As a professional truck driver, you understand that not only does your body need the proper rest to keep you alert on the road, your truck needs downtime to keep it at top performance. This means setting time aside for truck maintenance and repair. At Cowboys and Engines, LLC, we understand your concern for your most prized possession, your truck. It is what keeps your business thriving and food on the table. Aside from committing to a routine maintenance schedule, the best way to avoid finding yourself sitting on the side of the road waiting for a repair vehicle is to take care of your rig.
While you may feel that every second off the road is lost money, consider the alternative. It really doesn’t take much to ensure your truck is performing at its best. Most of the smartest and safest habits are simply common sense. Here are ten tips to keep your rig running at great between service visits:
- Ensure your tires are inflated properly. Check your tire pressure regularly: before your trip, every time you stop, and after you complete your run. Underinflated tires increase your fuel consumption and make steering difficult. Overinflated tires increase the dangerous probability of blowout. Also, note that tire pressure will fluctuate with weather changes and driving speeds. Always monitor these conditions to ensure proper tire pressure. **BONUS—Understand that a hot tire will always register a higher pressure than a cold tire—1psi for every 10 degrees of temperature change.
- Maintain proper fluid levels. Before you start your engine, check all your fluid levels, especially your oil. Diesel engines need proper oil levels to run well. Neglecting to keep your reservoir full will eventually harm your engine, leading to expensive repair costs. **BONUS—when filling, always use the correct fluids. It’s easy when you’re in a hurry to get on the road to grab the wrong type. Always double-check labels before topping-off.
- Regularly check your radiator. Just as you check fluids, check coolant levels before each trip. Inspect your hoses and overflow bottle. Top off if needed. If you see any leaks, even if minor, repair them immediately before they become major. Overheating can cause severe engine damage and leave you stranded or with loss of work with a down truck.
- Inspect brakes often. This, like many other items on this list, is on your pre-trip inspection list. Every trip, check your brakes. Check the pads, the gaping, and for sounds of an air leak. Also, check your cab gauges to ensure proper readings. You should also perform a regular Static and Pressure down check to ensure your warning alarm and spring brake system are functioning properly. This will also keep you DOT and FMSCA compliant. If you hear squealing or feel vibration when applying brakes, get it looked at.
- Park on level ground. Avoid parking sideways on a hill that would cause your fuel tanks to be uneven and unequalized. When you do this as you start your engine, the uptake system draws in air instead of fuel, causing your engine to misfire or not to start at all.
- Allow your engine to cool before shutting down the engine. If your engine has a turbo, then you need at least 30 minutes for the exhaust gas temperature to fall below 300 degrees. Then you can shut your engine off safely without burning the oil in the turbo.
- Check fuel exhaust vent when the truck has been sitting. If the truck has been in maintenance or you have had a day or two off, check the fuel exhaust vent for blockages. It’s more common than you might expect that nests from birds or wasps find their home. These blockages can cause your truck not to start giving the appearance it’s out of fuel.
- Drive smart. Observe the posted speed limit. Stay in one lane. Make lane changes well before you need to make them. This will help you avoid cutting off drivers or slamming on the brakes needlessly. Follow all state and federal trucking regulations can save your truck a lot of wear and tear and prolong its life and keep you out of the repair shop.
- Know what you are getting into. Have your route planned before you leave your yard. This can include directions to your destination, weather forecasts, and any major local events happening. By avoiding and rerouting around construction, knowing when and where severe weather is supposed to hit, and any area that is expected to have unexpected heavier traffic, you can be prepared and have a safer trip for yourself and for your rig