summer truck maintenance

Temperatures are heating up across the country as summer approaches, and some components on Class 8 trucks need extra attention to prevent unscheduled downtime and maintenance expenses.

“Maintenance inspection points are primarily the same year-round, but there are certain maintenance items, especially the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system and tire pressures, that require extra attention during the summer,” said Chris Hough, vice president of maintenance design and engineering at Penske Truck Leasing.

Air Conditioning System Maintenance: Inspecting the HVAC system, including circulation air filters, and ensuring the AC system is cooling as designed, is essential for driver comfort and safety, Hough said. Naturally, the demand for HVAC systems increases in summer, and a qualified technician must regularly inspect HVAC systems.

Technicians must ensure the engine fan/clutch is activated and adequately engaged when the A/C system calls for more airflow across the condenser. In addition, the A/C system typically interfaces with a vehicle’s electronic systems and controllers. As a result, abnormal operating conditions within the A/C refrigerant subsystem could trigger fault codes that must be diagnosed and repaired before placing the unit back into service.

Additionally, cabin filters need to be inspected, cleaned and replaced regularly.

Truck Tire Maintenance: Proper summer tire pressures improve safety, tire life and fuel economy, and tires need special care when temperatures increase. “Maintaining correct tire pressure during the summer months will help reduce over-the-road tire failures,” Hough said.

Tires tend to run hotter and wear faster in warm weather, and the tire tread portion becomes softer in higher temperatures. That makes tires more susceptible to punctures from road debris.

Fleets and drivers can improve uptime and increase tire performance by checking tire inflation pressure with an accurate tire pressure gauge when the tires have cooled. Because tire pressure increases as temperatures rise, there is a risk of overinflated tires in the summer.

When air pressures are inaccurate, tires tend to flex, changing the shape of the tire’s footprint. That decreases fuel economy, creates irregular wear patterns and reduces tread life. Also, underinflated tires build up excessive heat, potentially causing premature failure.

Cooling and Electrical System Maintenance: During the summer, it’s critical to ensure a truck’s engine radiator, EGR coolers and transmission cooler are operating properly to maintain the correct engine and transmission temperatures. Inadequate or improper service of cooling and electrical systems can lead to heat-related failures during hot weather. Penske checks cooling systems during every preventive maintenance (PM) inspection.

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 make the plastic electrical connectors brittle or cause them to melt, leading to electrical malfunctions caused by poor connections at the electronic control units, sensors and solenoids that control various vehicle systems.

APU Maintenance: Auxiliary power units (APUs) also require special attention during the summer. Diesel-powered APUs have belts, lines, and AC compressors that require scheduled maintenance checks. An electric, battery-powered APU is integrated with the cab air conditioning and should be inspected to ensure it functions properly.

Refrigeration Unit Maintenance: Warm temperatures mean the reefer units on refrigerated trailers face higher demand. Carriers should inspect them regularly to ensure they run correctly as outdoor temperatures increase.

Battery Maintenance: Battery maintenance is not seasonal; a solid, year-round battery maintenance program will pay dividends.

Professional drivers, get ready to share the road. Nearly 85% of Americans expect to travel this summer, according to a 2023 travel survey from The Vacationer. And 100 million people plan to take a road trip of 250 miles or more.

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The summer months bring warm temperatures, and certain maintenance items can benefit from extra attention and regular checkups to prevent costly fixes down the line. Proper maintenance is crucial throughout the year, but Mike Hasinec, former vice president of maintenance support at Penske Truck Leasing, said carriers and their maintenance providers should pay special attention to specific items at the peak of summer.

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