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Avoid Bone-Chilling Problems

By on September 1, 2016

by: Homer Hogg,

With searing summer heat gripping the country just a few weeks ago and trees still adorned with green leaves, winter is hardly on your mind. It should be. Now is the time to begin the process of controlling your winter maintenance and repair costs. Over 35 years of experience tell me that cold weather can contribute to unique system and component failures on a truck and its engine. Fortunately, you can get ahead of the curve and prevent the risk of annoying problems and costly breakdowns by having your vehicle checked out before winter hits. At a minimum, a good winterization program consists of a thorough inspection and testing of cranking, charging, braking, cooling, fuel and lighting systems.

Charging – Start by inspecting the batteries, battery cables and battery box. Use your senses: If you smell a strong pungent odor similar to sulphur, the batteries may be overcharging, or one or more of the batteries could be damaged allowing liquid to escape. Look carefully for a swollen battery case, which could indicate an overcharging battery or over-torqued battery hold-down hardware. Check the battery cables and connections to ensure they are tight and in good condition. Look for corrosion at all electrical connections and cable ends. Next, have your batteries tested to ensure the internal infrastructure is adequate for the extreme cold ahead.

Inspect the alternator mounting bolts and brackets. They should be free of cracks, and the nuts and bolts must be tight. Insure that all electrical connections are clean and tight. Have the alternator checked for amperage and voltage output. Don’t forget to check the belts for wear and alignment.

Braking – A very important area to focus on is your truck’s brake system. Be certain that your dryer is operating properly and that your desiccant cartridge has been replaced as needed. Check the moisture level in your air tanks, which could provide an indication that your dryer desiccant is totally saturated. Check for air leaks, both with the foot brake applied and not applied.

Cooling – Your cooling system must be in top-notch condition for winter. Inspect for leaks at both ambient and operating temperatures. Check your water pump, fan belts and fan drive system. Conduct a thorough radiator inspection to be sure it is clean, dry and free of debris. Have a qualified technician test the condition of your coolant to include both freeze and metals protection. The radiator cap is one item I see that is often neglected. It must be tested to make sure it is capable of holding its rated pressure.

Fuel System – Modern fuel systems must be in excellent operating condition. Now is a great time to have your fuel tanks cleaned by a fuel tank sweeper. This helps prevent any contamination in the bottom of your tanks from reaching the engine and/or clogging fuel filters. Many vehicles have fuel-water separators that must be drained of contamination and water. Purchasing quality fuel, treated for subfreezing temperatures, from a reputable provider is a sure way to prevent unexpected problems.

Lighting – Finally, don’t forget to check your stem-to-stern lights. With daylight shortened and the likelihood of rain or snow increased, winter forces your lighting system to work harder. There’s a tool in the industry today that sends amps through trailer lighting circuits to measure their quality. This helps locate any resistance that may not be visible with the naked eye.

A little extra effort preparing for winter’s bone-chilling cold will keep your truck generating revenue instead of sitting on the side of the rHomerHoggoad or in a shop bay, not to mention keeping more of your hard-earned money in your pocket.

Homer Hogg’s Maintenance Matters
airs on the Dave Nemo Show (Road Dog Trucking, SiriusXM 146), 8 a.m. ET, the first and third Thursdays of each month.

Homer Hogg, Manager of Technical Development for TA and Petro, has worked as a truck technician for more than 35 years. He is ASE Master-Certified, a Daimler Certified Trainer, and a member of the Nashville Auto-Diesel College Hall of Fame.

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