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Sponsored by PEAK C&I

Tips for Summer Truck Maintenance

June 2015, Work Truck - Feature

by PEAK C&I

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Photo courtesy of Peak
Photo courtesy of Peak

Hot weather is already upon some parts of the country. The heat of summer can be as hard on your trucks as the freezing temperatures of winter. Yet some fleets don’t have specific maintenance set up for warmer weather. If you haven’t prepared your trucks for the heat, now is the time to bring them in for their summer maintenance service.

Here are some key components and systems that need additional attention in hot weather.

  • Cooling system: Start with checking antifreeze concentration levels. If the antifreeze-to-water ratio is off, the cooling system will not operate efficiently or may even fail in warm weather. Inspect the radiator mounts, fan shrouds and fan clutch as well. Basic maintenance of the cooling module should include a thorough pressure wash of the radiator/charger air cooler/air conditioning condenser from the engine side, pushing the debris out the front of the cores. With the engine off and key stowed away to avoid an inopportune start up, work from the top down, and get the pressure washer into the upper and lower corners behind the fan shroud. Be careful to not bend the fan blades with the wash wand or to nick the cooling fins.
  • Air conditioning system: Check for leaks and for state of charge. If you hear noise coming from the blower motor, it may be time to replace it. Check for refrigerant leaks. Pay special attention to hose, fittings and bend, and flex points. Make sure the condenser is clean and free of debris. Examine the filters to make sure they’re not plugged. Given today’s driver shortage, you can’t afford not to have a fully functioning air conditioning system. If the A/C fails, your driver might not only leave your truck on the side of the road, but may immediately sign on with the fleet down the street.
  • Tires: Heat makes the rubber in tires break down faster so remember to check tread depth. Is there adequate tread depth for the wheel position? Use a tread gauge to measure tread depths. Also monitor tire pressure. Over- or under-inflated tires can get too hot which can lead to a blow out. Check to see if the tire’s inflation pressure matches the pressure that is required to handle the load. Use a calibrated pressure gauge to obtain an accurate reading. Check the calibration periodically for accuracy. Carefully look for damage to the tire’s tread and sidewall area, paying particular attention to exposed belt or ply material. Take the time to look at the inside dual tire and between duals for rocks and other debris that can cause trouble. Also look for uneven wear. If uneven wear patterns are present, a truck alignment might be in order. And don’t forget about the wheels themselves. Look for cracked wheels, as well as bolt holes that may have become elongated due to loose lug nuts.
  • Batteries: Heat corrodes the battery’s current conducting grids and battery sulfation occurs more rapidly in warm weather. Look for signs of corrosion. Buildup of corrosion can result in lower voltage from the battery over time. Use a proper brush to clear residue and corrosion. Consider using a battery cleaner to neutralize acid. Also make sure batteries are not cracked or bloated. Examine battery cables for damage and take time to clean them. Check all connections to ensure they’re tight. Test the battery’s state of charge. Use a hydrometer to test battery cells. If there are significant differences in the readings it probably means you have a weak cell. If all readings in all the cells are low, it probably is time to replace the battery.
  • Electrical system: In addition to checking the battery, test the alternator and look for frayed wiring and signs of corrosion. A basic fundamental of electrical system maintenance is keep corrosion out of the system. Pay special attention to cable routing to prevent chafing and abrasion damage. When testing electrical systems, don’t use a test light with a piercing probe as they poke holes in the wiring and that can allow moisture — and eventually corrosion — in to the system.
  • Belts and hoses: Exposure to heat, vibration and contaminants makes hoses and belts wear. A simple visual inspection is all you need to determine the condition of belt. Check belts for proper tension, and also check the automatic tensioner if there is one. Look for belt misalignment. Hoses, especially coolant hose, are another matter. Coolant hose degrades from the inside out so that you often don’t see since of wear from the outside. To check a hose, squeeze it near the ends. If it feels spongy, it needs to be replaced. You also will be able to feel gouges, bulges and abrasions. Check for seepage and excess dirt around all connections.

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