Winter temps can freeze all kinds of mechanical apparatus, including tractor fifth wheels. So it’s a good time to clean, inspect and grease these important appliances, but not the only time, according to SAF Holland, one of the principal manufacturers.
Its experts advise the following steps:
- Lubricate the locking mechanism every three months or 30,000 miles. Do this by removing old grease and debris from all fifth wheel-to-trailer contact surfaces, then apply new water-resistant lithium-based grease to all fifth wheel-to-trailer contact surfaces. There are differences in lubrication needs and intervals depending on whether you have a standard, greased fifth wheel or a no-lube version.
- Thoroughly clean moving components in the locking mechanism every six months or 60,000 miles, using a spray product like WD-40 or CRC. Also do this every spring for fifth wheels operating in snowy or icy winter conditions. Lubricate the fifth wheel locking mechanism according to instructions in the manufacturer’s user’s manual.
- Inspect for bent, broken or missing parts every 6 months or 60,000 miles. Replace as necessary, and use only your manufacturer’s parts.
- Check the operation by locking and unlocking using a lock tester. Verify that the fifth wheel is completely closed, per instructions in the user’s manual.
This work might also be necessary if problems with coupling, uncoupling or pulling the release handle occur.
Aside from periodic servicing, maintain lubrication on fifth wheel-to-trailer contact surfaces, using water-resistant lithium-based grease. Clean grease grooves if a large amount of debris is present.
Remember that low-lube and no-lube fifth wheels do not require lubrication between the trailer and top plate surface.
If the fifth wheel has an air release or is a sliding type, follow the user’s manual for inspecting and lubricating the air cylinder or slide base.
A final and sobering recommendation: Failure to properly install, operate, or maintain your fifth wheel could result in tractor and trailer separation causing death or serious injury to others.