Freightliner trucks are known for their enormous towing and hauling capabilities. Although these trucks are generally very durable, they can still break down. However, preventing unexpected breakdowns is definitely achievable. Through a combination of preventive maintenance and careful inspection, you can ensure your Freightliner truck continues to run at peak performance and efficiency for years to come. To help you undergo this process, we’ve put together a series of steps that, if followed, will prevent unexpected breakdowns and save you money.
1. Performing preventive maintenance
In order to prevent unexpected breakdowns, you need to perform adequate preventive maintenance on a regular basis. Without being proactive about your maintenance, breakdowns happen. Take your tires as an example. Did you know heavy-duty tires account for a quarter of all roadside assistance calls and are the industry’s second most common DOT inspection violation? All because drivers fail to proactively maintain and inspect them. By performing preventive maintenance, you’ll prevent unexpected breakdowns and save yourself money.
Routinely inspect your tires
Check your tire pressure at least once a week, and if you’re going on a lengthy journey, check it even more regularly. Tires that are both underinflated and overinflated are more likely to go flat. It’s also a good idea to inspect your tires for uneven tread wear. If your tread is wearing out unevenly, chances are there’s an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. This symptom could be a sign that you need a steering alignment, a tire rotation, or even new springs. Many consider tires to be the ultimate indicator of problems, so keep an eye on them.
Routinely inspect your slack adjusters
Routinely inspecting your brakes is one of the best ways to prevent unexpected brake failure. Be sure to inspect your slack adjusters on a regular basis, for they’re known to come in contact with road debris and contaminants on a regular basis. By ensuring there’s no damage to the boots, operating mechanisms, or seals, you’re significantly reducing the chance of an unexpected breakdown.
Routinely change your oil and fluids
Changing your oil and fluids is one of the most important things you can do on your heavy-duty truck. The vast majority of fluids in your vehicle either absorb heat or lubricate a component. Over time these fluids become less effective at doing their job. For example, your engine oil will gradually lose its ability to lubricate your pistons and camshafts, hence the need for routine engine oil changes. Fluids like your coolant, on the other hand, lose their ability to absorb heat, making your engine and other components overheat.
Examine your electrical system
Make sure you’re keeping an eye on your truck’s battery. Your heavy-duty vehicle’s battery is one of the most important parts of your ignition system. If it dies or is unable to be charged, your truck won’t start, meaning you’re stranded wherever you happened to stop. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye out for malfunctioning components, for that could be a sign of an electrical system fault. It’s also extremely important for you to load test your battery in the Spring and Fall, or every 6 months, to catch failures before they occur.
2. Don’t Overlook Critical Maintenance
Failing to maintain critical components within your heavy-duty vehicle is one of the leading causes of unexpected breakdowns. We understand that taking your heavy-duty truck off the road to get serviced can be a pain, but the consequences of unexpected breakdowns are worse. Be sure to perform the following maintenance items, for if you do, you’ll significantly reduce the chance of unexpected breakdown.
Your Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) is responsible for capturing and storing soot. Your DPF’s storage capacity is finite, meaning it needs to be cleaned out at regular intervals. The most commonly recognized service interval for DPF cleaning is 75 to 100 thousand miles or once a year. Failing to clean your DPF can lead to an unexpected breakdown, long hours in the shop, and large repair costs.
Crankcase Breather Filter Change
Failing to replace a worn crankcase breather filter can cause a wide array of issues, including oil leaks, higher-than-normal idling, vacuum leaks, and poor engine performance. Your crankcase breather filter is designed to lessen the pressure inside your crankcase. If the filter gets clogged and the pressure is allowed to build, leaks start to occur. Crankcase filters should be changed every 3 years.
3. Don’t postpone maintenance
Many organizations postpone maintenance, pushing expenditures to the following month or quarter for financial reasons. While this may work in the short term, it increases the chance of your Freightliner trucks developing reliability and performance difficulties in the long run.
The major advantage of preventative maintenance is that it lowers the danger of failures and allows your staff to notice any problems before they happen. You could get better numbers in the short term if you put off maintenance, but “minor” issues can morph into considerable difficulties that go unreported until they result in a damaged or broken-down Freightliner truck at the worst possible moment.
4. Do a proper inspection before each trip
A proper preventive maintenance regimen can prevent a lot of unfortunate issues from happening. However, not all problems are found when undergoing routine preventive maintenance. A modest, isolated problem, such as a slightly underinflated tire, may sometimes go unnoticed and may even cause a blowout at the most inconvenient moment. That’s why we highly recommend you properly inspect your vehicle before each trip. This allows you to document certain things and even potentially add them to your next round of preventive maintenance.
Routine inspections can find anything from weather-related issues like low tire pressure to larger issues like rust that’s building up around your engine mounts. Another thing to keep an eye on is your reserve fluids. There’s nothing worse than running out of windshield washer fluid in a storm or running out of coolant in extremely hot weather. Inspecting your gear and reserves will save you a lot of money and hassle. Why not give it a try?
5. Replace parts and heavy-duty vehicles when necessary
Many heavy-duty fleet managers prefer to temporarily repair old components in the hopes that they hold out for the next few trips. Although this is definitely cheaper in the short term, it can be detrimental to your budget and schedule in the long term. Some components can certainly be repaired, but for those that are obviously on their way out, replace them. Why constantly repair a finicky air dryer when you could just replace it? Temporary repairs cost you money in the long run, whereas replacements cost more money in the short term but save you money down the road.
Although this isn’t ideal for many fleet managers, replacing older models with newer ones is definitely a great way to increase your fleet’s reliability. Many prefer to avoid the hefty price tag that accompanies newer heavy-duty trucks in favor of older and cheaper models. However, this doesn’t mean older trucks are cheaper overall. New trucks cost less with respect to diesel, maintenance, and routine repairs. Definitely, something to consider when trying to make your fleet more reliable.
Preventing breakdowns may seem like a daunting task, but once you get a feel for routine inspections and preventive maintenance, breakdowns will seem like a thing of the past. Following these five steps is a surefire way to keep your fleet running smoothly and without issue. Have a question about one of our recommendations? Feel free to leave a comment below.