With winter fast approaching, now is the time to winterize your fleet.
Butch Warren, service manager, for Beltway International Trucks in Maryland offers some time-tested advice on how to keep trucks moving amid cold starts and icy, snowy conditions.
The most common misstep when it comes to winter maintenance, according to Warren, is simple shortsightedness.
When a breakdown occurs while out on the road, far too many fleets opt for a simple Quick Lube instead of choosing the dealer’s more thorough “A” Level service, he says.
Checking the differential and the transmission fluids, inspecting the radiator and fan drive belts, checking the air tanks for excess water build-up and replacing the air dryer cartridge all come standard as part of the “A” service at any International dealer, he explains. Rather than purely treating the issue at hand, this more detailed inspection can help eliminate another potential problem down the road.
“For example, it’s important to check the air dryer when the temperature drops,” says Warren. “If you get water in the air system, all of sudden your air brake systems could freeze up. Some customers don’t change the cartridge until there’s a failure.
“The key is keeping that truck up and running and profitable as long as you can.”
Maintaining fuel quality is also essential.
Ensure your trucks are getting “winter blend” diesel (a mix of 1D and 2D), Warren recommends. Consider incorporating diesel fuel conditioner, which cleans fuel injectors, disperses water in the fuel system and helps with lubrication.
“And always keep the fuel tank topped off at the end of the day to reduce the collection of condensation. In the winter, any water in the fuel will gel and that will shut you right down.
“There’s nothing worse for a driver than to be down and out on the side of the road in the cold weather.”
A truck’s add-on accessories - especially equipment such as APUs and MaxxPower battery-powered HVAC units - get a serious workout in cold weather, Warren points out. Being stuck without heat in the winter due to an accessory system failure can be more than an inconvenience - it can be dangerous.
“Make sure that APUs receive a thorough maintenance check before winter arrives,” he says.
“And even though MaxxPower battery-powered HVAC systems include a load-shedding device that shuts down non-essential hotel loads to converse battery power, don’t be too reliant on that safeguard; HVAC and other electronic systems also need to be thoroughly inspected.”
Many drivers install power converters for hotel loads like microwaves and CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines directly to the truck battery, and if they’re installed improperly, a short can occur and knock out the truck’s entire electronic system, Warren notes.
He says it is best to have the shop install truck accessories to ensure the loads are dispersing properly. Additionally, wiring that’s not routed correctly can result in a pinched wire and, ultimately, a direct short in the system.
“Remember, in general, every part of the truck gets a bumpier ride during the winter. The roads are rougher, causing more vibrations and chaffing of wires throughout the vehicle.”
Take a good look at the wiring throughout the entire engine and chassis to make sure everything is secured and wires aren’t rubbing against anything, says Warren. Check the belts often, as well as the tire pressure, which tends to drop along with the temperatures.