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The power of preventative maintenance done right on schedule

By on January 2, 2015

Arguably, the single most important thing you can do to control your maintenance cost is a quality preventative maintenance visit — on time every time. The power of discovering potential failures before they actually occur is undeniable. Take a little bit of time and invest a relatively small amount of money by sticking to the recommended maintenance schedule, or risk days of downtime and a big hit to your wallet by waiting too long.

Early signs of trouble

Let’s start with the brake system. You may not see or feel anything off-kilter, but a skilled technician knows that too much moisture in the wet tank indicates that the dryer is not performing properly and additional maintenance is required. Just detecting this problem can save thousands of dollars in the winter with freeze-ups. Additional costly problems will occur with brake valves, such as your foot valve and relay valves, leaking due to the moisture ,and contamination damaging seals in your brake valves.

Of course, while it’s vital that your vehicle has no problem stopping, you also count on it starting every time. Your electrical system must be maintained to ensure your vehicle will crank on those cold winter mornings. During your PM inspection you should have your technician inspect your batteries for loose or corroded connections, loose battery hold-down hardware, any battery that has a swollen case and be certain to check all ground connections. A trained technician can detect a potential problem and test the battery and cranking system before you wake up one morning and need to call for a jump-start, which normally turns into an expensive repair.

Slimed and soaked

Today’s diesel engine has tight tolerances and high pressures in the fuel system. This places a premium on maintaining the quality of the fuel in your fuel system. A technician should replace your fuel filter at the manufacturers’ recommended intervals or when performance problems are noted.

Many fuels used in the market today have a fuel composition that is prone to growing microorganisms when water is present. You will notice these organisms by their black slimy appearance. These are actual living creatures that grow and multiply and wreak havoc in your fuel system. A good inspection includes looking for contamination of the fuel, treating it properly and keeping the fuel system operating smoothly.

Finally, let’s not forget the wheel end system and your tires. A leaking wheel seal will not only cause your brake shoes to be oil soaked — requiring them to be replaced — but could cause catastrophic bearing failure which could lead to your wheels separating from the vehicle in motion. No PM inspection would be complete without a comprehensive tire inspection of both the pressures and the tread condition and wear patterns. Most tire failures are due to a lack of air. Obviously this can be avoided in most cases with a good PM program. A trained inspector can detect additional problems such as bearing, tie rod, ball joint, and suspension problems just by looking at the tires.

Valuable lessons

Long ago, I learned the 1, 10, 100 rule. If a technician can detect a problem during a scheduled maintenance event, it will cost you $1. Deferring the maintenance could cost you $10. And if the problem leads to a breakdown while en route, it will cost you $100. Remember that bit of math the next time you decide you can wait a bit longer than the recommended maintenance interval.

Homer Hogg, Technical Training Manager for TA and Petro, has worked as a truck technician for more than 30 years. He is ASE Master-certified, a Daimler Certified Trainer and a member of the Nashville Auto Diesel College Hall of Fame.

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

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