Sub-zero temperatures and snow-covered roads are tough on any vehicle. But whilst private individuals may be able to postpone some journeys when winter weather conditions become too tough, truckers don’t have that choice. Millions of customers rely on deliveries across the country, no matter the road conditions.
Preventive maintenance is critical to keeping your fleet on the road throughout the year. Spotting and resolving problems early helps minimize associated costs and downtime for your fleet. Here are our top tips for efficient winter maintenance for heavy-duty trucks.
Top 7 Tips for Keeping Heavy-Duty Trucks on the Road this Winter Season
It may sound almost too obvious, but have you consulted the original manufacturer’s manual about suggested winter maintenance? Some checks are the same for almost any brand of truck, but most manufacturers will provide some guidance that helps you keep your truck on the road.
Reading those guidelines before you start your winter preparations will certainly take less time than dealing with larger issues. It may also help you prepare your trucks more effectively. Take a look at these suggestions:
- Check your fluids
- Schedule regular lubricant services
- Check your batteries
- Check your tires and tire pressures
- Check all external lighting
- Check your gearbox and clutch
- Check your safety equipment
1. Check Your Fluid Levels
Heavy-duty trucks rely on several essential fluids to run smoothly. Engine oil, coolant, and transmission fluid should all be checked as part of your winterization routine. Running on old fluids or running low on any of these fluids can set your trucks’ engines up for long-term damage.
To get ready for winter, you need to ensure your fleet has sufficient antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid. As trucks move through inclement weather conditions, such as snowstorms, they’re bound to use more of these consumables than they would during the rest of the year. Running out unexpectedly can put your drivers and others in harm’s way.
2. Schedule Regular Lubricant Services
Not every lubricant and fluid on your heavy-duty trucks need to be replaced before winter. However, it’s important to ensure that you are using winter-grade lubricants.
The easiest way to do that is to schedule winter preparation maintenance in good time before the weather changes. However, depending on how manage your fleet’s maintenance during the rest of the year, you may end up replacing perfectly good fluids by taking an approach that is only based on your calendar.
Having lubricants professionally analyzed provides an alternative. Not only does the analysis give you a definitive answer as to whether lubricants need to be changed. But it can also work as an early-warning system for other issues and even point you toward an engine overhaul. Using winter-proof lubricants year-round is another option that could help avoid confusion once temperatures drop.
3. Check Your Batteries
High-performance batteries are essential to keeping your truck on the road during the winter months. When you’re preparing to winterize your battery, start by cleaning any dirt, debris, or contaminants from its surface. Any of these can drain energy from your battery. Make sure to remove any rust, too, and keep cables clean. Cleaning your battery will not only prolong its life, but it will also help you identify potential problems more quickly.
Whether you’re using your truck during the winter or not, make sure its battery is fully charged. Undercharged batteries struggle to perform at low temperatures. Keeping them charged avoids generating excessive cold cranking amps. If you’re not using your truck during the winter but storing it outdoors, make sure you remove the battery and keep it in a warm place. Keeping it fully charged will also help extend its life. Plus, the battery will be ready to use when you need it next.
4. Check Your Tires and Tire Pressures
Driving on ice and snow is challenging. With old, worn tires, it becomes simply dangerous.
As part of your winterization, you need to check that your truck’s tires are suitable for the upcoming season and have enough tread to be driven safely. Look for uneven wear, cracks, or cuts, and consider changing your tires now if there are any red flags.
Finally, check that your tire pressures match the manufacturer’s recommendations.
5. Check All External Lighting
Even if you’re not generally driving during the night, it’s important to check your truck’s exterior lighting as part of winterization. In many areas, winter days are shorter and darker, meaning truckers rely on their lights more.
All you need to do is take a walk around the vehicle, making sure all is working well and replacing any broken bulbs or lights.
6. Check Your Gearbox and Clutch
Inspecting your truck’s gearbox and clutch should be part of your fleet’s essential maintenance program. Adding it to the winterization schedule ensures that these critical checks can’t be missed when things are busy at other times of the year.
Your gearbox and clutch shouldn’t be showing any signs of slippage or leaks. Those issues may compromise the truck’s fuel efficiency and make it less reliable.
7. Check Your Safety Equipment
Wintertime driving means limited visibility and challenging driving conditions. For those reasons, it’s more important than ever to check that you have a complete set of safety equipment on board in winter.
Triangles, flares, a fire extinguisher, and reflective tape should be part of your safety kit. Basic first aid supplies are also useful.
Preparing your fleet of heavy-duty trucks doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming. By scheduling these seven preventive maintenance checks and ensuring the entire fleet is in top shape, you’re ready to weather even severe winter storms and minimize downtime.