In the heavy-duty trucking business, fleet managers must be ready to expect the unexpected as seemingly minor unexpected maintenance can ultimately lead to a major system failure.
To avoid roadside breakdowns, fleet managers should have thorough preventive maintenance programs in place.
To avoid roadside breakdowns, fleet managers should have thorough preventive maintenance programs in place.
Additionally, revised emission standards have made it more important than ever to have the proper preventive maintenance plan in place.

Preventive maintenance programs enable companies to manage their service and repairs in a proactive fashion before failure, while at the same time maintaining optimum productivity with minimum time and money needing to be spent on repairs.

Adequately protecting the engines of your heavy-duty trucking fleet is one core part of any preventive maintenance program, but since the latest round of emission changes, fleet managers are struggling to protect those engines.

According to the J.D. Power and Associates "2010 U.S. Heavy-Duty Truck Engine and Transmission Study," problem rates for heavy-duty truck engines are nearly twice as high as rates for engines manufactured prior to the emission revisions that were implemented in 2004 and 2007. To protect engines, fleet managers must start by understanding the filters that protect that engine. This includes when to change those filters and which filters are best for their applications.

Filter Maintenance 101

Oil service intervals, pre-determined by engine manufacturers, are designed to provide maximum engine protection under a wide variety of guidelines. However, many equipment owners are looking to extend oil service interval time. Oil filters alone cannot protect engines against harmful contaminants, such as dirt and dust. Operators should manage their oil filters correctly to ensure that the engine is safe from contaminants, which not only extends engine life and reduces engine wear, but also reduces downtime and operating costs.

Oil filter maintenance starts with knowing when to change the filter. Regardless of how effective a filter is, it will have to be replaced at some point. A rule of thumb operators can follow is to change the filters every time the vehicle's oil is changed to ensure peak operational efficiency.

It is also recommended that a heavy-duty oil filter be changed every 20,000 miles, although innovative new filter designs have enabled construction owners to push that change interval closer to 40,000 miles.

Extending oil drain intervals not only requires the right filter, but the right plan. Any decision to extend oil drain intervals must be based on oil analysis and adherence to OEM criteria for acceptable oil-operating properties. Some fleet managers are using online calculators to help them understand current maintenance costs associated with oil changes. Understanding your filter's capabilities is critical to fully protecting your engine.

Protecting the engine means capturing both the large and small particles that pass through the filter, and that means focusing on micron rating.

A filter's micron rating represents the size of a particle that can be removed from the fluid passing through it. For example, an oil filter could be rated as a "10-micron" filter, which means it has the capability to capture particles as small as 10 microns (the equivalent of talcum powder) or larger.

Different filters are more efficient at removing different sized particles, making filter selection an important part of the maintenance process.

Selecting the Right Filter

There are various filters available for heavy-duty vehicles, including oil filters, fuel/water separation filters, air filters, hydraulic filters and cabin air filters. Each type of filter plays an important role in protecting your vehicle.

Fuel/water separation filters fight water and other contaminants in the fuel line. Air filters remove airborne contaminants and provide strong dirt-holding capacity in the most extreme operating environments. Hydraulic filters ensure reduced system wear and sensitivity, which lowers maintenance costs. These filters can be used in virtually any heavy-duty application.

While the value of these filters is well known to many operators, the value of the cabin air filter remains a bit of a mystery. While those other filters play a prominent role in protecting the equipment and parts, the cabin air filter plays an important role in protecting the worker.

But when it comes to protecting the engine, the focus must be on selecting the right heavy-duty oil filter.

Owners can choose between a standard oil filter and an extended-life filter. Extended-life filters keep oil flowing smoothly across the media while delivering extremely high filter efficiency over a longer period of time. They have one-and-a-half times the filter capacity of cellulose filters with a contaminant-holding capacity of 90 grams versus 60 grams for conventional filters.

Extended-life filters also feature higher efficiency, which means fewer contaminants passing through the filter media. Extended-life filters protect engine parts by permitting oil to flow freely during cold engine starts. Conventional filters typically have a 30-gram contaminant-holding capacity, but extended-life filters offer a 15-gram contaminant-holding capacity.


Today's fleet manager can't afford to gamble on how they protect their engines.

One of the easiest ways to avoid catastrophic engine failure is to invest in the right filter technology that will extend engine life and reduce engine wear, which in turn will lead to decreased downtime and maintenance costs.