As a truck driver, one of your most important jobs is to keep your tractor trailer running smoothly each time you hit the road. Take note of these five tips for maintaining your truck, and make the most of each local or long-haul drive.
Check the Oil
Your truck runs on diesel, but it also needs an ample supply of clean oil every time you set out for a drive. Most tractor trailers need an oil change every 10,000 miles or so, which might not seem very frequent. You'll put on the miles quickly after a few cross-country drives, though, so over-the-road (OTR) drivers might need to change their oil as frequently as once a month.
Keep in mind that once the oil level starts to get low or the oil itself gets dirty, you run the risk of damaging your engine and causing an expensive breakdown. Before you set out on a cross-country route, check the oil to make sure it'll keep your engine running smoothly throughout the trip.
Top Off Fluids
Along with diesel and oil, your truck needs a few other essential fluids to keep each part moving efficiently while you're on the road. First, check your truck's radiator fluid. If you notice any leaks, take the time to address them right away. Even minor leaks can escalate quickly and cause your engine to overheat.
If you're planning a route that takes you through snow, ice, or cold temperatures, be sure to check your truck's antifreeze level before you hit the road. No matter the season, you'll also want to top off your truck's windshield washer fluid regularly. That way you'll never have to worry about a dirty windshield causing low visibility.
Test the Tire Pressure
Insufficient tire pressure can make or break your ride. Low tire pressure can throw a wrench in your fuel economy, and it can also increase the amount of friction between your truck and the highway. As you make your way down the interstate, this added friction leads to extra wear and severe overheating. As the Car Talk team cautions, "Overheating can lead to tread separation — and a nasty accident."
High tire pressure can also cause a range of problems. Since less of a highly pressurized tire touches the road, maintaining traction is a challenge, and your stopping distance can decrease to an unsafe level.
To improve your gas mileage and decrease the chance of getting in a preventable accident, check your tire pressure frequently. Make a habit of doing so at least once a week or every time you head out on a cross-country drive.
Inspect the Brakes
Brakes are essential for stopping your truck and maintaining a safe distance between you and the vehicles ahead. Since most drivers apply the brakes hundreds of times during an average route, it's important to have your brakes checked and replaced as often as necessary. The first time you hear a squealing or grinding noise or notice increased stopping time, have your brakes inspected before they become a safety hazard.
Keep It Secure
Most tractor trailers have a range of safety components, including chains, winches, and tie-down straps for flatbed trailers. While most of this equipment is designed to last, keeping it clean and organized can increase its lifespan substantially. Before heading out, take the time to inspect straps for tears, chains for compromised links, and hooks for rust spots. Fasten these components securely when they're not in use to make sure they're in great condition when you need them most.
Don't put your rig at risk of a major breakdown. Follow these five maintenance tips and stick to safe driving recommendations, and you'll ensure smooth, accident-free rides.