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Don’t fall to downtime this autumn

Sept. 8, 2022
Taking the time to inspect and repair critical vehicle components at the turn of the seasons can help mitigate failures—and downtime.

Summer heat and tourism may be winding down, but don’t let that fool you—with the new season comes new challenges. Fall presents obstacles for truckers to overcome due to changes in temperature and daylight hours. To avoid unexpected downtime, truckers should inspect and repair certain truck parts on their heavy-duty vehicles prior to long-haul trips.

Lighting equipment

With shorter days and longer nights, it’s important to have headlights and other lighting equipment in good operating condition to spot roaming wildlife, signage, road instabilities, and nearby motor vehicles. While traditional incandescent lighting is still used on older models, newer trucks are equipped with LED or halogen lights.

Halogen lights are similar in glow to incandescent lights and are not as much of an eyesore compared to LED lights; however, LEDs have gained in popularity for both large commercial vehicles and smaller passenger cars because of their brightness and cost efficiency. In addition to a cost savings for drivers, LED lights offer the ability to cruise the open road even with missing diodes if they can be seen at least 500 feet away in most states like Virginia. Not only are these lights 50 times longer lasting than halogen lights, but they offer drivers complete side-to-side views compared to halogens that only offer head-on views.

Regardless of the type of lighting, it’s time for a replacement when lights begin to dim and flicker.

See also: Maintenance strategies for commercial vehicle lighting

Brakes

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) declared that 30% of trucking accidents are caused by faulty brake systems. Loss of brake fluid is one of the most common reasons for brake failure and is usually detected by leakage underneath the vehicle. “Misaligned brake linings, sticky calipers, and contamination by oil” are other reasons for brake failure in semi-trucks.

When drivers notice a burning smell, spot fluid leakage, or hear a grinding sound when pressing down on the pedal, it’s time to replace brakes. Carolina Cat recommends checking the air compression pressure gauge to see if replacement is needed. As noted in a Carolina Cat blog post, “A semi-truck’s pressure gauge should read over 60 pounds per square inch (psi) before use and between 100 and 125 psi when running. If the gauge is lower than the suggested running pressure, you should replace the brakes. When less than 60 psi, you should discontinue use of the truck.”

See also: Maintenance and inspection tips to prepare for CVSA Brake Safety Week

Tires and wheel-end components

Speaking of psi, checking tire pressure with a pressure gauge is recommended during pre-trip inspections. The changes in climate can negatively affect psi and the performance of tires; and since we are changing seasons, loss of tire pressure could be a concern. Driving on underinflated tires can reduce tire tread lifespan, decrease fuel efficiency, and cost hundreds in repair work, if needed. The exact psi for tires on a semi-truck varies according to multiple factors, including whether the tires are steer or drive, the brand of the tires, and tire size. Adjusting wheel bearings with TMC’s RP618 Adjustment Procedure Guidelines will also reinforce the strength of the wheel end system and avoid wheel detachment as well as examining fasteners, oil caps, and hubs for missing or loose components.

See also: How wheel-end monitoring puts the brakes on thermal events

Driveshaft components

According to Maclin Truck and Trailer, “American semi-trucks typically use a 6×4 drivetrain, where three axles deliver the power to two wheel-ends. This means there are two driveshafts, both rear and front. The front driveshaft is connected to the front differential and transfer case, using u-joints.”

Difficulty turning, a whirling noise when accelerating at low speeds, or vibrations coming from under the big rig are all warning signs of failing driveshafts. Drivers experiencing any of these issues should replace worn u-joints and carrier bearings that can cause the driveshaft to rumble or make it difficult to turn. Without replacing these parts, drivers will see a reduction in fuel economy and have trouble controlling the vehicle.

HVAC systems

Lower temperatures are a welcoming change, but this means that HVAC parts will need to be inspected and possibly replaced. We commonly think AC units should be repaired for the warmer months of the year, but the components should be maintained on a year-round basis. Lack of air flow, noises coming from the AC system, and leaks are warning signs of failing AC systems in trucks.

It’s wise to check for mold or debris build-up in the evaporator, refrigerant leaks from hoses, O-rings and compressors, and damaged system sensors and switches.

Semi-truck drivers fall victim to downtime in autumn due to lack of maintenance. Don’t let this happen to you. Inspect these truck parts now to prepare for the seasonal changes.

Jennifer Smith is an e-Commerce Digital Content Strategist with JIT Truck Parts in Highland Park, Illinois. JIT Truck Parts is a national aftermarket truck parts distributor servicing national, regional, and local fleets.

About the Author

Jennifer Smith | e-Commerce Digital Content Strategist

Jennifer Smith is an e-Commerce Digital Content Strategist with JIT Truck Parts in Highland Park, Illinois. JIT Truck Parts is a national aftermarket truck parts distributor servicing national, regional, and local fleets. With distribution centers located throughout the U.S., JIT offers parts from leading manufacturers—delivered any place, on time, with a commitment to customer service.

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