Routine maintenance is important all year long. The winter season is the time of year that requires special attention and additional winter maintenance tasks. Cold weather is always rough on both the vehicle and the driver. It’s important to be aware of the possibility of rapid temperature drops that can occur during these colder months. Such temperature drops, when they happen, tend to be much harder on the engine and engine components than the warmer spring and summer temperatures. Due to these large temperature swings, parts that have not been maintained on a regular basis will undoubtedly experience additional wear and tear under the additional stress of winter driving. Let’s take a look at some of the best practices for winter truck maintenance to help maintain safe vehicle operation during the colder winter months.
Be sure to use winterized fuel in diesel engines
Avoid getting stuck over the road in your diesel truck. Harsh winter conditions can cause fuel lines to freeze, fuel to gel, or filters to become blocked with build up. Be sure to winterize the fuel for your vehicle and stay moving en route during the winter months.
Avoid a cold soak of the engine
What is a cold soak? A cold soak, for anyone unfamiliar with diesel engines or other sensitive equipment, is what happens when the equipment is exposed to cold temperatures for an extended time period. While the time period may vary, it is long enough for the engine and components to drop to the temperature of the atmosphere surrounding it.
Once this occurs, the engine will require a warm-up to run properly. The effect of a cold soak causes metal parts to become brittle, fluids and lubricants to get thick or sludgy, and a decrease in intolerances. Starting and charging the engine, both may be affected. Therefore, warming up the engine prior to “hitting the road again” is necessary.
Check out the tires and the tire pressure
It’s basic science that molecules expand and contract as they react to temperature changes. This fact remains true even when the molecules, in this case, air, are inside your tires. The fluctuation causes an increase or decrease in the inflation of the tire, varying the tire pressure and vehicle performance. It is important to keep the tires well inflated, not over inflated, during the cold winter months to avoid excess wear and tear.
Another tire feature to be reviewed is the tire tread. Bald tires do have enough grip or traction on the road. They can create slippery driving conditions, especially in wet or icy weather. Be sure the tire tread on your vehicle is at a good depth, more than the minimum required, to maintain safe driving capability. A quick way to check this is the “coin test”.
To check tire tread using a coin, we recommend using a quarter. Turn the quarter upside down. Place the quarter, still upside down, into the groove of the tire. If the tread touches the top of George Washington’s head or further, your tires have enough tread depth to stay on the road. If you can see the top of George Washington’s head or any space above it, the time has come to replace your tires, especially if starting a winter season.
Use an engine block heater
Many people are unaware of this type of technology, especially if you live in a warm or temperate climate. However, this “out of sight, out of mind” technology comes in many different forms and helps make it easier to start the engine. Each engine block heater operates on the same basic premise, using a heating element to heat some part or parts of the engine. Due to differences in installation and vehicle types, be sure to do your research before choosing one. Speak to a professional before selection if you have any questions. Overall, an engine block heater helps to reduce unnecessary wear and tear on your engine and components by keeping internal fluids from freezing and other parts from becoming brittle due to the cold, dry air. Not to mention, the heater will start to blow warm air faster, giving the driver a more comfortable cab to get into on those frosty mornings.
Check the battery
It is important to double check the battery periodically. When the cold season begins is a good time to schedule this maintenance task. Use a voltmeter to check the charge. Keep your battery fully charged during the winter season. Drive regularly, leaving your vehicle idle can cause the battery, as well as other engine components, to freeze. The battery needs to be charged regularly to maintain it. Clean off any corrosion to ensure good connectivity. Also, remove any unnecessary accessories that pull power from the battery. Leaving these devices plugged in can leave you with a discharged battery in the morning, especially in colder temperatures.
Keep a full fuel tank
There are many reasons to keep your fuel tank full, especially in colder weather. Let’s go over a few of them. Avoid condensation in your fuel tank. Prevent your fuel tank from sucking in the air. Minimize any dirt or sediment, rust, or other pollutants from finding that space to build up in the tank and mix with the fuel, causing other issues. Also, if you happen to get stuck, having a full fuel tank allows you to keep the vehicle running and stay warm while you wait for help to arrive.
Use winter windshield wiper blades
Regular wiper blades are not made for winter driving conditions. Winter wiper blades are made to hold up better against freezing temperatures and ice. It is imperative for all drivers to maintain visibility. Make sure to use the appropriate blade for the season. Another helpful hint for winter, keep your wiper blades up when your vehicle is not in use. This keeps them from freezing to the windshield.
Maintain all fluid levels
Maintaining proper fluid levels is a year round task. All fluids should be checked and topped off before winter starts. Did you know that some fluids should be switched to a winter blend? Winter windshield washer fluid helps to combat icy, frozen windshields. Oil with a lower viscosity flows more easily in cold weather. Running a fuel system treatment through the vehicle helps to maximize fuel efficiency.
Remember, seasons change and so does vehicle maintenance. Be sure to keep up with all maintenance to stay over the road, all year long. Be safe this winter.
Call us here at Busbee’s Trucks and Parts, we’re happy to answer any questions. 803-564-3228