Top 10 Preventative Maintenance Tips for Semi-Trucks
Preventative Maintenance is a critical aspect of your truck and trailer's lifespan. Here are the Top 10 Preventative Maintenance Tips for semi-trucks and trailers from LGT's Fleet Maintenance Manager, Christian Spaccarotella.
1. Grease is Cheaper than all Repairs
To make any machinery work involves moving pieces. Proper lubrication of these pieces is essential in their upkeep and maintaining a healthy tractor and trailer. When joints and other areas are in movement constantly, things will start to wear down, but greasing at regular intervals will make a dramatic difference in their expected service life. Parts like leaf springs and joints are ones to watch out for and lubricate regularly. If greasing is skipped or overlooked, parts will wear down faster, which means replacing them is more frequent. The overall message is, the cost of grease is cheaper than the cost of a replacement.
2. Check Tires Every Day
When you are checking your tires on your tractor or trailer, what you should be looking for is air pressure, and tread ware patterns. Other things to watch out for is cupping and stone drilling. Semi-trucks and trailers have more than one type of tire, and that plays a factor in measuring air pressure. Other things to take into account are the brand, the weight of the load, and weather conditions. The easiest way to check you tire pressure is with a tire pressure gauge and try to measure air pressure in similar conditions each time because weather can affect pressure.
3. Create a Maintenance Plan and Stick to It
Create a plan for you trucks needs and base it off of three things: what your truck needs, when it needs it, and how to get it done. A good maintenance plan should include a list of all pieces and spare pieces, contractors and workers, and a schedule for each part that needs maintenance. If you're an Owner/Operator, depending on who you buy your truck from, they each have options for a warranty, and you should do your best to maintain it. Warranties save you time and money, so be sure to refresh your memory of what your warranty states.
4. Use the Same Facility
Part of a good maintenance plan is to find a shop or facility that you trust to get the work done. Once you find that location, try to go back to them when a repair is needed. When you take your truck in to get repairs or anything else, you should know what work is being done by those technicians. Finding a shop to bring your business to is all about creating a relationship and building trust with them.
5. But Don't Always Trust Shops
I know this is kind of contradictory, but when you are trying to find a place to make repairs, don't be overly trusting. There have been instances where drivers have told the shop what needs to be done, and when asked at the end what was going on, they don't get the full story. A good tip I recommend is to walk around with the tech to make sure the work is getting done correctly and accurately. Start to build a relationship and that trust slowly.
6. Use the Company Accounts
Companies like LGT have what are called Charge Accounts, which will save drivers and companies money. Basically, when you have a repair, tell the shop what company you are with and what they'll do is call to authorize. Doing this usually gives discounted rates to owner operators and drivers instead of being fronted the full price.
7. Don't Skip the Pre Trip and Post Trip Inspections
How are you going to know if you need repairs if you don't do a pre trip and post trip inspection? Inspections are crucial to preventative maintenance because this is when you find out what's going on under the hood before something goes wrong. Here's LGT's suggestion on How to Perform a Pre Tip Inspection.
8. Oil Type Matters in Every Scenario
Each manufacturer has their own oil specs so you should do your best to learn them. Transmissions, Engines, and Differentials all have different specs, so do your homework and see which type will get you warranty and what's recommended for the best fuel mileage. Read this articles about Best Motor Oil Brands for your Truck to learn what other people are using.
9. Bring your Own Tools if You Can
Most fleets won't require you to know what a mechanic knows, but sometimes people do. What usually happens in my experience is you have people who are mechanically inclined and those who aren't. Each driver is different and you just have to roll with the punches. If you think the issue isn't major, there are some things that drivers can do on their own with a couple of screw drivers and wrenches. Bring a few spare tools with you on the road, it could get you out of trouble, but only if you feel you can do it.
10. Don't be Afraid to Ask Questions
Odds are if you're new at this or even a pro, you won't know everything. There's a lot that goes into maintaining a truck and not knowing everything is okay, that's what technicians and specialists are for. If you feel stuck or just aren't sure what to do in a situation, you can always contact someone who you think can help you.