Travel Centers of America
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Planning for your next PM

March 1, 2023
It might be tempting to pick the quickest, cheapest option next time you pull into the bay for a PM, but Daniel Mustafa, TravelCenters of America's Director of Technical Service, has some suggestions that will help keep you on the road.

Every day your engine is under attack. Sludge, deposits, wear, oxidation and heat work together to chip away at your engine’s performance, creating dirty surfaces full of contaminants, unwanted friction and uneven oil viscosity.

Depending on where and how you drive, you could be making matters worse. Subjecting your engine to severe cold or heat for hundreds of miles can thicken or thin your oil, cutting your expected oil change interval. Routes with frequent steep inclines or rough surfaces, or even just pushing your rig too hard, can affect efficiency too.

Oil is your engine’s first line of defense. But how much do you know about the liquid that’s hard at work under the hood, defending your truck’s powerhouse?

It might be tempting to pick the quickest, cheapest option next time you pull into the bay for a PM, but your engine – and the rest of your rig – will appreciate high quality products, thorough lubrication and some extra inspection.

When it comes to oil, a driver’s first choice is conventional or synthetic. Conventional oil is a mixture of organic compounds made of crude oil. It’s been used for decades to protect critical engine parts and it gets the job done. However, it does have limitations. Conventional oil can leave sludge deposits that stress the engine, causing it to run at higher temperatures with lower performance.

Synthetic takes lubrication to the next level. It’s made at chemical plants, so it has a uniform structure, which allows the oil to flow more freely through the engine than its conventional counterpart. Synthetic oils can capture and suspend sludge as it develops, and can even clean up existing sludge left behind from years of using conventional oil.

15W-40, 10W-30 or 5W-30?

Breaking down these terms can tell you more about the oil you’re planning on putting into your engine. 15W, 10W or 5W tells you the oil’s viscosity or a measure of the resistance of the fluid’s flow at colder temperatures. The lower the number, the thinner the oil at cold temperatures, and of course thicker oils flow more slowly; 40 or 30 tells you the oil’s resistance to thinning at engine operating temperatures. Again, the lower the number, the thinner the oil. Low viscosity oils deliver better low-temperature performance, while a higher viscosity can keep oil from thinning too much in hot climates.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking your PM is complete after the oil is changed. There’s grease, transmission fluids and gear oil to consider too.

Grease is made of oil, thickener and additives and provides rust protection by preventing water spray-off and wash-off on equipment like the universal joint, fifth wheel, clutch throw-out bearings and main greasing points like tie rod ends, spring pin bushings, king pin and the chassis. Although synthetic and advanced synthetic oils mean more miles between engine oil changes, greasing intervals aren’t growing at the same pace. For example, a fifth wheel still needs greased every 15,000 miles or monthly.

You might not think about how transmission fluid prevents wear of gears, bearings and bushings, protects against corrosion and acts as a heat transfer fluid, but as soon as it’s not doing its job you’ll notice. Misapplication of transmission fluid can mean reduced fuel economy, abrupt or hard shifts if the static friction is too high, sluggish operation at low temperatures if viscosity is too high and leaking through seals if viscosity is too low.

Clean gear oil extends gear, bearing, and seal life, protects against low-speed, high-torque wear and high-speed scoring. That means not only longer equipment life and reduced maintenance costs, but also improved fuel economy and lower operating costs.

TA Truck Service shops have the products your engine needs, plus comprehensive service to go with them. Our Ultimate PM is unique in the industry, and is the only to include all of these services:

  • Fill oil to capacity
  • Change all fuel and oil filters
  • Electronic checklist
  • Tractor lubrication
  • Check all gear boxes
  • Check coolant level and freeze point
  • SCA/ELC contamination checks
  • Push rod stroke inspection
  • Check all coolant hoses and belts
  • Check steering fluid and windshield washer fluid
  • Check wiper blades and air filter
  • Check tires for excessive wear
  • Gauge and inflate tires or lube trailer

For time and cost conscious drivers, we also offer our take on the industry standard service level, the Premium PM or the quick and affordable Rapid Oil Change. In between intervals, our technicians are happy to keep your equipment lubricated with our Mid-Interval Extended Maintenance package.

Your next oil change is a purchase you plan for. Why wouldn’t you plan to get your PM from the best? TA Truck Service shops are proud to feature high quality Mobil Delvac synthetic-blend, synthetic and advanced synthetic oils, not to mention, our shops have the Voted Best Lubrication/PM for nine years running. But the service we provide is so much more than a statistic. Our expert technicians can protect your investment from grease to gear oil, so you can drive with confidence in between intervals.

Daniel Mustafa is the  Director of Technical Service at TravelCenters of America. In his 14 years at TA, Mustafa has also been a truck repair, technican, technical trainer, manager of technical development, and shop general manager.

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