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Do It Yourself Truck Tips – Save Money and Downtime

The work truck is a valuable part of your business and keeping it running efficiently helps protect the bottom line of your business. When the truck(s) are running, your business is functioning and when they aren’t on the road it’s costing you money and that is why they need to be kept in good order. Take a moment and see if these tips are already part of your maintenance protocols in addition to required scheduled maintenance. These item checks are simple to perform and may save you in mechanic service fees or towing costs due to mechanical failures over the life of the truck. The goal is to be proactive and replacing wear items on the truck before failure occurs.

Belts and Hoses– Periodic visual inspection of the v-belts or serpentine belt (depending on age of the truck) for cracking, glazing, frayed edges, as signs of wear indicating a replacement should be performed soon can help prevent a shutdown due to a belt failure while driving on the road if caught early enough. Check cooling system hoses (while engine is cold) for cracks, cuts, excessive swelling, or hoses that feel hard or brittle to the touch should be replaced.

Tire Pressure– Check that the air pressure (cold) in each tire is within manufacturer specifications. This will ensure that the truck will perform as designed when loaded with a payload. Improperly inflated tires may have adverse effects on the handling characteristics of the truck; and can decrease the tread life of the tires. This is a real safety item that should not be overlooked on your truck.

Proper engine coolant

– 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 a Monday morning. 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 a gallon of coolant on the truck as preventative measure.Please refer to your owner’s manual for coolant specifications and coolant change intervals.

Brake Fluid– This is an item that seems to go unchecked with most 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 varying weights of payload and it’s imperative that the braking system is in working order for passenger safety as well as others on the road. Checking for the proper level of fluid in the system is an easy process and the procedure is listed in your owner’s manual. Having the brake fluid flushed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations should be part of your maintenance program.

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.

Automatic Transmission Fluid Check– Checking the fluid level of your truck transmission periodically is vitally important to minimize a catastrophic transmission overheat/failure event prematurely occurring with your truck. The procedure can vary by manufacturer, but in most cases this fluid check is quite simple: refer to your owner’s manual about dipstick location, appropriate fluid level check temperature & type (see manual), and the maintenance schedule for appropriate transmission fluid service intervals. If you have a manually shifted transmission, the procedure is different (please consult your service manual to locate the sight plug on the transmission case).

Door Locks– Periodically take a moment to check for smooth movement of the lock cylinders on all exterior doors that are exposed to the weather. By inserting the key and making sure the lock operates smoothly. You can purchase an inexpensive tube of powdered graphite to periodically lube the locks. The graphite works well and won’t gum up or attract dirt as other methods of lubrication may exhibit. Many keys have been broken off in locks that were not lubricated periodically, save yourself the aggravation and lubricate them every once in a while.

In summary,
Making sure those inexpensive items such as belts and hoses, tire air pressure, engine coolant, automatic or manual transmission fluid, brake fluid, air filters, door locks 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.

 

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