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Bad Vibes 101

By on May 1, 2018

What Are the Impacts on You & Your Truck?

If you’ve been around the trucking industry as long as I have, you may well remember the days of seriously bad vibrations when your back would hurt after a few hundred miles of hard driving. While the I-system and roads in general have been significantly improved, you can probably cite a few that need major repairs or complete rebuilding. Modern truck suspensions and seating have also been significantly improved. Newer air-ride suspensions are not only better for your body; they also help protect the tightness of your truck cab and improve vehicle stability.

If you intend to keep your truck for many years and want to help maintain its resale value, controlling the vibration levels in your cab is critically important. Excessive vibrations will negatively impact the rivets that hold the outside cab panels together. Many used truck appraisers are very good at locating loose rivets and worn panels caused by vibrations that have not been properly absorbed by the suspension system.

In fact, air-ride suspensions are very effective at reducing the intense vibrations coming from newer, high-torque diesel engines and wheel-end vibrations. It is very important to identify and correct any frequencies that shake the cab beyond a reasonable level. Not only does this shaking diminish the value of the cab, it takes a physical toll on the driver of the truck. Something as simple as not having the air-ride height adjusted properly can send an intense shaking through the frame and into the cab.

The Power of PM

Truck owners must never underestimate the power of a good PM inspection focused on keeping a truck’s suspension in tip-top shape. Just glancing at a shock absorber is not sufficient. Inspectors should be trained to recognize what a bad shock looks and feels like. If oil is leaking from the shock, it is defective and must be replaced. One helpful tip is to feel the bodies of shocks on a truck that has just arrived at a terminal or maintenance facility. A well-functioning shock should be warm to the touch.

A shock that is leaking internally can look good on the outside, while bypassing fluid on the inside. Excessively worn shock bushings can also be the source of cab vibrations. Based on experience, observations and diagnostics, it’s clear that many truck cab vibrations originate from simple sources such as worn shocks and worn suspension components.

OEM & Aftermarket Advances

Obviously, truck manufactures are competing to make their vehicles as fuel efficient as possible. Part of their strategies involve networking suspension systems with brake control and engine systems. This electronic networking helps engineers manage traction control and vehicle stability, resulting in a more fuel-efficient and safer ride at highway speeds.

Some aftermarket manufactures have begun working to stabilize suspension systems in specialized haulers, such as tankers and grain trailers. These new designs have proven to help prevent rollovers and improve maneuverability in special applications. These systems are a result of newly designed, leveling air valves and brake-tube engineering. This may seem simple, but it can be very effective. I expect to see more research and development aimed at improving suspension systems over the next few years and reducing bad vibrations. Improving the ride for drivers and giving the industry safer, more comfortable trucks are clearly beneficial.

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