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​Winter Is Coming – Is Your Truck Prepared?

By Homer Hogg, Director of Technical Service, TravelCenters of America

October, 2019

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Winter is just around the corner. Not only can snow, ice and freezing temperatures make the roads hazardous for hauling freight, they can contribute to equipment damage and system failures, too. Roadside assistance can help in the event of an emergency, but routine preventive maintenance checks can identify underlying issues before you hit the road, as well as minimize downtime and control those winter maintenance and repair costs. 

Test Your Starting and Charging Systems Ahead of Time

Dead batteries are one of the most common causes of winter breakdowns. While an emergency roadside jump start can help get you through your route, you can avoid sacrificing that uptime with a little extra attention on your starting and charging systems before the snow falls. 

Have your batteries tested by a certified technician. Long winter nights and shorter days mean more demanding engine starts and longer usage of your truck’s headlights. Testing your batteries will indicate whether or not they can keep up with this high demand through the colder months. When you have your batteries tested, check the alternator for sufficient amperage and voltage output as well. 

The TA Truck Service RoadSquad team can take care of you if you do need a jump start. RoadSquad technicians can also perform an electrical system test to ensure your dead battery isn’t a symptom of a larger underlying issue that could put you out-of-service again down the road. RoadSquad call center agents work with you or your fleet dispatcher to ensure the technician arrives equipped to address the repair in the safest, most efficient manner. 

Maintaining Modern Fuel Systems 

Cold weather is not kind to diesel fuel. When temperatures fall, the paraffin wax in diesel fuel can thicken so much it clogs fuel filters or solidifies to the point where it will no longer flow. Invest in a new fuel filter now and consider adding a winter fuel additive to your winterization routine to help prevent fuel gelling. 

Water contamination is another enemy of diesel-fueled equipment. Whether it enters through poorly fitting fuel caps or condensation in storage tanks, any extra moisture will promote bacteria growth, which can corrode injectors and clog your filters.

Now is also a great time to get your fuel tanks cleaned by a fuel tank sweeper, which will help prevent contamination in the bottom of the tanks from reaching the engine and/or clogging your fuel filters. If your fuel system includes a water separator, be sure to check and drain your water separator daily. 

Whether you need a fuel filter replacement because of fuel gelling, water contamination in your fuel tanks or your filter is simply past its recommended replacement date, the RoadSquad team can take care of that, too. 

Avoiding Air Brake System Issues

When water and moisture build in your air brake system in the dead of winter, it will almost certainly freeze and turn to ice. This can damage valves, air dryers and other air system components, not to mention your productivity and bottom line. 

Check for any air leaks and to confirm your air brake system is receiving a clean air supply during your daily inspections to help prevent damage to your air system. Check and drain your air tanks daily to help keep water, contaminants and corrosion at bay. Be sure to also check your air dryer in particular, and make sure you are replacing your dryer desiccant cartridge before winter and as needed. 

Proper Tire Pressure is Crucial

Underinflation is a leading cause of tire failures during winter, because when the temperature drops, so does the air pressure in your tires. Check your tire pressure before every trip to ensure they’re properly inflated and to get the best footprint and traction on the roads. 

Conduct daily visual tire inspections to make sure you haven’t picked up any harmful debris on the road that could cause a tire to fail later on. Also, ensure your tires have adequate tread depth to help improve traction and safety. 

Get your rig ready now before the winter weather puts you out-of-service. In the event you need a jump start, a new fuel filter, a tire replaced or your air brake system repaired, call 1-800-824-SHOP and RoadSquad will be there whenever, wherever you break down.