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Lighting the way to better maintenance

TORONTO, Ont. - While some of the most visible components of your vehicle are its lights and markers, they can often be overlooked from a maintenance perspective. But lighting performance and maintena...


TOOL TIME: Never use a test probe to pierce wire insulation.Use the right tools for the job, like this crimping tool, so you won't crimp through wire.

TOOL TIME: Never use a test probe to pierce wire insulation.Use the right tools for the job, like this crimping tool, so you won't crimp through wire.


TORONTO, Ont. – While some of the most visible components of your vehicle are its lights and markers, they can often be overlooked from a maintenance perspective. But lighting performance and maintenance are key to the successful running of your fleet, and attention paid to your vehicles’ markers and graphics can also be good advertising.

The forty-second annual Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar in Toronto, held May 8-11, offered delegates some salient advice on lighting systems in their vehicles.

Visibility

Trucks typically receive 10 million viewer impressions per year, said speaker Ted Lawson, Account Representative for 3M Commercial Graphics. This increases to 14 million if reflective material is used.

“Some 91 per cent of viewers notice words and pictures, and 70 per cent develop an impression based on a vehicle’s look,” he said.

Ninety-eight per cent of drivers say the outward appearance of their vehicles is important, he added.

“The flip side is you can get negative impressions too, for example if the decals are shrunken, pulled back, cracked or blistered,” said Lawson.

Graphic materials can be reflective or opaque, and the reflectives can be rigid or flexible, with brightness levels of “engineer” (bright), “high-intensity” (brighter) and “diamond” (brightest), he said. There is a minimum reflectivity level in terms of colours and patterns specified at the manufacturing level. But the standards don’t address maximum coverage, longevity of reflectivity, and adhesion, said Lawson.

Conspicuity striping, which includes side, rear, under-ride and upper corner type marking, has been mandated on all trailers since 1993.

“The benefits are a 22 per cent reduction in night time accidents, and a 17 per cent daytime accident reductions. If people can see you more easily, it’s safer,” Lawson said.

Troubleshooting

Grote Industries Canada’s Mike Marchese told delegates about a troubleshooting principle called EAT: for Environment, Abuse and Time.

“Within one winter you can see a perfectly good harnessing lighting system turn to nothing,” he said.

“Around 40 per cent of discarded lamps are still in good condition,” Marchese noted, adding you can determine quite a bit about your required lighting maintenance from the state of discarded lamps.

For example, stretched or broken filaments in bulbs mean they were subjected to heavy vibration, while black heavy soot deposits indicate a voltage surge, he said.

There are nine common causes for lighting failure to note, Marchese said: moisture and corrosion, chemical damage, abrasion (running wires not protected), impact (cracked, broken lenses), vibration (LED products can offer a solution, he noted), grit and sand, extreme temperatures, tensile loads (wiring is not an appropriate load bearing component), and flexing (make sure you run a good enough length of wire).

“Never use a test probe to pierce wire insulation. Use the right tools for the job, i.e. a crimping tool so you won’t crimp through wire,” said Marchese.

Use shrink tubing for exposure, and flameless torches for wire repairs so that there will be a proper temperature that won’t overmelt the shrink tubes, he advised.

“And use shrinkable terminals to see the crimp,” he added.

The compliance document

A key step in outfitting your fleet’s lighting components is understanding the compliance requirements.

Transport Canada and the provincial ministries of transportation offer pamphlets and documents detailing mandatory positioning of lighting and markers on your vehicles.

And producing an in-house document as a final step that lays out your requirements, is also a good idea, suggested Truck-Lite’s Ed Ruediger. There are programs available as schematics to lay out lamp locations and to provide a detailed bill of materials, Ruediger said.

“The document pays off to satisfy legal and company requirements,” he said.

Ask yourself what kind of geography your fleet is passing through-are you running through four seasons in one day? What kind of overall power consumption do you have?

“Pay attention to mounting designs to satisfy the requirements,” said Ruediger, i.e. mount lamps inside enclosures, and use corrosion preventive compounds including lamp pigtails and junction boxes.

Secure all harnessing every 18 inches, he said. Use harness protection at conduit passages, and add corrosion preventive compounds at all boxes and plugs, he advised.


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