Every truck driver knows the importance of keeping their rig in the best shape possible. But what about those stretches of time in between professional maintenance visits? A semi truck is a much more complex machine than a standard passenger car, so it makes sense that commercial vehicle maintenance and box truck maintenance are also a bit more involved than taking care of your car.
When it comes to do-it-yourself maintenance tasks, there are five key tasks that truck drivers should know about and perform on a regular basis. Taking care of a semi truck is a serious responsibility because proper, routine care impacts both the value of the truck and the driver’s personal safety. The good news is that the following five maintenance chores are relatively simple to do and take just a few minutes to complete. Why not spend a half-hour or so and make sure your commercial vehicle maintenance and box truck maintenance tasks get done on a regular basis?
Semi Truck Maintenance Tips that Make a Difference
There are thousands of moving parts on a semi truck. Fortunately, only a few are among the items that drivers have to check between service visits. Depending on your level of skill, you can do either a quick check on the items listed below or go a little deeper and do a more thorough inspection. You’ll no doubt recognize a few of the tips as things you already do for your personal automobile, but things like tires, brakes and fuel vents require a much higher level of attention on a semi truck. Commercial vehicle maintenance is serious business and can mean the difference between smooth trips and breakdowns that put your financial and physical health in danger. Consider performing all the following commercial and box truck maintenance tasks on a regular schedule. Here are the areas of concern and what you can do about each one:
- Tires: Check for excessive or unusual wear as well as proper inflation levels.
It’s not enough to do a quick pressure check. Tires are great diagnostic tools because they can reveal all sorts of alignment problems. Unusual wear patterns on the tread can be a sign of serious trouble. Always note what you see, paying specific attention to wear on the front tires.
Do a pressure check on each tire and make sure that each one is neither over- nor under-inflated. Fuel and tires are the two most costly expense areas when it comes to regular truck maintenance. Tires that are incorrectly inflated can cause irregular wear on the tread and lead to shortened tire life all around.
Keep in mind that each tire, depending on its own axle weight and other factors, so don’t assume every pressure reading should be the same. Use a tire pressure schedule for your truck to check against the readings that you find when you do your inspection.
- Brakes: Note any odd sounds, squealing noise or poor performance.
Two of the most common tell-tale signs of brake problems are vibration and noise, both of which can occur intermittently during operation. Noises to listen for include high-pitched squeals, like you’d hear on a car, as well as thumping, grinding or anything else you hear when applying the brakes.
This is one aspect of commercial truck maintenance that calls for quick help from a professional. The driver’s role is primarily diagnostic: listening for trouble and noting less-than-perfect brake performance. Remember to write down an accurate description of what you hear, noting exactly when it occurs and under what circumstances it happens. This information will help mechanics know what to look for and what needs fixing, without having to do a long diagnostic check.
- The Fuel Vent: Check regularly for blockage.
All sorts of debris, and even insects, can get into the fuel vent. While it might seem like a minor hazard at first, continued blockage of the vent can lead to wildly inaccurate fuel-gauge readings and can eventually interfere with the operation of the engine. It’s a good idea to clean out the fuel vent at least once per week,or more often during continuous use. Always wear gloves for this task as it can be quite a dirty job.
- The Radiator: Beware of line leaks.
Check the radiator before each trip and make sure there are no line leaks. Also, check for coolant levels, as you would with a car, and routinely top off the radiator’s fluid levels. If you find leaks, have them repaired as soon as possible. Topping off fluid levels won’t do much good if your radiator has a leak. Engines that run hot age much more quickly than ones that have healthy radiators to keep their temperatures in the safe zone. When you’re on the road, heat is one of your truck engine’s most dangerous enemies.
- The Oil Level: Make it a habit.
Checking the oil level before every trip is one of the most important, and easiest, things you can do to assure proper commercial truck maintenance. An oil check is usually part of every driver’s pre-trip routine but it’s a fact that too many people just assume that the level is okay because it was checked recently. Unfortunately, even if all was perfect yesterday, a faulty engine or extreme temperatures can cause your truck to use much more oil than usual. Plus, regular level checks are the best way to detect if your truck’s engine is suffering from an oil leak, so don’t neglect to check oil levels prior to each trip.
Routine box truck maintenance and commercial truck maintenance need not be a time-consuming, complicated task. By following a regular schedule of check-ups you’ll be able to rest assured that your machine is in the very best shape possible in between professional service visits.
And whether it’s the brakes or some other component of your semi truck, always note unusual noises and less-than-ideal performance in your maintenance log. Show the log to your mechanic when you have the truck serviced. If you’re an employee-driver, give the log to the owners so they can have the most up to date information about the vehicle’s state of health.
Are you thinking about getting back into or starting a truck driving career? Get off to the right start with the right CDL or refresher course from Southwest Truck Driver Training. Give us a call today!