Uptime Update, Episode 47 – Prep electrical equipment for changing weather

Dec. 28, 2020
Larry Rambeaux, sales manager at Purkeys, discusses different areas of the vehicle – both on the tractor and the trailer – that require regular testing and inspection to maintain vehicle uptime.

When it comes to changing weather, there are various aspects of a commercial vehicle that should be monitored, inspected and serviced. Some would argue none are more critical than ensuring the vehicle’s electrical system and components are in good working order to avoid unexpected breakdowns. Larry Rambeaux, from Purkeys, discussed different areas of the vehicle – both on the tractor and the trailer – that require regular testing and inspection to maintain vehicle uptime.

Transcription of interview

Erica Schueller, editorial director, Fleet Maintenance: Welcome to VSP News: Uptime Update. I am your host Erica Schueller, editorial director of Fleet Maintenance magazine, covering all maintenance, all vehicle classes, all management, all the time.

When it comes to changing weather, there are various aspects of a commercial vehicle that should be monitored, inspected, and serviced, as needed. Some would argue none are more critical than ensuring the vehicle’s electrical system and components are in good working order to avoid unexpected breakdowns.

I talked with Larry Rambeaux, sales manager for Purkeys, about different areas of the vehicle – both on the tractor and the trailer – that require regular testing and inspection to maintain vehicle uptime. He first shared some best practices and suggestions for PM inspections as it relates to liftgates.

Larry Rambeaux, sales manager, Purkeys: For liftgate preventive maintenance, we highly recommend load testing the batteries at least twice a year. A rule of thumb is to check before spring and before wintertime. That’s when you’ll have your biggest chances for problems – so before you go into those hot times of year, or those cold times of year – it’s the best time to do a thorough preventive maintenance inspection.

Part of that is doing the actual load testing on the batteries, making sure you clean everything. The rule of thumb is “bright and tight.” You want everything to have a good electrical connection.

The other part of that, we want to take a good look at the entire system. Has there been repairs made, do you have bad connections? Faulty connectors that an outside vendor made? You want to make sure everything is good, clean, and ready to go into those tough times of the year.

Schueller, Fleet Maintenance: When it comes to winter prep, Rambeaux talks about different areas of the tractor that require extra care in order to ensure optimal operation.

Rambeaux, Purkeys: From an electrical standpoint for the tractor, winter is the key time of year to be doing your load tests on your batteries, to make sure those batteries have not only enough energy to crank vehicles, but even more importantly, to power those key off-loads that drivers have because not only will we need to crank the engine, but we’ll also have to power the PlayStation, the popcorn popper, all of those things, and still have energy the next morning.

To do our load tests, just like on liftgates, to make sure those are properly charged, load tested, clean, and tight, and then also too, we want to make sure we test all the cables.

You can have the best batteries in the world, but if you don’t have good cables connected to the starter, it’s very hard for that starter to do its job. This is the time of year where your cranking requirements can be as much as four times what they are in the summertime. So that truck that cranked fine when it was nice and warm can very easily have a road call [in the winter] simply because you either have defective batteries or you’ve got cables cannot handle that energy anymore.

Schueller, Fleet Maintenance: Next, Rambeaux discussed how parasitic loads can be detrimental to vehicle operation, and what fleets can do to mitigate this issue.

Rambeaux, Purkeys: This can apply any time of year, but it’s even more important when we go into winter months, is checking for parasitic loads on vehicles. When we say parasitic loads, that’s anything that’s staying on when the engine is off. That can be things that we know are staying on – whether it’s communication devices – but any of those loads, when you add them up, can become a very large load.

It doesn’t matter if you get shot with a cannon or shot with a BB gun, if you die, you die. So, we want to make sure those loads are in check, and if there are any of them that we can address, let’s take the time now to look at them and make sure we have them under control, and maybe it’s something where we have to reprogram some of those devices to make sure they go into “sleep” mode sooner, or we may need to install something like a low-voltage disconnect to shut those loads off and protect the batteries.

Just like everything else we’ve talked about, we need to make sure we keep those batteries up at a high enough state of charge to be able to crank that engine. If we have loads staying on that we don’t know about, those are going to pull those battery [charges] down, and cause your road call.

Schueller, Fleet Maintenance: The power converter is a key aspect of the electrical system. Rambeaux talks about why it’s critical to select the right power converter.

Rambeaux, Purkeys: One thing that comes up with a lot of these topics too is inverters. They become a very necessary evil in order to keep drivers happy. If you’re going to be on the road for weeks at a time, would you not want those same different devices available in your cab to keep you comfortable?

When you look at [inverters], they can have an impact, especially in the wintertime.

There is a difference in inverters, and you get what you pay for. Some of them are simply the parasitic loads these inverters have. No matter what, that is directly connected to the batteries, there’s going to be loads associated with that device being connected.

The other thing is the efficiency of inverters. Whatever takes power from the 12-volt batteries and converts it to 110 [volts], there’s always a certain amount of energy loss. You want to make sure you get a quality inverter, where you’re keeping that efficiency as high as possible, again as some sort of device that’s going to shut off that inverter to protect those batteries to, again, avoid a road call.

Schueller, Fleet Maintenance: Interested in reading more about maintaining and servicing a commercial vehicle’s electrical system? Visit the link below for more information.

Thank you for tuning in to Fleet Maintenance Uptime Update, I’m your host Erica Schueller.

Until our next broadcast, keep up with this, and other industry topics, by visiting us online at FleetMaintenance.com.

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