Trailer maintenance is a year-round obligation and Preventive Maintenance (PM) is the key to helping lower the total cost of ownership of your equipment – especially during a change in seasons. The change in temperatures, humidity and road conditions can wreak havoc on trucks and trailers alike. Let’s take a look at how you can keep your trailers in tip-top shape.
A change in temperature will change the air pressure in your tires. Hotter weather will increase pressures, colder weather will decrease pressures. Both cases require attention and adjustment, if necessary, to ensure safe and efficient operation. Fuel economy is a major factor of your total cost of ownership and properly inflated tires can go a long way toward optimizing the efficiency of your truck(s).
Having enough tread depth is important all year round. But when the temperatures drop and the snow starts to fall, the tread depth of tires on your trailer takes on added significance. Ensure each tire meets the federal regulations (a minimum of 4/32 of an inch on the steer tires and 2/32 of an inch on all other tires). Even if all tires meet these regulations, if some are even close to the minimum limit, it may be easier and less costly to replace them before the weather turns.
Braking capacity is another factor that takes on added significance in the winter. As roads become slick with ice and snow, you need to make sure your trailer brakes are up to the task. A thorough inspection of the brake hardware and ABS system can give you added peace of mind when driving in stressful winter conditions.
Road salt is both a blessing and a curse. It can greatly improve traction on pavement, but it is also highly corrosive. During the winter months, it’s important to visit a truck wash on a regular basis to avoid shortening the lifespan of both your truck and your trailer. Doing this also gives you the opportunity to conduct a visual inspection, which may reveal other issues you weren’t aware of as well as catch any debris that may be caught in hard-to-reach areas.
Besides regular washes, the diligent lubrication of trailer components can help prevent corrosion, especially in the winter. Some of the components that should be checked every 12,000 to 24,000 miles include the kingpin, 5th wheel pivot and plates, main rail, and drag link.
The change of seasons is usually accompanied by a change in temperatures and humidity levels – and both can lead to potential issues – especially in refrigerated trailers. Moisture can cause insulating materials within the walls to break down more rapidly, which can negatively impact thermal efficiency. It’s also important to check for any damage including rips and punctures to the trailer’s inner or outer walls. Any holes that allow moisture inside the walls, ceiling or floor can cause a myriad of issues.
Climate Controlled Efficiency
Once the walls of a refrigerated trailer are compromised, the refrigeration must work harder to maintain proper temperatures which consumes more fuel and adds additional wear and tear to the equipment. Monitoring the weight of the trailer at regular intervals can help determine if there is moisture accumulation or water pickup through condensation or leakage into the walls, floor or ceiling.
Other areas to check include looking for air leaks, door seals or door locks, around vents, side doors and refrigeration units. To ensure a proper seal, check rear doors for damage or warpage to panels, frame or hinges. Also check all compression seals (including the vent doors) to ensure a tight closure.
The Bottom Line
It’s the cargo that pays the bills. And it’s the cargo that travels within your trailers. That means it’s important to make sure your trailers get the same attention as your trucks when it comes to maintenance. The last thing you want is a delayed shipment due to a preventable maintenance issue with one of your trailers. So as the seasons change, and as you do your regular maintenance, be sure to check on the above items to keep the cargo – and your income – rolling.