April 17, 2021
Preventative maintenance is one of the highest returns on investment you can get as a truck owner. Save money long-term by doing regular service.
Heavy-duty trucks are important vehicles and no company or operator wants to see them break down. Downtime is a real cost — frustrated customers, service costs and the opportunity cost of doing other work add up. Keep your truck in top shape is essential for making on-time deliveries keeping your business running.
Preventative maintenance is the act of maintaining your semi-truck before any problems occur. It's the same concept of regular exercise and eating correctly keeps you healthy. Preventative maintenance is crucial to keep your semi-truck running, and it is the best return on investment that you can make as a truck owner. The saying A Stitch In Time Saves Nine describes preventative maintenance - by following recommended manufacturer guidelines and performing service at regular intervals, you can reduce your odds of major breakdowns and repairs down the road.
One example of preventative maintenance is monitoring your tires. By ensuring your tires are set at the correct pressure level and are in good condition you can extend their useful lives, get better mileage, and avoid downtime to fix a flat or blown tire. Some estimate that tire repair expenses make up about one-third of total maintenance expenses.
Check the pressure and visual condition of your tires on a regular basis. Changing weather will naturally add and remove tire pressure. Temperatures increase and decrease air density, which then changes the internal tire pressure.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, requires that all carriers have a preventative maintenance schedule. FMCSA also requires that the semi-truck be “in safe and proper operating condition” when in operation.
Federal law subjects 18 wheelers to inspection at any time to ensure safety compliance. Failure to comply with standards can result in large fines, loss of license, and downtime.
Your 18 wheeler's manufacturer specifies a recommended maintenance schedule. They create these schedules based on years and years of history and data — these schedules are created to maximize the expected service life of your semi-truck and keep it running. They want you to get the most from your truck's performance so you stay loyal to their brand.
Typically there are regular service intervals for tires, oils, filters, belts and inspections that your manufacturer recommends. Any qualified technician keeps records of these lists and can provide you with the specific list for your semi-truck.
When you have service done keep the invoice and paperwork, and record notes in your maintenance log. Keeping detailed records is important for when you sell your truck down the road. A buyer wants to know that you cared for the truck and followed directions.
#1 Tire inflation: As mentioned above, if your tire is low and you are running a heavy load, it can cause temperature issues and heat issues. Check your tire pressure, especially in the summer.
#2 Tire balancing and alignment: Balancing is very important on the front end to avoid vibration in the steering wheel (wears front end parts over time). Alignment helps prevent uneven tire wear.
#3 Pre & post-trip inspections: Get under your truck, take a look at the end of the day and check for leaks or abnormalities. Also, do the same before you start for the day — sometimes overnight a leak may start to show.
#4 Keep an eye on your clutch: Clutch repairs and replacements run easily into several thousand dollars. Make sure it is in good shape and pay attention to any abnormal slippage.
#5 Do regular oil and grease changes: Run oil samples on your oil when you change it. You can look for abnormal fluids such as antifreeze or fuel. Catching an issue like that ahead of time can prevent major issues down the road.
#6 Do not idle unnecessarily: Over time it will wear down your engine. Use a separate side motor to run when you are parked or done for the day — it's much cheaper to repair or replace a small motor for idle time rather than your primary engine.
#7 Increase tune-up frequency with age: As your semi-truck ages increase the frequency at which you tune it up. More parts get worn down and you will be able to catch issues earlier.