Dirty dozen

Max Kvidera | July 01, 2010

How to prevent

• Verify that electricity is flowing out of your batteries.

• Check battery terminals and other connections for corrosion. Carry electrical contact cleaner and dielectric grease for connection cleaning.

• Make sure batteries are securely mounted in their trays. Vibrations and hitting potholes can loosen batteries.

Brake failure

Under normal brake operation, trailer brakes apply a fraction of a second before the tractor drive brakes, which are then followed by the steer brakes. If that brake sequence is out of adjustment, drive brakes or steer brakes will wear faster than normal, Dolce says.

“Look at brake linings on all axles,” he adds. “If the trailer’s worn more than the tractor brakes, that’s desirable. If the tractor’s brakes are worn more than the trailer, you have not only a wear problem but also an [alignment] problem.”

Dolce prescribes a second type of brake check. After a run, hold your hand about 6 inches from the axle at each wheel end to feel the heat. “If the wheels are cold, you’ll know they’re not working,” he says.

How to prevent

• During pre- and post-trip inspections, check your brake system for leaks. Fix leaks before hitting the road.

• Make sure low-air alarms and the compressor work properly.

• Use brake backing plates on the axles to minimize the amount of abrasive material that can get to the lining and drums and accelerate wear. The plates make it more difficult to inspect the lining, drums and seals, but the long-term benefits are significant, Hess says.

Water in fuel tanks

This wet sleeve cylinder liner from the engine block is marked by cavitation, or tiny bubbles that eat into the surface when nitrite levels in coolant are too low. Cavitated liners allow coolant to get into engine oil.

When water is in the fuel tank, it can be drawn into the fuel system, which can reduce performance and damage the fuel system. Another potential problem with failing to drain water from fuel tanks: cultivating biological growth, McClusky says.

The problem, which has grown with the switch to ultra-low sulfur fuel, often leads to a “pretty big expense, and it can cause headaches, because it can be hard to clean out,” he says. McCluskysays some owner-operators have had to replace their tanks.

You can detect the presence of a biological growth when you change fuel filters and see a black deposit. You can also shine a flashlight in the fuel tank and see the growth, McClusky says.

If you detect a growth, a biocide product will kill it, leaving the dead material floating in the tank. Some biocides help the removal process by breaking up the material.