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Preventative maintenance is extra important in winter

Last month, I discussed how to best prepare your equipment for the winter season. This month, I'll go into that in some more detail, focusing on how to avoid downtime when the snow flies.


Last month, I discussed how to best prepare your equipment for the winter season. This month, I’ll go into that in some more detail, focusing on how to avoid downtime when the snow flies.

During winter, make sure your fuel and hydraulic tanks are kept as full as possible, especially if you park your truck inside the shop. This will prevent condensation from building up in your tanks, causing water particles to form ice crystals that can clog your fuel lines and cause your engine to stop running.

You may want to look into adding a fuel conditioner to your fuel at the recommended ratio. The fuel conditioner can prevent your fuel from gelling in your tanks and fuel lines. It’s also designed to lubricate your fuel system and all its components.

If you park your truck in the shop, make sure you add a small amount of brake line anti-freeze in your main compressor line (a maximum of half an ounce to an ounce). This will prevent air crystals from forming in the air system and air valves from freezing up.

Make sure you drain all air tanks during every post-trip inspection to remove any moisture that’s built up in your air system. Do not use methyl hydrate in your air system, as it will create a white residue and cause your air valves to gum up with sludge.

Make sure you plug in your pan and block heater at least six hours before you want to start your truck. You should plug your truck in when it’s -5 C or colder.

When staring your truck in cold weather, press the clutch pedal before starting your engine. This will allow your engine to turn over easier with less cranking amps.

Make sure you don’t move the truck until heat comes out of the heater. Cover the rad during warm-up to ensure the anti-freeze circulates through the engine thermostats. This will prevent the anti-freeze from gelling in your rad.

When your truck is ready to go, move your truck from side to side to get a good view of all your tires and to make sure they are all turning -both on the truck and the trailer.

Make sure your air pressure is at 110 psi and not falling or failing to build air pressure.

If you have a wheel that’s locked up and your air pressure is slow to build, your air system is likely frozen up. If it is a truck wheel, you will need to remove the main compressor air line at the compressor and pour half an ounce to an ounce of brake line anti-freeze down the air line. Make sure the anti-freeze doesn’t leak out of the line before you refasten the compressor line.

Undynamite your brakes on the truck and trailer and apply the foot brake with 40 lbs of pressure for 20 seconds and then release the brakes. Repeat this cycle until your air pressure builds up to 110 lbs of pressure on the required tire. If air pressure does not build up, you may have to repeat the cycle until the system thaws out. It may take a few minutes to thaw.

If it’s a trailer wheel that’s not turning, put a half-ounce to an ounce of brake line fluid in the service line of your trailer. Reattach the service line, then apply the trailer brakes in the same way as you did with the truck brakes. Make sure you undynamite your trailer brakes during this process.

If you still have a wheel that’s not turning, you likely have a brake shoe frozen to your brake drum. Jack up the wheel and turn the wheel while applying heat with a torch. Heat the drum evenly and don’t get it any hotter than it takes to thaw the ice between the drum and the shoe. Do not hit the wheel, rim or drum with a hammer -you may damage the components.

To prevent your brake shoes from freezing to your brake drums, do not apply your maximum truck and trailer brakes until your wheels have cooled down to a temperature that won’t melt the snow or ice around your brake shoes and drums.

It’s a good idea to make a small rut under your tires when you stop to prevent your truck from rolling forward or backward. That way you can wait to let your brakes and drums cool down before you dynamite your brakes.

When you leave the yard, always take the time to warm up your drivetrain slowly. Start slow, so your drivetrain, engine, tires and wheels have time to warm up.

Pay special attention to all the gauges to ensure everything heats up slow and steady. If the heat spikes on any one of them, you may have a problem. Get out of the truck and check the heat with your hand to ensure you don’t have a faulty gauge.

It is a good rule of thumb to jump out of your truck in a safe place, just after warm-up to check under your tires and trailers for leaks. Check the wheel nuts and the axles with your hands to make sure no components have excess heat. The whole process should only take a couple minutes, just enough time to get a cup of coffee to go.

Then do an en-route inspection every 100 miles or so. Pay special attention to your tires, wheel nuts for tightness, check for fluid leaks or any excess heat. Just get into a routine of always checking components.

Remember to also watch your speed, slow down to safe speeds when travelling over frost heaves, bridge decks, railroad crossings and pot holes. The colder the temperatures, the more brittle your equipment becomes, increasing the risk of breakdown or equipment failure on the road.

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. Spending a little extra time on preventive maintenance will save you time and money on the road.

-Ron Singer is owner of Ron Singer Truck Lines and president of the Alberta Construction Trucking Association. He can be reached at 403-244-4487 or by e-mail at ronsing@telus.net.ACTA’s Web site is www.myacta.ca.


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