Canadian Mining Journal


Preparing heavy duty vehicles for the winter months

It's time to prepare for the pressure and challenges of extreme cold conditions.

With the winter months approaching, it’s time for mining operators to prepare their heavy duty vehicles to withstand the pressure and challenges presented by extreme cold conditions. The equipment used in mining environments is exposed to varying challenges posed by cold weather. Heavy loads can put engines and other crucial component parts under strain that can lead not only to engine wear, but even failure. In mining operations, where time is money, downtime can equate to thousands of dollars of lost revenue and slow down overall operations.

Turning our attention to engines in particular, heavy loads and extreme temperatures can put them under strain, and stress conventional lubricants. In these difficult conditions, the viscosity in engine lubricants can become a cause of concern. If the temperature drops into the “critical” zone, depending on the chemical composition, the lubricant can start to stiffen or become overly viscous. This results in machinery hardware being improperly lubricated, and under such testing conditions, some equipment may seize up or fail.

So how can mining operators ensure their engine oils are working at their optimum level and contributing to overall operational efficiencies?

A move to lower viscosity oils

For optimum operational performance, we recommend mining operations consider using a lower viscosity oil, one which is able to maintain its viscosity and flow as temperatures drop.

Lower viscosity oils provide better engine protection in colder operating conditions as they are better able to move around machinery at a quicker pace, keeping the components well lubricated. A colder climate necessitates the need for a lower viscosity engine oil to ensure proper and adequate flow of oil to protect key critical engine components.

Depending on Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) recommendations, fleet managers may wish to consider additional engine oil viscosity options, such as SAE 0W-40, 0W-30 or 5W-40, which can provide superior protection for heavy duty equipment working in extreme cold environments. Why? Because these synthetic formulations are designed to shield critical engine components from the coldest climates and have been developed to deliver the highest performance standards in demanding heavy-duty applications.

By choosing an effective lubricant, companies can ensure their assets and machinery remains in top operating condition in the toughest of environments and the harshest terrains. Petro- Canada Lubricants’ DURON Next Generation product line is our toughest and most durable product line designed specifically to keep mining operations working, no matter what.

When it comes to preparing for low temperatures, fleet managers should also be looking at their multi-grade hydraulic, driveline and gear oils. The entire vehicle powertrain and hydraulic system can experience improved operating efficiency by utilizing the lowest viscosity grades allowed by the component OEM ambient temperature requirements.

It’s important to have the right stock of oils for the specific application, and operators should also be regularly checking coolant condition and batteries to ensure engines are running safely and efficiently during the cold months.

Is there a need for separate summer and winter oils? The short answer is no. With the availability of multi-grade oils such as a SAE 15W-40 or 10W-30, fleets can benefit from not requiring a seasonal change, thanks to their ability to handle both ends of the spectrum of operating temperatures. This also allows mining operators to stock one product, rather than two.

The cold climate poses a significant risk to machinery in the industry, as well as various other sectors. But falling temperatures doesn’t mean that equipment must be put at risk or operations must come to a halt. On the flip side, a hotter climate may dictate the need for heavier engine oil that has the added ability to resist oil breakdown at those higher operating temperatures.

Our range of heavy duty diesel engine oils offer a comprehensive range of products to meet any climate and operating condition, whether hot or cold.

With a business to manage and vehicles to keep running, it’s important that those in charge are choosing the most appropriate product to meet the demands of the seasons, and their operating conditions. This choice should be based on the particular OEM ambient temperature range recommendations as provided in the owner’s manual.

Testing conditions

Used oil analysis can be of real value to the mining community and is an area of operational management which we regularly support our customers with. A good program can reduce unscheduled down-time, improve equipment reliability, extend equipment life, optimize oil change intervals and reduce maintenance costs. It is important owners understand how this testing works and how it fits into the other requirements of equipment maintenance.

As part of a sound maintenance regime, a good used oil analysis program is a cost-effective process that can monitor oil condition in heavy equipment. Oil analysis typically involves three basic steps: taking a representative sample from the equipment you are interested in, sending the sample to a qualified used oil analysis lab in an expedient manner, interpreting the results and acting on them.

This analysis is most effective when performed at regular intervals so that a trend can be generated, which is used to improve performance and efficiency of your equipment. We recommend mining operators make this testing an essential part of their overall maintenance schedules to ensure optimum performance all-year-round. (For more information about our LUBE 360 oil analysis program, you can visit it at 360-services.) 

Making the right decisions now

Mining operations work under time and climate-pressured conditions, and any delays or downtime can quickly accumulate to put strain on the bottom line. It’s therefore essential that heavy duty vehicles have the most efficient lubricant in place to keep the engine operating at its optimum capacity.

Brian Humphrey is OEM technical liaison, Petro-Canada Lubricants. For more information please visit

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