Eleven Tips to Keeping Your Semi-Truck Ready for Winter
1. Make Sure You Have an Emergency Kit
Emergency kits are necessary for any vehicle driving outside of densely populated areas under any conditions, but it’s even more vital when you’re driving long distances or in poor conditions. Many companies sell prepared emergency kits containing a few essentials, but you should always customize your kit to fit your needs. FEMA recommends the following basics in your vehicle:
• Jumper cables
• Flares or reflective triangles
• Ice scraper
• Cell phone charger
• Cat litter or sand
2. Check on You Truck’s Battery
The colder your battery is, the harder it is to start the vehicle. Take the time to make sure your battery is in good condition and holding power well. Clean any grime off the battery terminals. Then check your inverter and connections to ensure the whole system is working well. Freezing weather is not the time to discover a failing battery.
3. Inspect the Block Heater
Check your block heater if you use one. The block heater keeps the engine warm overnight and can help the engine start in cold conditions. Ensure it’s in good working condition and set up correctly. If your engine gets too cold, even the best-maintained engine might not start up, leaving you stranded on the road.
4. Check Your Windshield Wiper and Windshield
Inspect your windshield for any rock chips or small cracks. When it’s cold, sheet metal contracts and puts even more stress on the windshield. You can avoid a complete windshield replacement if you repair minor damage before the cold weather comes. Look at your windshield wipers, if they look cracked or damaged it’s time to replace them. If they look fine, wipe the edges down with some rubbing alcohol. This will remove any dirt, grease or oil that could cause squeaking or streaks.
5. Replenish Washer Fluid Reservoirs
Refill your windshield washer reservoirs to make sure you have enough deicer/solvent to keep the washer fluid container from shattering and enough solution to properly defrost your windshield.
6. Check Your Lights and Reflectors
Visibility is vital in poor weather conditions. Before the weather gets bad, ensure all your lights are working correctly. You should also give the housing a wipe down to remove any grime. Consider an ice-prevention coating, but most truck headlights produce enough heat to keep them free of ice, and many modern trucks have heated headlights.
7. Look at Your Tires and Chains
The worst time to realize your tires are worn out is when you’re losing traction on the road. Take the time to check your tire pressure as well. Cold air takes up less space than warm air, so ideal PSI in the summer might not mean ideal PSI in the winter. It’s important to verify that your chains are in the right spot and in good condition. Look for broken links or flat spots and don’t hesitate to replace them if they look worn. People often wonder how fast you can drive with snow chains on your semi-truck, and it’s generally best to keep it under 30, though conditions may warrant slower speeds.
8. Consider Fuel Additives
Diesel contains paraffin, a kind of wax. So, when temperatures drop, that wax can harden and gum up your fuel system. If you anticipate being in 0-degree temperatures, a fuel additive can save you a lot of hassle and downtime. You should also consider a deicing fluid for the air brake system. Moisture in your air brakes can freeze and cause valves to stick or malfunction.
9. Inspect Your Cooling System
Ensuring the cooling system is well-maintained is a crucial aspect of winter preparation. Any components showing signs of wear, damage, or cracks are likely to worsen as temperatures drop. Conduct a thorough examination of the entire system, including the radiator, inspecting hoses for bulges, and verifying the security and condition of hose clamps. Perform a coolant test to confirm its optimum freeze point. Regularly assess additive levels to determine if coolant adjustment or replacement is necessary as part of your routine maintenance. Lastly, use the appropriate coolant for your truck and refrain from using aerosol ether starting fluid, as it is critical for proper functioning.
10. Check the Fuel Filter and Water Separator
Ensure the fuel filter is in optimal condition and replace it as needed. Regularly inspect the water separator to minimize the risk of engine damage. Diesel fuel often contains water, which can reduce engine lifespan. If a significant amount of water accumulates, promptly drain it. Since most separators are not self-cleaning, locate the separator near the fuel filter and use the drain valve to eliminate the water. This becomes particularly crucial in winter when condensation forms inside a warm fuel tank as the external temperature drops.
11. Inspect the Air Dryer
Situated between the compressor and the wet tank, the air dryer plays a vital role in gathering and eliminating contaminants from the air before they reach the brake system. This safeguards against the freezing of water in the brake lines. Regular inspection of the air dryer is essential to verify its proper functioning, and if needed, promptly replace the filter. Periodically drain the air reservoirs to maintain optimal performance. Neglecting air dryer maintenance can result in hazardous brake malfunctions.
Need Help Preparing Your Truck for the Winter?
Preparing your truck for winter is like so many other necessities in life, annoying but you’ll be glad you did later. So, before you head out on the road in winter, take some time to make sure you and your truck are ready for whatever the road throws your way.