Dirty dozen

Max Kvidera | July 01, 2010

Stay on top of these 12 PM items to escape big repair bills and frequent downtime.

Kirk Beckham performs brake work at Southland International Trucks in Tuscaloosa. Preventive maintenance scheduled at home costs much less than emergency work on the road.

It’s no secret that emergency repairs far from your home can cost several times the repair bill in your local shop. That premium, plus the efficiency of scheduling preventive maintenance work at your convenience, means you get a great return for the effort put into diligent preventive maintenance. Spending up to 30 minutes a day on pre-trip and post-trip inspections often will uncover repairs that should be addressed at once, as well as items that you can work into your next scheduled maintenance.

“A lot of owner-operators pay attention to their tires and get their oil changed, but there are a lot of other components on the truck that have life expectancies,” says Bill McClusky, maintenance management consultant at ATBS, the nation’s largest owner-operator financial services provider. Planning PM with regard to those life expectancies is “being proactive in maintenance, not reactive,” he adds.


Tire failure

Air pressure that is frequently too high or too low for the loads you’re hauling will end up reducing tire longevity and hurting the casing for retreading.

“An 11R22.5 tire typically will have 110 psi imprinted on the sidewall,” says Tim Miller, marketing communication manager at Goodyear Commercial Tires. “If you’re not carrying a full load, you can probably get away with and maybe improve your tire wear by running 85 or 90 psi.”

A truck out of alignment will produce uneven tire tread wear. A visual inspection might give you an idea that tread depth is uneven. You might also run your hands across the tread to feel for unevenness.

How to prevent

• Daily pressure readings are ideal, Miller says, but measure at least weekly. Measure also when your load weight changes.

• Check grooves for rocks and other objects that could work their way into the casing.

• Inspect sidewalls and shoulders for abrasions and punctures.

Clogged Radiator Fins

Regularly spraying water forward through the radiator will minimize corrosion, enhance air flow and reduce the likelihood of a time-consuming disassembly of the fins for cleaning.

The radiator has a tendency to collect dirt and debris on the fins, says Jim Hess, president of Midway Truck Service. As this builds up, cooling efficiency diminishes. This is especially true in summer, when insects, pollen, rust and other airborne materials increase.

How to prevent

When you wash your truck, spray water forward from the engine side out through the radiator, air-to-air cooler and the condenser to dislodge the debris. If this is done often enough, it will minimize the need to disassemble the units from the front of the radiator to clean them individually. Disassembly doesn’t necessarily require disconnecting the condenser from the A/C system, but it is a two-hour job that can be eliminated, Hess says.

Dead batteries

To avoid battery problems, regularly inspect terminals and other connections for corrosion and loose fittings.

Running lights and electrical appliances with the engine off can weaken your batteries. Do it often enough and eventually you’ll be struck with dead batteries.

Check your dashboard volt meter to see if you’re adequately charging the batteries, says John E. Dolce, a fleet maintenance consultant affiliated with the Wendel Duchscherer consulting firm. The charge should range between 12 and 14.5 volts.

In addition, you’ll want to check the ammeter to measure the flow of current from the batteries. The reading is usually 150 to 200 amps.

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