Keeping your truck operating like new requires regular preventive maintenance. And while you’ll need to invest time and money up front, just think of the costly downtime you’ll avoid later. Plus, you’ll increase your operational efficiency, minimize expensive “reactive” repairs, maximize the life of your truck, and keep customers happy, which means repeat customers and more business.
 
To keep your truck on the road and out of the shop, it’s vital that you follow the manufacturer’s recommended preventative maintenance schedule on your truck’s tires, engine, transmission, battery, brakes, cooling system, suspension, and emissions system. Consider implementing the following five tips into your preventive maintenance schedule.
 
Tip 1: Take Care of the Engine
 
The first step in keeping a truck running for a long time is to take care of the engine and related systems. Have a basic service performed around 15,000 miles. By changing the fluids, such as the oil, every 15,000 miles*, you can keep contaminants out of the engine, leading to smoother operation.


 
In addition to the engine, have the transmission serviced according to manufacturer recommendations. Unlike engine oil, transmission fluid lasts a lot longer, with the transmission usually only needing service every 500,000 miles*, or at the five-year mark. The exhaust system should also last a long time without needing maintenance, with the diesel particle filter requiring cleaning or replacement at 400,000 miles*.
 
Because the truck engine, transmission, and exhaust system are all connected, a problem with one system could signify problems with another. Always remain alert for strange noises, smoke, or odd smells issuing from the area around your engine, transmission, or along the exhaust system.
 
Tip 2: Make Sure the Battery Stays Charged
 
Your trucks battery must also remain charged to keep the ignition and electric system working properly. And if a truck has amenities, such as a TV or wireless router, the battery needs to power those items as well.
 
In the past, truckers could leave their engines idling to power their various devices. But with recent state laws prohibiting idling a diesel engine, truckers now rely on their vehicle batteries more than ever.
 
Tip 3: Regularly Inspect the Tires
 
Truck tires are another area that needs close scrutiny on a regular basis. Not only should you inspect your truck’s tires during each pre-trip inspection, you need to keep them properly inflated.
 
Make sure to also need to inspect the wheel nuts occasionally to ensure they are properly tightened. And while you are down there, check out the suspension, looking for any damaged parts or fluid leaks. Plus, have the shocks and struts inspected occasionally, especially if you notice the truck driving roughly.
 
Tip 4: Check the Brakes
 
The brakes on a long-haul truck operate differently than those on a passenger vehicle. A truck’s brake system relies heavily on the buildup of air in the air tank. These air brakes give the truck more stopping power, especially when connected to a trailer.
 
Even with this more robust system, stopping an 18-wheeler at full speed is difficult at best, requiring a longer stopping distance than a standard vehicle. That is why it is important to make sure that the air brakes work properly before heading out on a long trip.
 
Tip 5: Flush and Maintain the Cooling System
 
Properly maintaining the cooling system is also a must. Without a proper coolant level, the engine can overheat, potentially leading to problems with the engine, such as a cracked head or leaking water pump.
 
For the most part, the radiator should cycle the coolant properly when the engine reaches a certain temperature, at which point the temperature gauge should open, allowing the coolant to cycle. Occasionally, you’ll need to have the coolant system flushed and the coolant replaced with the correct mixture of water and antifreeze.
 
*Check with the manufacturer for recommended intervals.  Intervals can vary greatly depending on your application and model year.  

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Cheryl Knight

With more than 20 years of writing and editing experience, Cheryl has covered topics ranging from advanced engineering technology to automotive fleet management. She has written and edited for niche-market and research publications, including Automotive Fleet, Fleet Financials, Government Fleet, and Engineering and Technology magazines.

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