Avoiding Surprise Salt Spreader Breakdowns
Depending on where you live, the transition from fall to winter can catch you off guard if you’re not prepared. Being located in Northeast Ohio, we know the story of surprise weather all too well. With a proper pre-season, ongoing and post-season maintenance cycle, you can ensure that your snow removal equipment is always ready to go. Just like any other piece of equipment, regular maintenance of your salt spreader will extend its life expectancy as well as reduce the likelihood of costly surprise breakdowns. Following these tips will help you establish a good maintenance cycle for your salt spreader.
Once a proper maintenance cycle has been established your pre-season maintenance should be nice and easy. After performing a good end of season cleanup and once over, your spreader will be primed for an easy pre-season tune-up. Maintaining your salt spreader is similar to maintaining your snow plow. The main focus is on the preventative maintenance of moving parts, electrical connections and looking for any damage.
- Check and Grease All Connections
To begin pre-season maintenance tasks, start by looking over your spreaders electrical connections. If any of them look corroded or damaged you’ll want to clean or replace them. While inspecting your electrical connections go through and grease all of them with non-conductive dielectric grease. This will help prevent them from corroding throughout the current snow season. Don’t forget about your non-electrical connections. There are many other moving parts and connectors throughout your spreader, so make sure these are greased and pliable, as well, so they are accessible when needed. There’s nothing worse than going to hook up an essential part of your spreader and finding a clasp or connector has corroded closed.
- Check Motor Connection Terminals
Check the connection terminals on your spreaders motor(s). If they appear damaged or corroded—you should replace them. Excessive damage or corrosion may require you to replace the motor.
- Inspect Your Transmission and Drive Components
Make sure your drive sprocket’s set screw is tight and make sure to tighten the mounting bolts on your clutch sprocket. If these become loose, then the drive system won’t function properly. Take a look at the other salt spreader drive components; these will differ depending on what type of spreader you’re using.
Salt spreaders typically use an electric motor to drive the spinning disk that throws the salt. Inspect the motors electrical connections looking for any corrosion and any damage to the motors wires. If you’re using a larger truck bed insert salt spreader, these will have either a conveyor chain or auger that is driven by another motor. Check this motor as well to ensure that there is no corrosion on the connections and that the wires are intact. If you have a spreader with a conveyor chain, you’ll also want to inspect the integrity of the chain. Look it over and make sure the chain isn’t showing any signs of wear or damage. You’ll want to repair any damaged links or replace the chain if the damage is excessive or found throughout multiple chain links.
Some spreaders use a hydraulic system for the motors. If applicable, you’ll want to check your spreaders hydraulic system. Closely inspect the salt spreader hydraulic hoses and fittings to ensure there are no bubbles or cuts in the hoses and to make sure none of the fittings are leaking or damaged.
- Inspect Drive Shaft Bearings
Making sure your drive components can move freely is very important. Any additional resistance will put additional strain on your spreaders motor and drive components. Inspect the drive shaft bearings to make sure that they still spin freely and replace them if they are worn or damaged.
- Inspect Your Motor Cover Assembly
Making sure your spreaders motor is protected from the elements will help prolong the life expectancy of your motor. Some spreaders have a seal between the cover and the spreader. If present, make sure that your spreaders motor cover seal is intact and not excessively worn, otherwise replace it. If your spreader doesn’t have a seal for its motor cover assembly, make sure the cover is intact and secure.
- Check Spinner Disk
Check the condition of the salt spreader spinner disk. First make sure that there aren’t any worn or damaged veins on your spinner disk. These are the ridges (or ribs) that stick up vertically from the spinner to grab the salt and throw it. If your spinner disk has worn down veins or the disk itself is damaged—you should replace it.
- Check All Lights
When working in hazardous weather, it’s important to make sure all of your lights are working properly. Look over your spreader and your vehicle to make sure all of your lights are working correctly and replace any burnt out or broken lights.
You’re not out of the water yet because the best preventative maintenance is continual maintenance. There’s no better way to avoid surprise breakdowns mid-season than continually monitoring the condition of your spreader and its parts. You’ll be more likely to catch issues before they create larger problems down the road and you’ll reduce the amount of surprise downtime during the season. Keeping up with your salt spreader maintenance will also make preparations for storage at the end of the season a breeze.
- Grease all connections!
