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Fall Vehicle Maintenance Double-Check

By the time you’re reading this, summer will be over. Well, maybe not TECHNICALLY over by calendar measures. But over enough that the days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler and the long months of winter are getting that much closer. 

Which begs a question: what are you doing right now to make sure your trucks and other heavy movers are ready to take the worst winter can dish out?

The fact is, fall is the perfect opportunity to be sure your equipment is ready and protected against cold-weather failure. Even though you’ve been running a comprehensive Fleet Preventative Maintenance program, you already know what ice, snow and sub-freezing temperatures can do to your best laid plans. So, doing a double-check to make sure all your vehicles are ready requires a focus on systems especially vulnerable to winter failure. 

Here are a few things you and your maintenance staff may want to give particular attention to this fall in order to keep your equipment running safely, reliably, efficiently and within the requirements of the law. 

You count on your truck’s wiper components to keep windshields safely clean and clear year ‘round. But winter puts a special strain on wiping systems. By all means, check the operation of motors and linkages, and lubricate before the snow flies. But by far, the weakest links of any wiping systems are the wiper blades and wiper arms.   

In addition to the wiper blades, don’t skip checking the articulating wiper arms as well. If the blades were old and weathered, there’s a good chance the arm is degraded.  If the pivot point isn’t moving freely, the blade may not be making full contact with the windshield, which results in missed coverage areas. Again, consider replacing the entire unit, arm and blade, to reduce labor and save time.  

Fuel System Additives
Cold temperatures are hard on all engines but hit diesel engines especially hard. Oil thickens and increases resistance between internal parts. The result is an engine that’s up to five times harder to start in winter compared to the warmth of summer, and vehicles that may feel “sluggish” long after its gas counterpart is warm and running smoothly. Then, of course, there’s “gelling.” 

  • Cloud point – The temperature at which wax crystals begin to form in diesel fuel. This is normally around 32ºF (0ºC) for #2 diesel fuel, but can be as high as 40ºF (4ºC)
  • Cold-filter-plugging point (CFPP) – The point at which wax crystals are allowed to form in untreated diesel fuel and clog the fuel filter. Most diesel owners call this “gelling.”
  • Pour point – The lowest temperature at which fuel maintains its ability to flow.

Battery Chargers, Booster Packs and Jumper Cables
Cold affects your trucks’ batteries the same way it affects their engines and starters — it makes smooth, reliable operation that much more difficult. Even the best batteries will only last three to five years. Are yours ready to deliver reliable starts when the temperatures dip? Now’s the time to find out.

Start by testing your alternators and batteries using a digital multimeter or carbon pile load tester, both with the engine off as well as running. If the charging system and batteries are showing proper amperage and voltage outputs, double check for adequate Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) and Reserve Capacity. 

Finally, make certain you’re equipped to get your vehicles back up and running in case electrical failure does occur, including high-output battery chargers, booster packs and jumper cables

The optimal Chargers for your shop’s needs will be durable and mobile, and have such features as starting assist, crank assist, battery testing and a range of safety features. High peak-amp 12v and 24v Booster Packs give you a convenient way to bring the power with you, wherever a jump start is needed. Commercial grade Jumper Cables of various lengths are easily stored in your vehicles and can be a lifesaver when you're away from the shop. 

Conspicuity Tape

High visibility reflective tape -- better known in fleet usage as Conspicuity Tape -- is intended to make heavy trailers more conspicuous to other drivers. Reflective conspicuity tape is not only brighter but also highly visible at much sharper angles than standard reflective tape. 

Conspicuity Tape is a DOT/FMCSA requirement for all tractor trailers manufactured on or after December 1, 1993, weighing 10,000 lbs. or more, with a width of 80" or more.

This important reflective material is often damaged or otherwise scraped off, potentially putting anyone who pulls that trailer in violation. Fall is a good time to do an annual assessment of your trailers, making certain your trailers are in compliance. 

According to FMCSA, Conspicuity Tape must be applied in an alternate pattern. Each color must be a minimum of 6" to 18" long, and 2" wide, and a single color cannot be more than two-thirds of the total segment. 

  • Outline the bottom of the sides and the top corner of the trailers, as well as the bottom and underride guard on the rear of the trailer.
  • Mark the sides of trailers, 15 to 60" inches above the road or as close as possible, and 3" from the required amber side lamp. Side tape may be in segments, but they must be evenly distributed to cover 50 percent of the side of the trailer.
  • Mark the rear of the trailer, covering the full width of the trailer at 4 feet above the road, and the full width on the horizontal underride protector.

Solid silver or white tape is used to:

  • Create a 12" long “L” shape in the upper corners (curved solid white/silver tape is to be used for tankers).
  • Mark 3" from required red lamps.

For more information on conspicuity tape requirements, see FMCSA’s publication Conspicuity Requirements for Commercial Motor Vehicles.

Closing the Circle
Scheduled services like a Fall Double-Check are a simple, yet effective part of year-’round truck and heavy equipment maintenance. But the reality is that no single group or individual can save the day. It takes a combination of fleet managers, shop personnel, drivers AND suppliers to ensure every vehicle is safe, legal, and ready for the duties demanded of it. 

Imperial Supplies is ready to be part of your fleet maintenance team, with the right parts, accessories, maintenance ideas and expert advice. We’ll help you save time and money, while getting the solutions you need to keep moving down the road. Contact your Dedicated Account Advisor whenever you need answers to your toughest fleet challenges. 

It’s like we always say… Your Fleet is Our Focus.

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