It's splittin' time again! You're anxious to get outside and stockpile firewood before the cold weather sets in. But first, you need to wake up that wood splitter and get 'er ready. In this article, we'll provide a quick checklist for de-winterizing your log splitter and preparing it for the season's first use.
- Engine Oil, Fuel, Filter, and Battery
- Hydraulic Fluid and Filters
- Hardware Tightness and Lubrication
- Tire Pressure and Bearings
- Operational Check
Engine Oil, Fuel, Filter, and Battery
Before starting the engine for the first time, check that the oil level is sufficient. Most small engines on log splitters have a low oil cut-off function, so check that the oil level is right up to the threads on the fill port. Do this when the splitter is on level ground. If you haven't changed your engine oil since last season, check the maintenance schedule in your engine owner's manual for the required oil changes according to the hours of use. If it is due for an oil change or you're unsure, now is a good time to do that.
Your engine needs fresh fuel to start and run well. Remove the old fuel if you did not drain last season's fuel before storing your log splitter away. Don't forget to open the drain plug on the bottom of the carburetor and drain the old fuel out of the bowl. Some people prefer to store their log splitters with a full tank of ethanol-free fuel, and others add a fuel stabilizer. Either of these steps will minimize the likelihood of the fuel going bad or absorbing water. If you performed one of these steps, there's no need to remove the fuel - you're good to go!
You need to replace the air filter element periodically - refer to the owner's manual for the service interval. Mice also love to turn the air filter housing into a condo, so check to see if any of the little guys have moved in.
If you have a battery for the electric starter, hopefully, you stored it inside and kept it on a battery tender since you put the splitter away. If not, you should charge the battery before using it. Put it on a trickle charger or maintenance "float" charger overnight. Don't use a large charger designed for car batteries. If the engine doesn't start with a freshly charged battery, check out our article Top 3 Reasons Why You Can't Start Your Log Splitter Engine Using the Electric Starter.
Hydraulic Fluid and Filters
Just like with your skid steer or tractor, maintaining the proper level and condition of hydraulic fluid is critical to the overall health of your log splitter's hydraulic system. This fluid reaches high temperatures and is under high pressure for long periods. The system will not perform properly if its hydraulic fluid is too old or contaminated, and contaminated fluid can damage the pump.
Hydraulic fluid filtration isn't just a "nice-to-have"; some say it's essential. In addition to a 10-25 micron return line filter, many splitters also have a mesh pre-filter on the suction side of the hydraulic fluid reservoir. A mesh pre-filter is a large micron strainer meant to catch larger contaminants from entering the pump. RuggedMade log splitter hydraulic tanks have these. If you are replacing the hydraulic fluid, inspect the pre-filter while the tank is empty and clean it as necessary. A clogged pre-filter will cause your pump to cavitate, damaging the pump.
Hardware Tightness and Lubrication
Your log splitter has many components that are held together with nuts and bolts. Most of these are nylock nuts, so you should not have to check for tightness too often. Still, it's always a good practice to check that all fasteners are tight if you haven't used the splitter for a while, and check periodically throughout the splitting season. There are a few areas to check for bolt tightness on RuggedMade log splitters:
- Push plate/blade slider plate hardware
- Push plate/blade rod-end pin (check that nut-and-bolt or spring clips are tight and secure)
- Coupling grub screws (located under the pump mount bracket's safety cover)
If you find loose bolts, apply a thread-locking compound such as blue Loctite to give you extra protection against anything coming loose.
Lubrication is also necessary to keep the surface of your beam in good shape. Apply bearing grease such as Red "N" Tacky to the surface of your beam. There are also grease fittings under the guide plates of the push plate or blade on RuggedMade log splitters. Use a grease gun on the zerk fittings to lubricate under the push plate/blade.
Tire Pressure and Bearings
A flat tire can make your log splitter impossible to move around the wood yard and unsafe when towing on the road. Be sure to check the tire pressure and inflate the tires if necessary. If you tow your wood splitter often, re-pack the wheel bearings and hubs with grease.
A dull blade can hinder your wood-splitting efficiency. Make sure your blades are sharp before you start splitting. It only takes a few minutes to maintain a sharp edge on the main blade and any other accessory blades you may have, like a 4-way or 6-way. You might be surprised how much better a sharp blade performs than a dull one.
The last thing you want to do is a quick operational check before you start splitting. It's much better to discover an issue before you get to work than to stop halfway through that first cord. So, put on the safety gear, fire up the engine, and cycle the cylinders a few times. Check for leaks, loose hardware, or anything else you may have missed.