9 Steps to Help Keep Winter Weather from Stopping Your Trucks Cold

Once the temperature starts to plunge is not the time to start worrying about winterizing your fleet. Here are 9 tips you should be following right now.

Fleets that either originate in or spend a great deal of drive time in cold weather climates understand the stress that extreme changes in temperature can create in a truck. For those carriers that mainly operate in temperate or warm weather climates, we suggest you follow these tips carefully to ensure that your fleet functions at its optimal level, no matter where the trucks may travel.

1.    Choose the right diesel fuel

Diesel fuel contains Paraffin which causes fuel to gel as temperatures drop. Check the cetane rating at the pump; the higher the number, the easier your truck will start in winter months. Most fueling locations will carry a winter blend fuel so make sure to fill up with that winter blend if you’re going to be traveling into cold weather. Also, anti-gel additives can be used during winter months. Check with your engine manufacturer to get recommendations on fuel treatments, as some can cause damage to high pressure common rail injection systems.

2.    Check your water separator daily

Diesel fuels have water suspended in the solution. The water comes from condensation which forms on the inside of a cold fuel tank that has warm fuel. To minimize risk, check your water separator daily and invest in a new fuel filter.

3.    Test your coolant system

Pre-winter you should have your local service provider perform a comprehensive winterization inspection of the cooling system. A coolant test will make sure your coolant is at the optimum freeze point. The inspection should also include the radiator, hoses, belts and coolant filter replacement. Since we’re already in December, if you haven’t already done so, make sure to get that inspection now!

4.    Use an electric-powered block heater when the truck is parked

Diesel engines are harder to start than gasoline vehicles because of their need for higher cylinder temperatures. That’s why when the vehicle is parked for any length of time in cold weather; you need to use an electric-powered block heater to minimize large fluctuations in engine temperatures. Also, since the Paraffin wax in the fuel begins to precipitate out as the ambient temperature drops below + 32F, it’s important that you use a winter blend fuel.

5.    Perform air dryer maintenance

The air dryer is designed to remove air system moisture and contaminants before they enter the brake system to prevent water freezing in the lines and brake failure. Air dryer maintenance is imperative and should be maintained according to the interval schedule listed in owner’s manual.

6.    Check battery age and lifecycle and do proper maintenance

Cold temperatures drain batteries faster; diesel engines require strong batteries that hold a good charge with enough cranking amps to start the engine. The perfect time to check on age and lifecycle of the battery is just before winter; typically the lifecycle is 48 to 72 month. Proper battery maintenance should include cleaning and securing connections and mounting brackets.

7.    Allow for reduced PSI due to cold weather and inflate tires accordingly

Underinflated tires, which are one of the leading causes of tire failure, causes the tire to wear faster and adversely affects a vehicle’s handling.  Remember, a tire can lose up to 50 percent of its pressure without appearing flat. Don’t over-inflate tires either; that increases the risk of tread separation, and the tires can easily be damaged by road debris, curbing or potholes. The “right amount” of air for your tires is specified by the vehicle manufacturer, listed in the owner’s manual. If you’re still not sure, contact your local truck tire vendor. When you check tire pressure, make sure the tires are cool – meaning they are not hot from driving. (Note: If you have to drive a distance to get air, check and record tire PSI first and add the appropriate air pressure when you get to a source of air location.) It’s normal for tire air pressure to increase when it heats up and while driving. Never release air pressure when tires are hot. (Note: Air pressure in a tire goes up (in warm weather) or down (in cold weather) 2-4 pounds for every 10 degrees of temperature change.)Visually inspect tires to make sure there are no gouges, cuts, bulges or other irregularities. During the winter months, your tire treads should be, at a minimum, 14/32nds. Drivers can perform these checks themselves, or request any trusted technician when the truck is taken in for PM Service.

8.    Perform preventative maintenance

You should always follow the maintenance schedule of inspections and service outlined in the owner’s manual. Many of the cold weather tips are included in a regular maintenance routine.

9.    Select a breakdown service provider

Last winter proved that few areas of the country are really safe from the effects of cold weather, so no matter where your fleet is based or where it travels, proper maintenance is vital to the long-term health of your trucks…and of your business. But even if you follow all of these precautionary measures, breakdowns can still occur. Whether you experience an event of no start, tire failure, or an on-road mechanical failure, you should make sure your company has a reliable, qualified, 24/7 breakdown service provider.

Don’t let breakdowns slow down your business. Should the unexpected occur, turn to NationaLease Road Rescue for help. Call 1-800-FON-NTLS for more information.

This blog first appeared on the AmeriQuest Blog Website.

Ken Hall

About Ken Hall

Ken Hall is Vice President of Maintenance & Call Center Operations for CURE Leasing & Maintenance, a wholly owned subsidiary of AmeriQuest Business Services. Ken oversees the 24/7 Road Rescue program, which provides coverage for all driver maintenance, including emergency roadside assistance, general truck maintenance, trailer service and repair, and scheduled PM service.

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