One Piece At a Time

| December 12, 2008

Bow also uses wheel chocks while greasing the driveshaft so he can put the truck in neutral. Removing any torque eases the job of getting grease to penetrate all the bearings in each cross.

Are you likely to expand from simple replacement of fluids and filters into things like exhaust system work or replacing small components? Transferring a pulley from a worn-out generator to a replacement might mean you’ll need a place to rest the unit, or even hold it, as you work. This means you need a solid workbench at least 6 feet long, Evans says.

Steel workbenches that size typically sell for about $450. Add a substantial vise, securely mounted to one end, to hold whatever you’re working on. Drop lamps or fluorescent tubes with long cords will help you see and reduce eye fatigue.

Evans uses air-powered impact wrenches for his own exhaust work, since those parts tend to rust.

Truckers who are good with procedures that require a number of exact steps in the right order may want to set their overheads. Besides the right manuals from your engine dealer, you’ll need a set of feeler gauges for the valves and a special injector height gauge or inch-pounds torque wrench for setting injectors. Add a pry bar that will allow you to bar the engine over and sit it at six different crankshaft positions. Bow sets his every 100,000 miles, but the job is so precise he gets help from a friend, a former technician.

Many owner-operators do their own basic electrical work. Bow, for example, recently experienced reduced cranking power. A test of his batteries after disconnecting them revealed the problem was a thin film on all the connections in the battery circuit. Only carefully cleaning and refastening the connections solved the problem. This would have cost a lot if he had hired a professional.

For electrical work, Bow recommends a good battery tester, as well as small wrenches and emery cloths, for disassembling and cleaning up connections. A battery terminal brush can be had for about $26. Get a basic electrical tester such as a multimeter or digital voltmeter to measure voltage and current flow. Use solder and shrink tube connectors to make wiring repairs, Evans says, because today’s road de-icers will make short work of anything less.

Bow strongly recommends a hand-held computer compatible with your engine’s electronic control module. It’ll tell you what’s wrong when used to download stored failure codes. If the engine develops trouble while you’re on the road, this will make any emergency call faster and more effective.

Take advantage of any diagnostic or maintenance software your engine or truck manufacturer offers, Harring advises. This normally costs little or nothing, and the information can easily be downloaded to your PC with an inexpensive connector harness.

And remember to keep receipts for anything you buy. Tools are tax-deductible, and so is a shop if it is built specifically for the purpose of truck maintenance and parking, says Russell Fullingim with Truckers Financial Service in Bloomington, Calif.

Whether you stick with simple tasks or become your own full-service shop, acquiring the right tools is a step toward saving money and spending more road time actually on the road.


BE CAREFUL, SAFE WHEN MOUNTING TIRES
Fleet owner Keith Harring learned long ago that installing and rotating his own tires saved a lot of money. Tommy Vajdic and Gordon Bow both do theirs and use impact wrenches to do the tough job of removing wheel lugs. Air-powered impact wrenches range from $500 for a 1/4-inch to $1,500 for a 1-inch.

You can’t remove the wheels until the truck is safely supported up in the air on something as solid as granite. You need four 12,000-pound jack stands and a floor jack rated at 18,000 to 20,000 pounds, one that uses hydraulic fluid to multiply the force put on the handle. These cost as much as $2,700 new, but Earl Evans has found you can floor jacks for as little as $300 to $500 at auction when repair shops or trucking companies shut down.

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