Severe Service

Max Kvidera | December 01, 2011

PM Points

Be proactive on these key maintenance items so that off-road rigors don’t contribute to power-unit downtime.

Tire failure

Regularly monitoring air inflation pressure is the single best step you can take to maximize tire longevity in the shocks and scrub of many off-road applications.

Improper inflation pressure may be your tires’ biggest enemy. 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. Using a calibrated pressure gauge is the only way to get accurate readings, says Tim Miller, marketing communication manager at Goodyear Commercial Tires.

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. Measure when your load weight changes.

• Check grooves for rocks and other objects that could work their way into the casing, a big consideration for off-road-exclusive operations.

• Inspect sidewalls and shoulders for the abrasions and punctures common in severe service.

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.

Particularly in dusty off-road work, your truck’s 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 and other airborne materials increase.

How to prevent

When you wash your truck, spray water from a hose 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.

Dead batteries

To avoid battery problems, inspect terminals and other connections for corrosion and tight connections. Lots of off-road work can knock them loose over time.

Running lights with the engine off outside the truck on jobsites can weaken batteries. Do it often enough and eventually you’ll be stuck with dead batteries.

Check your dashboard volt meter to see if you’re adequately charging the batteries, says John Dolce of 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.

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. Off-road and other vibrations can loosen batteries.

Water in fuel tanks

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 problem with failing to drain water from fuel tanks is the risk of cultivating biological growth, says Bill McClusky, maintenance consultant with ATBS. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.