Steps to take to guarantee a strong spring start

By Jeff Winke

The writer and veteran of WW I, Henry Beston has a great way of describing the season change as paving contractors prepare for winter: “The leaves fall, the wind blows, and the farm country slowly changes from the summer cottons into its winter wools.” In the same way, many contractors will be adding a flannel wool shirt over their cotton t-shirt before heading out for the day as the weather moves through autumn into winter.

Once the chilly season starts claiming the paving season and contractors start preparing to shut down, there are a few steps that need to be taken to ensure a smooth start come spring. . . a checklist for winterizing the equipment and business.

“The first priority we recommend is to take your machine to an authorized dealer to fully inspect and service it so that it is ready for spring start up,” said Mark Bolick, manager of product support, LeeBoy, Lincolnton, N.C. “The reason is that the dealer’s technicians will see and address any problems that may not be seen by the end user. Too many times a company will wait until spring and try to get the dealer to perform this service and run into longer wait times due to the volume of work the service department has at this time causing delay in the start time for that company’s season.”

If a trip to the dealer is not an option, a contractor will want to inspect all wear and moving parts and replace/repair as needed. A thorough cleaning of the machine to remove all old material from the paver and coat with a release agent for storage is something an equipment dealer would perform.

“In terms of a winterizing checklist,” Bolick said, “here are some key actions a contractor should take with their asphalt paver before the winter shut down:

  • Grease entire machine
  • Retract all cylinders if possible
  • Add anti-gel to fuel tank and fill with fuel. Then, run machine 20 minutes to be sure the additive is circulated through the engine fuel system
  • Cover control panels, screed and operators controls
  • Float charger on batteries
  • Anti seize on all exposed screws. Flight screws, end gate lift and tilt
  • Set screed on blocks so it’s not in contact with ground over the winter
  • Lubricate all roller chains and spray down conveyor chains with release agent”

At season’s end, a thorough machine cleaning appears to be crucial.

“As for key actions before winter shutdown, I would say the highest priority is to deep clean the machine,” stated Shane Sommers, sales manager with Hitek Equipment, Inc., Kenosha, Wis. “Take the time to remove all the covers and guards to get into the hard to reach places. With covers and guards removed, it’s also a good time to check for wear.”

For many, the sunset of a paving season is the time to reflect and take stock.

“Questions I would ask,” said Sal Rizzo, president of Salsco, Cheshire, Conn. “are:

Did I lose business because I didn’t have the right machine for the job? Did I go after the right jobs? Did I leave jobs on the table? What would help me be more competitive, productive and profitable?”

Rizzo continued, “Very often purchasing new equipment can open doors that were closed to businesspeople who are against change. One area of the paving market often overlooked is small jobs. There are machines designed to do the small jobs which can be very high profit jobs for the company, which sets itself up to do this type of work.

“I have seen companies set themselves up to take the small jobs from other contractors who would rather not bother with the small jobs and are willing to pay a premium just to have someone else take care of it. This is one way to improve profits without increasing negative cost exposure. Let’s face it, profit is what maters if you expect to stay in the ring!”

Mike Smith with Salsco added: “As we all emerge from this Covid period, we all want to come back stronger than before and new equipment that will open new doors is key to making this happen.”

Before putting the machine away for the season, Sommers also recommends inspecting the auger and screed for wear. “On full size paving machines, it would also be a good opportunity to inspect the drive chains, tracks and rollers for wear as well.”

End of paving season is the time to give machines the detail and attention they need to ensure a smooth and profitable start to the next paving season.

Andy Adamcik, territory manager with Weiler, Knoxville, Iowa, offered a machine inspection checklist that can guide contractors when conducting a full machine inspection at the end of the season:

  • Electrical system
    • Generator
    • Fuses
    • Harnesses
  • Operator stations
    • Check all switches, toggles, buttons
  •  Hydraulic system
    • Fittings
    • Hoses
  • Engine
    • Clean Radiator
    • Check/replace oils and filters

In winterizing a paver’s engine, there are considerations surrounding DEF (Diesel Emissions Fluid). It is important to note that DEF freezes at 12°F (-11°C).

Bolick cautioned that DEF should be stored in temperatures between 40-80°F (5-27°C) to maintain shelf life. Temperatures above 86°F (30°C) he said will cause DEF to break down into ammonia. DEF may be stored in the machine’s tank for up to four months. If the machine is stored or used above 86°F (30°C), the DEF storage life will be reduced. It is always advised to purchase DEF in a container size which can be consumed in a few months.

With winterizing the asphalt paver engine there are other tips to follow.

“Check the air filter and clean or replace the air filter elements if needed,” stated Bolick.

“Check the engine oil level and fill if needed. Ensure the fuel tank is full to prevent condensation in the fuel tank. I’d add cold weather additive to the fuel when appropriate.
Perform specific gravity test on engine coolant. Drain and replace or fill with antifreeze mixture to prevent freeze damage if needed. You’ll want to disconnect the battery and store inside in a cool, dry place; and ensure breakers are in the OFF position.”

Bolick continued: “Cover the exhaust and intake filter. Be sure to seal the exhaust cover with tape to prevent moisture from entering, especially if storing outside.”

Should your paver require any repairs — or if you’re looking at refurbishment or reman — winter is the perfect time to make those repairs without worrying about unscheduled downtime.

If the paver will sit idle over winter, start it up once per month and let it warm up completely. While it can be difficult to fit necessary maintenance or monthly start-ups into busy schedules, when it comes time to hit the first job in spring, taking these steps will help ensure a smooth season launch — and a smooth road ahead.

Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He can be reached through