Fuel is injected into the cylinder, it's ignited under pressure and the piston begins its rhythmic stroke. The shaft twists, the wheels turn and off you go down the road.Quite simply, any truck with a...
Fuel is injected into the cylinder, it’s ignited under pressure and the piston begins its rhythmic stroke. The shaft twists, the wheels turn and off you go down the road.
Quite simply, any truck with an engine and wheels is capable of moving. But there is an array of gadgets and options that will make life that much easier on the road. The following are 10 items Truck News’ editors have selected as must-haves.
1. Brake stroke indicators
Get under the truck with a piece of chalk if you want, but visual brake stroke indicators make for a quick check of one of the most problematic out-of-service issues on a truck. There must be a problem, considering that more than 37 per cent of inspected equipment in North America is taken out of service because of the condition of brakes.
But the colored markings painted on push rods will quickly become covered with road grime, making them impossible to see. Nor are you safe if you’re simply eyeballing the angles of slack adjusters. That isn’t sufficient if the slack has been improperly set or your S-cam is worn.
In the best case, brake stroke indicators will allow you to observe the brake stroke with a quick peek under the truck.
If there’s any question of whether the units will pay for themselves, consider that Ontario will charge $485 for out-of-adjustment brakes.
2. Universal tools
3. Disposable camera
No, this isn’t meant to be for capturing images of sunsets. When it comes to accidents or damaged cargo, a picture says a thousand words. It will be difficult for a shipper to over-state damage claims if you have a picture of the number of pallets that were actually damaged.
You can buy such cameras at any camera store, but Continent-Wide Enterprise (at 416-762-8101, ext. 110, or www.accidentcamera.com) packages the cameras with kits that offer a crayon to circle marks on the road, a measuring tape, a pen and an accident form.
4. Bunk heaters
Idling a truck at 900 rpm for a mere hour will waste up to four litres of diesel fuel, and the wheels won’t turn at all. It can also lead to long-term damage on your truck engine. An hour of idling leads to the wear and tear associated with three to five hours of engine operating time at cruising speeds, which will ultimately add more to your overall operating costs if you shorten the time before an engine overhaul. So too can idling at low rpm dilute oil with unburned fuel oil that passes beyond the piston rings. In an older engine, that could also mean lower oil pressure that can lead to inadequate lubrication.
But who wants to sleep in the cold? That’s where supplemental heaters come in. This equipment not only heats a cab or pre-heats an engine, but burns a fraction of the fuel required by traditional engine idling.
For those who simply want cab heat, air heaters are the most affordable versions, drawing clean air over a heat exchanger and circulating it with the help of a fan. Coolant versions of the heaters – which circulate coolant over a heating system and throughout the engine’s plumbing – will also help ensure the engine cranks on the coldest mornings.
5. LED lighting
If you’re tired of replacing incandescent bulbs, there is a solution. LED lights not only draw less power than traditional incandescent designs, but they will last much longer. A typical incandescent lamp will last about two years, but LEDs will last at least 10 years, according to Grote (www.grote.com), a manufacturer of lighting systems. Sure, they’re more expensive, but would you rather spend your time crawling over the truck to replace burnt-out bulbs?
The bark of a Jake brake or proprietary engine and exhaust retarders are a well-known sound on Canada’s highways, particularly echoing in regions such as the Rockies or the rock cuts of Northern Ontario. Not only do engine and exhaust brakes offer a cushion of safety, but they help extend the life of your foundation brakes.
The retarding power of your engine is far more efficient than the friction material trying to grip the drums on your brakes. That becomes evermore important as truck makers reduce rolling resistance to increase fuel economy, through everything from aerodynamics to tire designs.
So too does it add to the residual value of a used truck, adds Jacobs Vehicle Systems.
It’s the only choice on our list that isn’t a component or device. But think of this as the tool kit in a can. It took chemist Norm Larsen 40 tries to perfect his formula for a Water Displacement solution to prevent corrosion. (Hence the name, which comes from Water Displacement 40.) But it will do more than prevent rust or loosen seized fasteners. Since it cleans and de-greases, the formula will do everything from clean grease from floor mats to clear tire chains or remove splattered bugs. It can be safely applied to metal, rubber, wood, metal and plastic.
8. Spotter mirrors
West Coast mirrors offer a pretty good view, but the convex spotter mirrors that can be mounted on fenders will eliminate many of the blind spots that can hide anything from a car to a person. Objects may be closer than they appear, but at least you’ll see them in the first place.
9. Tire gauge
As the Tire Retread Information Bureau says, “Don’t thump ’em. Pump ’em”. The only truly accurate way to check tire pressure is with a pressure gauge. The thump from a club won’t detect the minor variations in pressure that can lead to a tire’s premature death.
A mere 15 per cent drop in inflation pressure will translate to an eight per cent reduction in the life of the tire.
But remember also that a $9 gauge won’t remain accurate if it’s dropped a few times, and that no matter what the cost of the gauge, the best time to check air pressure is when a tire is cold.
10. In-cab computer
The designs will vary from one original equipment manufacturer to another, but in-cab displays for engine computers will undoubtedly play a big role in improving your fuel economy. Not only do they all offer an immediate read-out showing on-road performance compared to any targets that you set, but engine faults will be displayed in real English. So too do you have the chance to be reminded of everything from maintenance intervals to supplemental readouts from any electronic sensor under the hood. n