the metal surface. Although some types of plating must be done when the machine is built, there are after-market products you can use. With them, you get a snazzy side-benefit – a gorgeous finish that makes your machine look great and reflects beautifully on your dealership brand.
For marine equipment which is continuously exposed to saltwater, cathodic protection may be the best alternative.
Of course, some metals are more susceptible to corrosion than others. But until nickel, titanium and stainless steel become commonplace in heavy-duty equipment manufacture, following the above steps to protect your equipment is still a necessity. You’ll be rewarded with longer life and fewer problems. And that’s a benefit in any season.