Don’t neglect essential checks
Based on more than 500 heavy vehicle audits over the past six years, I have found that the most neglected components on these vehicles were batteries, tyres and radiator coolants
Focusing on and correctly maintaining your vehicles’ tyres, batteries and radiator coolants will reduce your maintenance and operating costs. This routine will also help to keep the vehicles on the road earning money in the coming cold winter months.
There appears to be a responsibility gap in many commercial fleets as to who in the organisation is responsible for the daily check and maintenance of the tyres, batteries and radiator coolants on the vehicles.
Most technicians do not consider daily maintenance or inspection of the vehicle as part of their job function and many truck drivers do not check the condition of these important components before commencement of their trip.
One of the basic principles of good tyre management is to ensure that operating pressures are correct and that all tyres are fitted with valve caps and valve extensions on the dual wheels. In my opinion ensuring that all tyres on the vehicle are at the correct pressure before commencing on a trip is clearly the responsibility of the driver.
Table 1, compiled by a tyre manufacturer, illustrates the loss experienced, in original kilometreage, when tyres are under-inflated (100 000 km taken as normal life expectancy).
With the high cost of tyre replacement, no fleet can neglect the daily function of ensuring the operating pressures are correct before the vehicles embark on their journeys, and that each tyre is fitted with a valve cap.
There are many other factors that affect the life of a tyre, including wheel alignment, harsh braking, poor route conditions, incorrect mass distribution to name just a few, that also have to be managed in order to optimise tyre life.
A number of items need to be checked on a regular basis to eliminate unnecessary roadside breakdowns and maximize battery life:
Battery terminals must be clean and not corroded, especially on modern vehicles that are fitted with high-tech electronic equipment that is very sensitive to correct and constant electrical supply. Water must be maintained at the correct level. Ensure battery securing clamps are firmly in place.
With the modern trend of extending vehicle service intervals, many vehicles, especially in short-haul operations, are only seen by the workshop after an extended period. These extended service intervals are often too long, as batteries need regular inspection and maintenance at shorter intervals.
Again most drivers do not see battery inspection as part of their function so maintenance is often neglected.
On some vehicles battery accessibility is a problem, especially when the truck body is mounted very low on the chassis or when the body is fitted with long side skirts. This results in these batteries seldom being checked between service intervals.
A faulty cooling system could result in expensive engine repairs.
Generally drivers do check the coolant level on the vehicle’s header tank. The main problem arising with radiator coolant is that the anti-freeze content is not correct. The main cause of low anti-freeze content results from drivers topping up the radiator with plain tap water. Occasionally technicians are also guilty of diluting the anti-freeze content.
Drivers should be carrying out a daily inspection, topping up the header tank when necessary and checking for any coolant leak. They should also be empowered to have the cooling system checked and repaired if a leak is found before any serious engine damage occurs.
Maintaining tyre pressure, batteries and engine coolant are simple and quick procedures that if done correctly can save expensive and time-consuming repairs.
One of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, VIC OLIVER has been in this industry for 45 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel, 11 years with Busaf and seven years with International.