As temperatures continue rising across the country, certain maintenance items can benefit from extra attention and regular checkups to prevent costly fixes down the line. While proper maintenance is crucial throughout the year, Mike Hasinec, vice president of maintenance support at Penske Truck Leasing, suggests carriers and their maintenance providers pay attention to these five items at the peak of summer.
Proper tire pressures improve safety as well as tire life and fuel economy, but they may need special care when temperatures creep up. Checking and adjusting the tire inflation pressure with an accurate tire pressure gauge is critical, and tire pressure gauges should be checked periodically for accuracy and calibrated as per the gauge manufacturer guidelines, Hasinec said.
When air pressures are inaccurate, the tire flexes in ways it wasn’t designed to, changing the shape of the tire’s footprint, resulting in decreased fuel economy, irregular wear patterns and reduced tread life. In addition, underinflated tires build up excessive heat, potentially causing premature failure.
Fleets also face the risk of overinflated tires since tire pressures increase as temperatures rise. In general, tires tend to run hotter and wear faster in warm weather, which means the tread portion of the tire becomes softer in the summer months, making tires more susceptible to punctures from road debris such as metal objects, screws and nails.
Hasinec suggested that carriers pay extra attention to trailer tires, which he said are often neglected. “There are three to four trailers per power unit and they don’t always get the same thorough inspection as a tractor does,” he said.
To improve tire care, some fleets have more specific tire checks performed during the driver’s pre-trip inspection or during the scheduled PM in the summer months.
The engine radiator, EGR coolers and transmission cooler need to operate properly to maintain the proper engine and transmission temperatures, and inadequate or improper service of cooling and electrical systems can lead to heat-related failures during hot weather.
Penske checks cooling systems on every preventative maintenance inspection, and Hasinec said it is important to maintain a good 50/50 mix throughout the year. “It helps with boiling points as well as freeze points,” he said.
Hasinec added that one of the more predominant things that is overlooked on a coolant system is the radiator cap, which keeps the systems under pressure. “You should pressure test those when you pressure test the system,” he said. “The caps today are better than they used to be, but they still fail.”
In addition, electronic component failures can be caused by damaged or missing heat guards, heat shields or heat deflectors, especially within those components found near the exhaust system after-treatment devices. Excessive heat can also melt the plastic electrical connectors or make them brittle, leading to electrical malfunctions caused by poor connections at the electronic control units, sensors and solenoids that control various vehicle systems.
Demands on air conditioners in the cab and the sleeper bunk are obviously increased in the summer months, and the units should be checked regularly. Technicians need to ensure the engine fan/clutch is activated and engages properly when the A/C system is turned on. In addition, the A/C system typically interfaces with the electronic engine controls and abnormal operation conditions within the A/C refrigerant subsystem could trigger fault codes, which need to be investigated, repaired and cleared before the vehicle is placed back into service.
Warm temperatures mean the reefer units on refrigerated trailers face higher demand, Hasinec said. To ensure they run properly as outdoor temperatures increase, carriers should inspect them regularly.
Hasinec said the number of battery failures in the summer months is on the rise, particularly with new engine technology. In the past, battery problems typically took place in the winter.
Summer is well underway, which means the start of the school year is just around the corner. Children heading back to school often results in heavier traffic, and professional drivers will want to be even more aware of their surroundings while navigating residential areas, traveling the interstate and making deliveries at the nation’s big box retailers.
The American School Bus Council estimates there are 480,000 school buses on the road. In addition to buses, moms driving small children to and from school and teenagers and college students driving themselves increase the number of vehicles on the road.
While all roads will see an increase in traffic congestion, secondary roads near neighborhoods and schools typically see the greatest traffic increases, and drivers may want to avoid or minimize travel in these areas.
Back-to-school season hits at the same time as big-box retailers are stocking their shelves for the back-to-school rush. When navigating in parking lots and delivery points around retail stores, drivers will want to slow down, increase their following distance, communicate, and continue checking their mirrors and blind spots. It can be useful for drivers to “get out and look” or use a spotter before backing up at retail docks and any delivery point.
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