Open Your Hood


Everyday I see drivers do partial vehicle inspections. They walk around their trucks and trailers. Maybe they kick the tires. Maybe they don't. They get the flashers going and check the lights. Maybe they check the brake lights. Maybe they don't. More and more of them don't seem to be opening their hoods. Isn't that part of the inspection process? It sure is part of mine.


It could be part of the “car” mentality. The more that these trucks drive like cars, the more drivers treat them like cars. Cars don't get pulled around back at weigh stations. Cars don't come equipped with a 14 hour clock. Car drivers don't have CSA scores. They don't have a PSP. Opening your hood should be part of your inspection routine.


Chances are you are not going to find anything major. You could check your oil. How is your coolant level? Put your hand on your steering rod. How much play is there? Is it the right amount? It takes about a minute to check these items. My truck with 116,000 miles on it has never required me to add oil or coolant. The play in the rod is consistent. Nothing had ever been wrong, yet I check them before every drive, just in case.


Check for the little things. How does your belt look? Does it flex properly? Are your hoses supple? Do you see any fluid where it does not belong. These new DPF engines stay incredibly clean and a leak would be easily spotted. If you have an older engine, clean it. That will make leaks easy to spot. You could have a pin hole leak in a line or a hose. Pin hole leaks have a tendency to not remain pin hole leaks. That minor leak could turn into a major problem. It could eventually cause a breakdown.


What about those hose clamps? Check to see if you can move them. If you can check out why. A simple loose or broken hose clamp can lead to a break down. You may end up with a tow job. It could cost you down time. Hose clamps are cheap. Tow trucks aren't. Even if you can't make the repair yourself, catching it before you head out on the road can save you a service call.


Every time I see a truck broken down on the side or a road, I wonder if that driver opened up the hood before they left. Was whatever caused the break down something simple? Could that driver have made an easy repair in the parking lot? Could a simple turn of a screw or a new hose clamp have prevented a break down?

Comments (12)

Jeff Clark

Jeff Clark of Kewaunee, WI has been driving a truck for 24 years. He has been an owner operator for 11 years.

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That is part of my fear-embarrassment. I am not very mechanical. But, I can figure out a hose clamp.

April 26, 2014 16:41:08 PM

I always find it incredibly scary how little mechanical knowledge many drivers possess! I walked over to a driver with his hood up that had just pulled into the truckstop lot beside me, and he said he suddenly had no power. He had a very obivious blown off air hose at the intake manifold, from a loose hose clamp, after some recent shop work. So I helped him reattach it. But in talking to him, he had zero understanding about turbo boost and the intake system. Since there is no mandated training to get a CDL, there is obviously even less mechanical knowledge for some with CDLs. It is hard to get through to these folks that paying attention to these things is very important, your life, and others around you on the highway depends on it!

April 26, 2014 8:05:45 AM

You're welcome and we're glad to have you.

April 26, 2014 4:03:28 AM


April 25, 2014 19:14:01 PM

NICE BABY! Check with your company, or your local Freightliner dealer for those skirts. You will notice when you open your hood just how clean it burns.

April 25, 2014 15:25:49 PM


April 25, 2014 12:54:04 PM

I think that all of you guys are nailing it. Craig-doing what you do and where you do it a preventable breakdown would be completely unacceptable. John-I think that you're exactly right-and that is why I thought of the "car mentality" theory. Even today's belts, hoses, and clamps are made better today then when I started. Problems that can be spotted prior to leaving have become more rare. My philosophy though is that I can open/close that hood 1,000 times and have no problems, but if I spot 1 in 5 years it was worth it.

April 25, 2014 9:24:06 AM

As drivers we may have got a bit lazy, our trucks are now like cars they require less input from us and there are so many sensors and check lights it is hard imagine a problem that will not show up on the dash, no more stuck in the middle of no where without a cell phone or satalite access. Years ago you payed BIG time and breaking down once like that made you an expert on pre trips.

April 25, 2014 8:19:57 AM

Good article Jeff, I couldn't agree more with all of you! An ounce of prevention or a pound of cure. It only takes a few minutes but people get lazy or possibly disgruntled and that's a shame. Not only does my truck gets its DOT inspections but we are also inspected before going onto each fire and coming off of each fire. In addition to all of these inspections we do a daily inspection before each shift. We have caught things early and been able to fix them before they become large problems and that keeps our downtime to a minimum and keeps the money flowing in.

April 25, 2014 8:16:09 AM

Both true-That ounce of prevention can save more than money. I think that I am going to invent the phrase "car mentality" The behavior that we are driving cars-and not professional drivers driving trucks.

April 25, 2014 6:15:59 AM

It's also a good way to see if you have a wheel seal leaking . I rarely see drivers looking at the back side of their wheels and brake drums for signs of leakage . You can spot a problem in this area much sooner than simply looking at the hub lube level from the out side as just a slight leak will show up as a major mess on the inside of the wheel end . You can also spot a small leak by looking at the back side of your wheel well inner fender because it will catch the small droplets of lube .

April 25, 2014 5:58:29 AM

Great Points Jeff and one other thing.... the new trucks hoods are much easier to open then they used to be.

April 25, 2014 5:12:02 AM