With images of snow and ice all too fresh in our memory, it might be easy to forget that summer's blistering heat lies just ahead. While much attention is given to getting worktrucks ready for winter each year, preparing for the opposite extremes during summer seems to be nothing more than an afterthought.
However, nothing could be farther from the truth. The heat of summer puts a great deal of extra stress on key components. Here are several pointers that will make for cool running in the warm months ahead.
- Check Your Rubber — Heat is the mortal enemy of many rubber-based parts such as tires, hoses and belts. The signs of wear due to heat exposure are warning signs that real trouble is on the way. Ignoring the fact that a belt is developing cracks on its backside, that a radiator hose looks like it is about to spring a leak or that a tire is regularly losing air pressure amounts to volunteering for big trouble ahead.
Ailing truck components just don't get better with age. They will fail at some point, and that point can be at the worst possible moment. Little time and money are lost when an aging belt is replaced while the truck is in a shop for routine maintenance. Similarly, a radiator hose that fails on the open road generally results in a loss of expensive coolant. Speaking of which ...
- Keep Your Cool — Today's engine coolants present a special problem if their "long life" promotion is taken too seriously. They do live longer than they used to, but they don't live forever. A problem with an aging coolant can be the failure of its power to inhibit the formation of rust in the radiator.
It pays to have the rust protection checked before deciding to run the current fill of coolant another year. Running without rust protection can lead to catastrophic failure of the cooling system, which is almost sure to result in damage to the engine. It's also important to ensure that any additives or makeup coolant added to the system are compatible with the truck's existing coolant.
- Don't Go Down The Drain — Winter's road-spray can accumulate in some out-of-the-way spots on your worktruck, including the inside of the engine compartment. When this thin film of moisture and dirt settles on the top of the battery, it can complete a circuit between the positive and negative terminals, which will slowly but surely drain the battery, even when parked. As with other parts of the truck, giving your batteries a good bath during spring cleaning can help you avoid singing the summertime blues.
- Charge It — Worktruck batteries today are frequently said to be "maintenance free." In general, they are, but it pays to check on them from time to time. A thorough electrical check, including a battery load test, will help to avoid a road-service call during the heat of summer.
- See Clearly — Windshield wiper blades deserve some extra help when summer begins. They are put under extra stress while working against ice or snow in winter, and they may need to be replaced to wipe without streaking during the rainstorms of summer.
Another effect of summer is the bugs that will inevitably accumulate on your windshield. Although wiper/washer systems were designed to clean a minimal amount of dirt from the windshield, they were never intended to work for large-scale bug removal. Part of getting ready for summer includes making sure you have a good quality squeegee and a supply of window cleaner onboard.
- Don't Work Under Pressure — In spite of technological advances, there aren't many worktruck tires with self-adjusting air pressure on the road yet. That remains a job for the driver. It is an important one, too.
Probably nothing contributes more to tire wear than the heat that builds up when running with insufficient air pressure. The heat of summer can balloon the problem. Over-inflation is bad news, too. It renders treads hard and subject to cuts and tears. Tires should ideally be checked at least once a week using a calibrated air gauge.
- Clean Up Your Act — From salt to mud to paper or just plain dirt, the inside of the truck cab can collect a mountain of debris during a winter. It's up to the driver to give it a good spring house-cleaning to make it a pleasant place to work.
Similarly, there are dozens of nooks and crannies around the outside of a truck where dirt and debris can accumulate out of sight from the driver and out of reach from even a good truck wash. In extreme cases, this accumulation can amount to an extra 50-100 pounds to carry around day in and day out. Left unattended, this little mess can turn into a big problem by shorting-out electrical circuits, corroding body panels or just developing a stink from mildew.
- Line 'Em Up — Poor wheel alignment can cause excessive tire wear and reduced fuel mileage. While many fleets focus primarily on alignment of the steer axle, drive axle and trailer axle alignment are equally important. According to Goodyear, fleet experience has shown that proper alignment of drive and trailer axles can extend tire life by 25 percent while improving fuel mileage by 0.5 mpg to 1 mpg.
- Make It Pretty — After surviving all that winter can throw at your truck, it's time to take a look at your worktruck's paint and graphics. Often, your trucks are your most visible public presence, seen more frequently than most other forms of advertising. Faded lettering, rust spots and chipped paint make for a poor portrayal of your company's image. Have the paint job touched up and any faded or damaged graphics replaced before the busy summer season.
- Chill Out — Check and tune-up your worktruck's AC system before the heat comes. Just like your truck's appearance, your driver's appearance is a big part of the customer's perception of your company. Arriving at a job site dripping with sweat because the truck's AC system failed doesn't inspire a lot of confidence.