Continually monitor and grease all of your electrical connections. Being exposed to salt and snow all season makes these connections vulnerable to corrosion. Always check and grease your non-electrical connections, as well, as many of the connectors and clasps used throughout your spreader are made of metal. Continually monitoring and keeping these connections greased will help prevent weather from corroding any of your connections.
- Empty and Clean Spreader
Empty your salt spreader hopper after every use and clean the spreader. This can typically be done with water using a pressure washer. Cleaning out your spreader will help prevent clogs or jamming of your spreader. Allowing salt to lock up your spreader can cause damage to the moving parts, as well as the drive components. It can also lead to the corrosion of any metal components in your hopper. This step is especially important for people with spreaders that feature a hopper constructed of metal. If you have a spreader with a metal hopper, you’ll want to empty and clean it after every use. Leaving residual salt in your spreaders metal hopper will lead to corrosion.
- Grease Drive Shaft and Spinner Shaft Bearings
After every 10 hours of use, grease the bearings on your idler shaft, drive shaft and spinner shaft. These parts help ensure that the moving parts in your spreaders drive system, agitation system and spreading system can move freely. If any of these bearings show signs of damage or wear—you should replace them.
- Grease Transmission Bearings and Check Oil Fill Level
After every 50 hours of use, it’s time to check on your spreaders transmission. Inspect and grease the input shaft bearings. If they appear to be damaged or worn—replace them. You’ll also want to check your transmission’s oil fill level after every 50 hours of use to ensure that its level with the fill hole.
- Check Drive Components
Start by checking your spinners drive components, make sure the terminals on your spinner motor are corrosion free and check the electrical connections. If applicable, check the tension of your spreaders drive belt to maintain proper belt tension according to the manufacturer’s specifications. If you have a conveyor spreader, check the tension of your conveyor chain.
After working your spreader hard through the snow season, it’s important to give it a thorough cleaning and once over before storing it for the off-season. The focus here is cleaning/removing any built up salt and finding any hidden damage or damaged parts. This step is essential in making sure your spreader is ready to go for the next snow season.
- Grease All Connections
To maintain a solid electrical system in your spreader, it’s important to make sure all connections are greased prior to storage. To help ensure that your spreaders connectors and clasps don’t corrode shut, it’s important to check and grease these connections, as well. This will help prevent corrosion from occurring while the spreader is stored.
- Empty and Clean the Spreader
When preparing your spreader for storage, it’s important to make sure you give it a thorough cleaning to remove any built-up salt. If you leave any residual salt in your hopper, it can lead to the corrosion of any metal parts. This step is that much more important for people with spreaders that use metal hoppers. If residual salt is left in a hopper, it will corrode the metal.
- Grease Driveshaft Bearings
Inspect and grease your driveshaft bearings. Additionally, replace them if they seem damaged or overly worn. Greasing your bearings before storing your spreader will help keep them from seizing up or drying out while your spreader is stored in the off-season.
- Protect Bare Metal Surfaces
Thoroughly inspect your spreader looking for any bare or exposed metal. If any exposed metal surfaces are found, you’ll want to paint or apply oil to any exposed metal surfaces. These surfaces are vulnerable to corrosion. Applying oil or paint will coat them with a protective layer and shield them from the moisture that will cause corrosion while being stored. Painting and or oiling exposed metal at the end of each season is preferable, as this will seal any exposed metal from corrosion during storage and will prepare it for next year’s snow season.
- Secure the Hopper Lid
Now it’s time to close it up for the season. Place the lid on your hopper and secure it in place with the latches. This will help prevent moisture from pooling up in your hopper in the off-season, as well as prevent any other unwanted dirt or debris from collecting inside.
- Store Upright
After closing up and securing your hoppers lid, store it in an upright position. If you’re storing your hopper outdoors, make sure you cover it with a water resistant tarp or other covering and raise the spreader up off the ground.
Clean and Grease!
Though there are many variations of salt spreaders available on the market, the concepts behind maintaining them are still the same. The heavy focus is on cleaning and greasing all moving and electrical parts to maintain their integrity. Depending on the parts you’re looking at, greasing and cleaning will change from salt spreader to salt spreader, but they all need the same attention and care to maintain proper function.
Establishing a regular preparation cycle for the pre-season, ongoing maintenance and a good end of season cleanup will not only help you extend the life of your spreader, but will help keep you more aware of any issues that arise throughout the season to avoid any unexpected, unpleasant and unfortunate breakdowns.