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Regular checks key to climate control

DON MILLS, Ont. - If you want to maintain climate control systems, the most important tool is common sense, according to speakers at the 37th annual Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar."Communicate wit...


DON MILLS, Ont. – If you want to maintain climate control systems, the most important tool is common sense, according to speakers at the 37th annual Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar.

“Communicate with your drivers on servicing, and record the issues that they voice,” said Mark Spong of Ryder Transportation, noting that A/C, heater and defrost controls should be checked every season – and not just at the height of summer or winter.

“Check cab air filters for lint and dust, check the heater and A/C controls in the sleeper, and check the cab seals for unconditional air entry, for example the gear shift boot and clutch linkage seal,” says Spong.

He says that climate control costs represent about two per cent of total maintenance costs. “But if you don’t maintain these systems, the costs become immeasurable in terms of lost time and client and driver complaints.”

The minimum tool requirements for shops, says Spong, should be a manual gauge, a digital infrared thermometer, an electronic leak detector, an oil injector, and a receiving, recycling, and recharging station.

A/C protection systems should be regularly inspected for cracks on the blades of the fan assembly, and rough bearings.

“Also inspect the bolts and dust caps on the A/C compressor. Oil stains can be indicative of leaks,” says Spong.

Check all belt drive components for tension. “A belt tension gauge will take most of the guesswork away.” He says that A/C belt tightening is a major problem, but that down the road, auto-tensioners will increasingly solve that issue.

But don’t forget the help that comes with auxiliary climate control units, said Martin Connolly of Rigmaster.

“Long-haul Class 7 and 8 trucks are wasting 570 million gallons U.S. of diesel fuel a year,” saidConnolly, quoting from a study released by the U.S. Department of Energy.

“The Rigmaster does not share a truck’s coolant or Freon system. It’s an auxiliary heating and air conditioning system, but fleets are reluctant to look at it because of cost, reliability and measured actual savings,” says Connolly. “Many auxiliary power units have generators, heating and air-conditioning units. And with these units, you see a consistent reduction in A/C failures, cleaner oil at oil changes, better battery wear, and less starter and alternator failure.

“It depends in the individual usage, but you’ll get payback in 14-18 months as an owner/operator, or 16-20 for fleets. On average idle times, you should have four to five years before you reach overall (payback),” says Connolly.

He recommended in-house idling strategies for carriers, encouraging the use of auxiliary power, using auxiliary power units, and having a no-excuses policy for idling times, not to forget taking serious stock in driver comfort and satisfaction. n


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