As the leading maintenance experts in the country, we know firsthand that the best way to avoid vehicle breakdowns in the winter is by thinking ahead and properly preparing for colder temperatures.
It’s no fun sitting on the side of the road with a broken-down truck on a cool fall day. However, the same breakdown on a sub-zero day can be life threatening. That’s why Ben McConnell, fleet manager at Amerit Fleet Solution’s Fargo, ND location makes sure all of his customers’ trucks get a little extra attention before cold weather sets in.
Winter Maintenance Checklist
- Engines. A systematic approach to the winter maintenance service is the best defense against breakdowns. Winter maintenance starts by looking at the cranking system – the starter and the batteries. Starting engines in cold weather can be a challenge if the engine isn’t prepared for the colder temperatures. The reason being that as the temperature drops, your fluids get thicker, resulting in more resistance and a decrease in the cranking speed of your engine.
- Plugs. To avoid frustration with a vehicle that won’t start, use glow plugs or block heaters. The Amerit team checks glow plugs because if they aren’t operating properly, the batteries will crank too much when trying to get the vehicle started, which will run them down.
- Cooling Systems. The freeze protection of your antifreeze should be checked and adjusted to ensure proper protection from extreme cold. The average ethylene glycol antifreeze mixed at 50/50 will start to freeze at -34 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH level is also checked to make sure it’s not too acidic since that can cause corrosion and other problems.
- Heaters and Defrosters. The defroster needs to be checked to make sure it’s operating as it should so the windshield doesn’t ice or fog up. After checking wiper blades, install a winter blend washer fluid. There’s colder weather blend for washer fluid that is orange or purple and is good to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. In areas of extreme cold, a de-icer additive may be used in the fluid as well.
- Tires. You don’t want to be running minimal tire tread in the winter because you need as much traction as possible. Tires tend to lose pressure in colder weather so drivers need to be reminded to check tire pressure every day during their pre-trip inspections. Even if pre-trip inspections are performed regularly, it’s a good idea to pull out a tire pressure gauge once a week to check the pressure.
For further details on how to prepare your fleet for winter weather, read the complete article in Leading Fleets, Volume 8.
Winter Survival Tips
Amerit is concerned about keeping trucks running in cold weather, but also about the safety of the driver should a breakdown occur.
Here are some suggestions for things drivers can do to help prevent their trucks from breaking down as well as items that should be carried in vehicles during winter in the event of a breakdown:
- Keep the fuel tank at least half full
- Add anti-gel additives at each fill-up
- Top off all fluids
- A flashlight
- Tire chains
- A bag of sand and salt
- A shovel
- Check tire pressure during every pre-trip inspection
- Warm clothing including coveralls or snow pants, a blanket, a hat, gloves, and boots