Maximizing your uptime on the road is important to be a successful owner-operator. One of the biggest maintenance problems that can significantly decrease your time on the road is engine trouble. Since today’s diesel engines are computerized and require a shop with specific technology to analyze engine problems, repairs can be very time consuming and costly.
Preventative maintenance (PM) is key to keeping you and your truck on the road, especially when it comes to your engine. Many owner-operators have at least some mechanical knowledge, commonly doing their own maintenance on things such as oil changes or chassis lubrication, but remember, an engine is controlled by a complex computer and you may want to let the engine repairs be done by a certified mechanic. Making a mistake on your engine repair could cost more in the long run than
paying for a specialized mechanic to perform the repairs.
Here are some truck care tips that you can easily do yourself and can add to your PM routine:
- Check tires for irregular wear. An irregular wear pattern could indicate the need for an axle alignment.
- Check air pressure daily. This will help avoid premature failure of the tire and maximize fuel mileage. Adding a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) is a good investment to ensure tires are properly inflated at all times, not just when checking the tire with a gauge. Click here to read Team Run Smart Pro, Henry Albert’s, experience with his TPMS.
- Keep the radiator clean. The engine will easily overheat if it is full of bugs. Every 4 to 6 months carefully flush the exterior of the radiator core from the engine side with very low pressure water to remove bugs and dirt. A garden hose with no pressure nozzle works well and will not damage the fins of the radiator.
- Keep proper fan belt tension. Check daily to be sure the fan belts are in good condition and have the proper tension. This is essential for optimum engine performance.
- Change the oil and fuel filters. Engine components need to stay lubricated. A plugged oil filter causes the filter by-pass valve to open allowing unfiltered oil supply to the engine. Plugged fuel filters will cause poor engine performance, reduced fuel mileage, and possible engine shut-down. Follow the engine manufacturer's guidelines for recommended frequency to change or check these items.
- Keep electrical connections clean. Keep battery terminals and ground cables clean for proper electrical flow.
- Buy quality fuel. Buy fuel from your carrier’s fuel network because they have already done the background checks to determine the quality of fuel coming from the truck stops.
- Check air connections. Look at the air-to-air connections from the air filter to the turbocharger, to the charge air cooler and back to the engine. Look for signs of compacting in the air filter. Check these components every few days.
- Keep gauges working. Gauges are indicators of potential problems. Here are common problems gauges indicate:
- High coolant temperature - overheating
- Loss of oil pressure - engine problem
- Loss of voltage - electrical issue
- Loss of manifold pressure - fuel or a turbo problem
- Filter restriction gauge - fuel issue
Here are some engine care tips that you should have a mechanic check regularly as part of your PM routine:
- Check engine for leaks. Check the engine regularly for oil or coolant leaks. If a coolant leak is found, it could just be a faulty hose and you could repair this yourself. Also, an engine oil leak can be an easy fix, however have it inspected by the engine dealer to rule out more serious issues. Trucks are not allowed to have any leaks under new environmental laws. Upon CSA inspection, a leak could cause you to be fined or even worse, force you off the road.
- Oil analysis. Oil analysis can optimize engine life by identifying performance problems in progress. As engine oil is pumped throughout different parts of the engine, it picks up trace elements of engine component wear and contamination. Testing the engine oil for fuel dilution and high wear metals will assist in diagnosing a possible engine problem.
- Diesel in the radiator. This indicates a serious engine problem and you need to take your truck to the mechanic as soon as possible.
Remember, if you make repairs only when the truck breaks down then you aren’t running your truck, it’s running you. PM done on a regular basis and performed properly puts you in charge. PM can be expensive, but neglect is even more costly, especially when it comes to your engine.