Did you know that owners and operators of heavy-duty trucks spend an average of $15,000 on maintenance and repair costs every year? Keeping a heavy-duty truck, such as an 18-wheeler, in exceptional condition is crucial for both road safety and for keeping more money in your pocket. When your truck’s maintenance is unattended for long periods, this can lead to expensive repairs and replacements that drive your annual costs even higher.
To keep a heavy-duty truck functioning properly and safely on the road, it is essential to follow a routine maintenance schedule. This routine maintenance should account for the common maintenance mistakes made with heavy-duty trucks. In this article, we discuss the common mistakes made when maintaining a heavy-duty truck to help you create a better overall maintenance strategy. Without further ado, here are 7 of the most prevalent heavy-duty truck maintenance mistakes to avoid:
1. Not Monitoring Your Tire Quality Enough
Heavy-duty trucks transport a lot more weight than the average vehicle. As a result, more pressure is exerted on a truck’s tires on a daily basis. Without well-maintained tires, your truck will not make it very far into its route. A poorly maintained tire can cause a tremendous amount of issues, from less efficient braking to total tire blowouts. In fact, blowouts are easily one of the most common issues truck drivers face when traveling.
Tires themselves do not require a ton of hands-on maintenance. Instead, they require regular attention to be paid to their condition, looking for key indicators of a problem, such as:
- Shallow Tread: Tires can typically last on a heavy-duty truck for between three to six years before needing replacement. The best way to assess whether your tires require replacement is by measuring the tire tread. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends replacing tires when the tread is equal to or less than 2/32 inches in depth.
- Low Air Pressure: Both overinflation and underinflation of a truck’s tires can contribute to tire-related issues like blowouts. You should be regularly checking the air pressure in your tires especially before embarking on a long drive.
- Alignment: Tire alignments are critically important for keeping your tires in working shape for as long as possible. In general, you should have your tires aligned every 10,000 to 30,000 miles. However, if you begin noticing strange noises or unusual wear and tear on one or more tires, it may be time for an alignment and further maintenance.
2. Infrequent Brake Assessments
Aside from tire blowouts, brake issues are some of the next most common maintenance issues for heavy-duty trucks. Brake problems are especially vital to address, as they can cause major safety risks to both truck drivers and other drivers on the roadway.
A heavy-duty truck puts far more pressure and weight on your brakes than a normal vehicle. The general rule of thumb is to have the brake pads and shoes on a heavy-duty truck replaced every 40,000 to 50,000 miles.
Some of the key signs of brake problems to watch out for include:
- Overheating brakes
- Grinding noises coming from the brake pads
- Wobbling or vibration of the vehicle while braking
- Slow brake response time
3. A Lack of a Regular Maintenance Routine
One of the biggest heavy-duty truck maintenance mistakes is simply the lack of a regular routine. Routine maintenance is crucial for keeping your truck in good working order and for complying with any road safety regulations you may be expected to adhere to. This is sometimes referred to as preventative maintenance, as it ensures early intervention and prevention for major issues.
Here is a basic overview of a heavy-duty truck maintenance schedule:
- Battery Service: Every 6 months (twice annually)
- Oil Change: Between 4,500 to 35,000 miles (depending on the load the vehicle is carrying)
- 3-Axle Alignment: Every 12 months (once annually)
- Air Filter Fuel Tank Vent: Every 6 to 12 months
Other maintenance needs, such as valve adjustments and various filter replacements, can take longer before needing repairs or replacements.
4. Leaving Indicators of Suspension Problems Unaddressed
Your suspension system is one of the most vital components of your truck’s structure — and can end up being one of the more expensive repairs or replacements if not properly cared for. Heavy-duty trucks are big vehicles and are bound to make some noise while driving. Plus, the massive size of the vehicle can result in more movement and bumps in your ride than a normal car or SUV. As a result, many truck drivers end up overlooking signs of a suspension problem.
However, too much roughness in your drive and specific sounds (like screeching and cracking) are indicative of a problem in your suspension system.
A problem in your suspension can affect many components of your vehicle beyond the components of the suspension system itself. Along with causing damage to the parts of your truck, a faulty suspension system can also result in a lack of control and stability when driving.
As such, truck drivers must pay attention to the warning signs of a suspension problem and not brush off any unusual bumpiness or sounds coming from the truck while driving.
5. Untrained Drivers and Zero Business Standardization
If you are a business owner overseeing multiple heavy-duty trucks or fleets, it is of the utmost importance to have a standardized maintenance practice in place. Additionally, you must provide your truck drivers with the proper training to recognize and identify maintenance issues as they occur.
Without this type of standardized approach to maintenance, you can end up with recurring problems and a disorganized system of maintenance data that is hard to keep up with.
Along with putting a standardized approach in place, you must also ensure that your drivers honor this schedule. To do so, you must create a system for maintenance reporting that is easy for your drivers to use and enforce that they submit their reports on time, every time.
6. Not Knowing the Signs of Problems in a Heavy-Duty Truck
Going hand-in-hand with maintenance standardization is having deep knowledge of the maintenance activities required when operating heavy-duty trucks.
Without knowing what problems you and your drivers should be looking for, keeping up a regular schedule of maintenance can be near-impossible.
Moreover, even if you work with a professional shop, you should have personal knowledge of what indicators signify a need for maintenance. This way, even if a heavy-duty truck is not ready for its next regular maintenance session, you can identify potential issues in real time as they occur.
7. Trying to Complete All the Heavy-Duty Truck Maintenance Yourself
Finally, the seventh mistake when it comes to heavy-duty truck maintenance is trying to handle everything yourself.
Unless you run a business with a full-blown mechanic shop, covering all of the maintenance bases for your heavy-duty truck is incredibly difficult on your own. Additionally, relying solely on in-house maintenance can lead to a lack of the expert preventative care you need to save more on maintenance.
Plus, handling maintenance in-house can be tremendously expensive if you do not already have the right equipment and staff to do so. As such, working with a reputable professional shop is the best way to ensure your heavy-duty trucks and fleets are properly cared for.
Final Takeaways: How to Avoid Heavy-Truck Maintenance Mistakes
To quickly recap, here are five key takeaways for avoiding heavy-truck maintenance mistakes:
- Always work with a professional shop if you do not have a full in-house mechanic team
- Know the signs of maintenance problems in heavy-duty trucks (strange noises, bumpy rides, etc.)
- Train your truck drivers to recognize maintenance problems
- Implement a standardized approach to maintenance
- Keep a close eye on your tires and brakes
For heavy-duty truck drivers in the Chicago area, Bus & Truck of Chicago offers a wide range of services including suspension and spring services, collision repairs, bodywork, and wheel alignments. Contact Bus & Truck of Chicago today to learn more and request a service.
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