Truck Drive Train Checklist
Trucks are a valuable part of just about every service business and keeping them running efficiently takes just a little initiative and planning to extend the service life of the drive train of a truck. The drive train in basic terms consists of the engine, transmission, cooling system, braking system components, fuel system, driveshaft(s), and the differentials (front & rear if the vehicle is four-wheel drive). There are vehicles with more than two differentials, but for this article those are not discussed. When a truck is operating normally, your business is making money and when the truck isn’t on the road it’s costing you money and that is why they need to be kept in good order. “Are you keeping up with the maintenance of your truck?” These tips could keep you from an unexpected visit to your local service shop.
Engine Oil: Adhere to a consistent schedule for changing the engine oil and oil filter(s) for your truck to maximize engine life. Refer to your specific truck manufacturer recommendations as a starting point. Check the oil level regularly to make sure it is at the appropriate level.
Drive Belt(s): A periodic check of the accessory drive belt(s) to make sure they are in good condition is a really good practice; a broken belt can put an end to an efficient workday.
Proper engine coolant: take time to make sure your truck has the appropriate amount of coolant/antifreeze in the radiator & coolant reservoir before you start your work week and send the truck out on the road. There are many manufacturers of engine coolant and you should be familiar with the coolant required for your truck. There is the common “green” coolant that is acceptable for many vehicles on the road. If you have a newer truck, there may be a special certified coolant required; for example “dex-cool” used in GM vehicles that is a long-life coolant designed to work with the types of metals and o-ring seals used in GM vehicles. If you have a foreign made truck, there are special formulations required by those manufacturers too. Please be aware that using the proper coolant will ensure you will keep corrosion of your cooling system to a minimum and prevent unwanted cooling system damage. It’s always a good idea to keep some coolant on the truck as preventative measure.Please check your owner’s manual or go online to the manufacturer’s website for coolant specifications. ONLY CHECK THE COOLANT LEVEL OR ADD COOLANT TO THE RADIATOR WHEN THE ENGINE IS COLD, FAILURE TO DO SO CAN RESULT IN BODILY INJURY. THE COOLING SYSTEM IS UNDER PRESSURE AND SHOULD NEVER BE OPENED UNLESS THE ENGINE IS COLD.
Brake Fluid: This is a fluid that seems to get neglected with many truck owners when doing regular maintenance inspections. Glycol-ether brake fluids such as DOT 3, DOT 4 DOT 5.1 are “hygroscopic” which means they absorb moisture from the atmosphere under normal humidity levels. This moisture affects the fluid condition and should be checked periodically to make sure the brake system isn’t being compromised from corrosion due to moisture in the system. Your work truck may haul heavy loads of equipment or goods and it’s imperative that the braking system is in working order for passenger safety as well as others on the road. Having the brake fluid flushed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations should be part of your maintenance program. If a truck is unintentionally overloaded at or above the designated GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating), this is a situation where a compromised braking system is a danger to all vehicles and their passengers on the road. Please pay close attention to the payload weight, make sure it is within the guidelines of safety for your particular truck.
Air filter: The engine air filter is an item that should be checked regularly to ensure that fresh air is getting to the engine for efficient operation. If the air filter is clogged with dirt, grass, or other debris this may result in poor engine performance and decreased fuel mileage. A paper air filter that has not been changed in a long time could develop a tear in the filter media allowing debris a straight shot into the engine; this debris can cause accelerated internal engine wear and damage if left unchecked. There are also re-useable/cleanable filters in the marketplace that tout longer service intervals and greater filtering ability than a cheaper paper media filter offers; this may be an appropriate product for you if operating in extremely dirty conditions on a regular basis. Some manufacturers such as K&N, AEM, Airaid, Volant, AFE, provide these types of filters just to name a few. If you keep the air entering your engine clean, you should be able to keep the truck engine performing efficiently and keep fuel mileage at an acceptable level.
Fuel System: Schedule regular intervals for replacing the fuel filter(s) for each truck. This item will be done more frequently for those business owners running diesel engines in their fleet and will typically involve fuel filter(s) replacement as part of normal PM Service.
Driveshaft U-Joints: Have the U-joints and driveshaft(s) checked during your regular service appointment to make sure they are in good condition.
Transmission Fluid/Lube: A typically neglected item to be serviced appropriately is your transmission; even the best cared for engine won’t get you to the job if the transmission can’t do its job. So, give your transmission its best possible service life by having it serviced at the appropriate interval recommended by the manufacturer with the appropriate gear lube(if manually shifted) and ATF fluid and filter if automatic. Please refer to your owner’s manual for the fluid checking and service procedure of your particular truck.
Differential gear lube: Have the differential(s) gear lube replaced at the manufacturers recommended interval as stated in your owner’s manual for (normal/severe) operating conditions. The differential(s) operate in a hostile environment where fluid breakdown can cause catastrophic results. The required repairs can be far more expensive if the fluid is neglected than the cost to maintain the differential(s) by normal service.
Making sure those inexpensive items such as engine oil, engine coolant, engine accessory belt(s), fuel filters, brake fluid, transmission fluid, u-joints, differential gear lube, and air filters are in good condition will go a long way towards minimizing downtime for your truck(s). This preventative maintenance will also provide you with peace of mind that your truck investment will have a long and useful service life for your business. It should also be noted that trucks with a documented maintenance history tend to bring more money upon resale because the next owner can verify how the truck was maintained throughout its work history.
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