Cold Weather Log Splitting Tips
How to Split Wood in the Winter
There’s a reason why everyone splits firewood in the fall: it’s way too cold in the winter.
In fall, the temperatures are comfortable, the bugs aren't biting, and if you bucked your firewood in the early spring (or even in the previous year), it will be properly cured and seasoned come October or November.
But sometimes, you can't avoid needing to split wood in the winter. If you find yourself low on firewood during the darkest days of the year, you might need to bring your log splitter back out of storage.
Just like you, your splitter works better in cozy temperatures. Using a log splitter in winter requires you to pay attention to two extra details in order to stay safe.
Precaution #1: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Did you know that, every year, about 50,000 people in the U.S. go to the emergency room to be treated for carbon monoxide poisoning? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also estimates that carbon monoxide poisoning causes about 430 deaths annually.
You can't smell or see carbon monoxide, but this poisonous gas is released every time a gasoline engine burns fuel. Even a gas engine as small as the ones found on low-tonnage gas log splitters can produce enough carbon monoxide to cause serious health problems.
Gas-powered wood splitters are amazing tools for splitting a lot of logs quickly, but never use one inside your garage, no matter how cold the weather is. Take it outside, and avoid letting those toxic fumes build up in an enclosed space.
If the winter weather is too cold in your area for outdoors log splitting, consider purchasing an electric log splitter instead. These produce no carbon monoxide fumes, making them safer and cleaner to use in winter.
Precaution #2: Hydraulic Oil Thickening
Your hydraulic log splitter works with the help of a pump that cycles hydraulic fluid or hydraulic oil through hoses and uses it to extend the ram that drives the wedge into the wood.
As you can imagine, hydraulic oil is an important part of a log splitter. Unfortunately, it quickly converts to a jelly-like sludge when the temperature plunges below 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
You may be tempted to switch to a thinner oil for winter use, but you’ll just end up overheating your log splitter when you use it next fall.
Instead, stick with the manufacturer's recommended oil, and take some time to warm up your log splitter. Start it and run it for several minutes, then cycle the ram a few times without a log in place to avoid creating any strain.
To ensure your wood splitter will start and run properly, your best option is to store it with a magnetic block heater installed. If your splitter won't stay warm enough after you start it, you can always leave the block heater on during use.
Using your log splitter in cold weather requires a couple of added steps, but taking extra care while you're splitting will keep you safe and ready to enjoy your firewood throughout the rest of the winter.