Truck Maintenance and Repair
Getting your truck serviced regularly and keeping it well maintained will help prevent costly repairs and breakdowns on the road as well as extends the lifespan of your equipment.
Your truck dealership will perform some of the service work, if your truck is covered by a manufacturer’s warranty or if you purchased a used truck warranty. However, dealerships usually charge higher prices than independently owned shops.
Many service stations at truck stops offer specials for basic services. You may find it more convenient and time efficient to get routine maintenance such as oil changes done at truck stops while you are on the road.
As an alternative, find a small and independently owned repair shop where you can develop a personal relationship with the owner and mechanics. This will help you get your truck repaired or serviced without long waiting periods, maybe even on weekends, so you can get back on the road without delay. This will reduce unproductive downtime.
Regular Preventive Maintenance
Regular preventive maintenance and inspections will help you spot minor problems early and you can repair them before they turn into major problems. The truck is your business and you have to keep it in excellent operating condition in order to run a safe and profitable business.
Make the daily pre-trip inspection part of your preventive maintenance routine. During the daily inspection, check a list of items on the truck and trailer’s in- and outside. Follow the same daily routine, so nothing gets missed or overlooked. If you are leased to a carrier, you may be required to follow a specific inspection pattern. Otherwise, use this outline:
Overview of the entire tractor-trailer: Engine compartment-check fluid levels, fluid leaks, belts, battery, wiring, and compressor. Inside the cab-start the engine, check gauges and controls, check the windshield and function of wipers and washer, windows and mirrors, emergency equipment, test air brake, check steering, the log book.
Check lights-high and low beams, four-way flashers. Walk around-check tires, wheels, turn signals, couplings, fifth wheel, landing gear, brakes, axles, sliders, spare tire, fuel tanks, exhaust system, cargo securement, suspension. Perform brake check. Check signal lights. Federal law requires a driver to complete an inspection report after each day.
Any defects noted must be repaired. The mechanic performing the repairs must sign the report and certify that repairs have been made. The inspection report serves as a reminder of items to check after each day of driving. It also provides proof of inspection and the repairs.
The Department of Transportation
The Department of Transportation (DOT) also conducts roadside inspections, and officers can legally stop a truck at any time. This officer may be a federal or state department of transportation (DOT) employee, a highway patrol officer, weigh master, or other government official. This inspection can take place along a roadside, at a rest area, a scale, or at a port of entry station. If your truck fails the inspection, the officer can declare the truck “out of service.” This means you cannot drive your vehicle until the repairs are made and a re-inspection takes place. An inspection takes about thirty minutes. When your truck passes the inspection, you will receive a sticker that is valid for three months.
A preventive maintenance program consists of the above outlined daily routine check and the regular service check. These service checks include replacing parts before they wear out or fail.
Service checks have three levels. Items covered at the basic service Level A include grease jobs, brake adjustments, check of fluid levels, tread depth of tires, and leaks. Level B includes all the work done for Level A plus changing the oil and the oil and fuel filter. Level C service includes engine tuning, brake jobs, and replacing or rebuilding worn and failing parts.
Climatic or seasonal weather conditions require specific preventive maintenance. When you operate in hot weather conditions such as in the Southwestern U.S., you need to check the condition of coolant hoses and the tightness of the water pump and fan belts regularly. In cold weather conditions, regularly check the antifreeze level, and the heaters and defrosters.