Don’t let this warm fall weather fool you! Our Canadian winter weather can be hard on trucks and generally results in harsh driving conditions. Now is the time of year to ensure that your truck and fleet are ready for these conditions.
Here is a list of winter preparation measures that could be part of every owner’s preventative maintenance program. Some of the tips below are routine maintenance, however there are some helpful ideas to keep us all safer on the roads this winter and might help reduce your downtime.
Check DEF system
One of the newest items in the maintenance checklist appears courtesy of the EPA 2010 emissions regulations – specifically for diesel engine models using urea-based diesel exhaust fluid in their emissions control systems.
The freezing point of DEF is 12F (-11C), so it is likely to freeze in many northern locales, but should thaw under normal operation within 45 minutes, as virtually all medium-duty trucks’ emissions systems are designed to accommodate this. Periodic checks for any system leaks are an important part of a winterization regimen.
Check and maintain engine heaters
If your using Anti Idling devices, such as engine heaters and bunk heaters, be sure to ensure they are both functioning and operating as they should. These heaters are meant to be run and should be tested on a monthly basis, even through the summer. Don’t wait for -25 degrees to find out your heaters aren’t functioning.
Check coolant for proper protection levels.
Coolant life is typically specified by the coolant manufacturers at 24 months, so if coolant is older than that, the system should be flushed and the coolant replaced.
While the antifreeze properties of the coolant may not dissipate with time, additives that provide corrosion protection, anti-gumming and other ancillary protection functions do break down with time, compromising overall performance.
For diesel engine models, make sure fuel is ASTM D-975 Grade 1 diesel in areas where temperatures may drop below 10 degrees (-12C). Note that for diesel particulate filter-equipped vehicles, ultra low sulfur diesel is required in all temperature conditions.
Service the fuel filter, and drain the water separator to prevent freezing.
Test the battery and clean the connections. While battery degradation occurs much more rapidly in hot weather, it is under the high starting load they face in cold weather that batteries typically fail.
Prepare for a clear view
Check windshields for minor chips and pitting. As temperatures decrease and sheet metal contracts, stress on windshields can increase.
Have small chips repaired to help avoid crack propagation and the need for a full windshield replacement.
Check windshield wiper blade condition and replace as necessary. Check and fill windshield washer reservoirs regularly, being sure to use proper winter dilution levels.
Check the operation of heated mirrors, if so equipped.
Check tire condition and make sure tread thickness is a minimum of 5/32-inches for winter driving. Ensure tires are properly inflated.
For harsh winter conditions, consider a truck with a limited-slip differential, or consider adding a four-wheel drive model.
Put tire chains in the vehicle if severe snow or ice conditions are anticipated.
Check ABS operation at the start of the winter season, even if this requires a variance from the regular brake maintenance schedule.
Also monitor stroke adjustment on drum brakes, fluid levels and parking brake operation.
Check exhaust systems
Check exhaust systems to assure they are free of leaks.
Sitting in slow-moving traffic, creeping because of heavy weather, or parked with the engine running to maintain cab temperature can increase the risk of carbon monoxide entry into the cabin.
On diesel-engine models, check glow plug operation.
Check all belts and hoses, and replace as necessary.
Keep it clean
Clean the cab, body and undercarriage weekly to remove road salts in heavy snow areas.
Keep radiator frontal surface clean and free of bugs, dirt and debris.
Check heater/defroster operation, including function/position of the directional vanes in the system to assure effective defrosting.
Prepare emergency kit – check road flares, fire extinguisher, reflective triangles, first aid kit, water, solar blanket, jumper cables, etc.
Remember that safety extends beyond your own fleet to people you share the road with, so check mud flaps regularly, and replace as necessary.
Can’t do the work yourself? Contact the MTA and we can help point you in the right direction.