November 05

Winterizing Your Truck

As the winter months approach and everyone is thinking about their Thanksgiving Day plans and Black Friday shopping, owner-operators and fleet owners must have something else on their mind – winterizing their truck. If you want to keep your truck on the road, keep your costs down, and stay safe during the winter months, check out the 9-step plan to winterizing your truck – the cold weather will be here before you know it.

Step 1: Prepare An Emergency Kit

If you happen to get stranded in unfavorable conditions, having sufficient survival gear is necessary. Make sure you have:

  • Extra blankets.
  • First aid kit.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Canned food and bottled water.
  • Gloves, scarves, hats, snow boots, extra socks, and extra clothing.
  • Snow shovel.
  • Flares.
  • Portable radio.
  • Extra coolant, washer fluid, and engine oil.
  • Extra fuel filter and a fuel filter wrench.
  • Tire chains.

Step 2: Check The Battery

The best time to check the age and condition of your battery is just before winter settles in. Freezing temperatures drain battery life quickly. If the battery is close to the typical 48-72-month life cycle, it’s best to replace it. If not, inspect the battery to ensure it is securely mounted and that all connections are tightened and clean. Perform a load test, and check on the alternator and starter as well. Inspect the electrical wiring for any damage or frays, and ensure no loose or exposed wires.

Step 3: Check The Fuel Filter And Water Separator

Check to be sure the fuel filter is in good condition, and replace it if necessary. To reduce the risk of damage to the engine, monitor the water separator daily. Water is a common contaminant in diesel fuel and can shorten an engine’s life. If a large amount of water is collected, you should drain it. Most separators are not self-cleaning, so you’ll need to locate the separator near the fuel filter and turn the drain valve to empty the water.

Step 4: Use Fuel Additives

Diesel fuel contains paraffin, a wax, which crystallizes at freezing temperatures and causes the water in the fuel to emulsify, and the fuel becomes slushy and gel-like. The fuel cannot pass through the fuel filter, and the problem only gets worse when temperatures continue to drop. This gelling of fuel can lead to rough vehicle operation and, in some cases, engine failure. To avoid this, check the fuel’s cetane rating at the pump – the higher, the better, and add anti-gel fuel additives at each fill-up to enhance performance. Check your owner’s manual for specific additive guidelines and always follow mixing procedures strictly, or you risk damaging your fuel system.

Step 5: Inspect The Cooling System

Proper maintenance of the cooling system is a significant part of winterizing. Anything worn, damaged, or cracked is only going to get worse as the temperature drops. Perform a comprehensive inspection of the entire system, including the radiator, inspecting the hoses for any bulges, and checking hose clamps to ensure they are secure and not damaged. It would be best to have a coolant test conducted to ensure that your coolant is at an optimum freeze point. Checking the additive levels to determine if the coolant needs to be changed or adjusted should become part of your regular maintenance plan. Last, it would be best to use the proper coolant for your truck and never use aerosol ether starting fluid.

Step 6: Keep The Engine Warm

Diesel engines require a higher cylinder temperature than gasoline vehicles, which is considerably more challenging to start in cold weather. If you travel or live in a cold climate, you may want to consider installing an electric block heater to keep the engine warm while it’s turned off. Ensure that the block heater cord will accommodate a three-prong plug and ensure it is securely in place.

Step 7: Inspect The Air Dryer

The air dryer, installed between the compressor and wet tank, collects and removes contaminants from the air before entering the brake system, preventing water from freezing in the brake lines. It’s crucial to inspect the air dryer to ensure that it functions correctly and replace the filter if necessary. Make sure to drain the air reservoirs periodically. Failing to maintain your air dryer can lead to extremely dangerous malfunctioning brakes.

Step 8: Prepare The Windshield

When snow and ice accumulate on the windshield, it makes driving difficult and dangerous. Just before winter hits, inspect your windshield wipers and replace them if needed. Make sure your windshield wiper fluid is complete and you have switched to a cold temperature blend. Keep extra bottles of washer fluid in your truck in case you run out unexpectedly.

Step 9: Check The Tires

Your tires must be in good shape to navigate through the snowy and icy roads ahead. Inspect your tires thoroughly and make sure they inflate to the proper pressure rating. Find out which states require chains, and make sure you always have the correct size and number of chains in your truck. Inspect the chains for worn, twisted, or damaged links and replace them when needed.

Do-it-yourself maintenance is cost effective, but if you don’t feel comfortable completing these items on your own, hire a mechanic so they can do it for you. Making sure that you are prepared for the road and winterizing your truck before and during the winter months is crucial to you generating revenue and your overall safety. Be safe out there and make lots of money this winter!

Source: ATBS