Summer is finally over and the leaves are almost done turning colors and you know what that means… winter is here for most of the country. For many truckers that means getting the truck ready for the snow, sleet, and frigid temperatures.
As the temperatures slowly drop between now and New Years, it’s time to dig out the American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council’s guidelines on cooling systems. During the harsh winter months your truck needs the right coolant mixture. Using the wrong mixture could mean disaster.
Adding the Right Coolant Mix
American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council’s Recommended Practice (RP) 313C recommends using a 40-60% coolant-to-water blend, which offers freeze protection of -10 to -60 degrees. If your route takes you just through the southern states then you can get away with a leaner mix. But, even in the South, temperatures can hit below zero.
However, Technology and Maintenance Council’s (TMC) RP 313C cautions that any blend of 60% coolant or higher could result in the fluid thickening at very low temperatures leading to reduced cooling system performance. The standard for most truckers tends to be a 50/50 mix that protects the system from freezing at temperatures down to -34 degrees.
Purchasing the Right Coolant
Just as the right mix is important, so is purchasing the right coolant. Coolant manufacturers generally differentiate their types of coolant by liquid color, but you shouldn’t use that as a guide. Know what you put into your system.
The TMC also does not recommend mixing two or more types of coolants as it could cause mechanical problems. If you happen to accidentally mix red organic acid coolant and green conventional coolants together for example, it’s not the end of the world. The mixture will still cool the engine and maintain its freeze and boil-over protection, but you won’t get optimum performance.
The TMC says a mixture of up to 15% of a different type of coolant won’t cause any major problems. If you have a higher mixture, they recommend flushing the system and restoring the coolant in the engine with the correct type.
Inspecting the Cooling System
While you change the coolant, you should also inspect the entire cooling system. It’s a good practice to inspect your system on a quarterly basis to ensure your system is running in tip-top share year-round. Regular wear is common and expect to see things like loose fan shrouds and worn belts.
Belts are crucial to proper operation of the cooling system. Belts are made much better than they used to be even a decade ago, but they can still breakdown over time. Use a belt gauge to measure the depth in the peaks and valleys of the belt. If a belt is too far worn then it’s time to change it.
Other key components of the cooling system to inspect include the thermostats, radiator caps, and the humble hose clamp. Make sure you check the torque of each clamp, as most leaks in the cooling system tend to occur when clamps aren’t as tight as they should be. However, don’t over tighten the clamps in cold weather. When the engine metal is hot, it expands and if the clamps are too tight, the expanding metal fitting could snap the clamp off.
The seasons are changing and it’s a good time to inspect your truck and get it ready for the harsh winter months. Your cooling system is essential to keeping your engine running in the best shape possible. If you don’t have the expertise to inspect the system and change the coolant, bring it to your technician for maintenance. A little maintenance now can keep your truck on the road longer and money in your bank account.