Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Maintenance Game


Keeping an older truck on the road is vital to a small business with few trucks in its fleet.  To do this, you need to know what is failing on the truck as soon as it fails or before.  Sometimes this is impossible, but most of the time it's as simple as keeping good records and following a maintenance schedule.

All trucks have a maintenance manual.  In this manual is a schedule of what is to be repaired and when.  Usually this is based on how many miles are on the truck or by how much time the truck has been in use.

Just about all of the parts on the truck wear out in unison, but there are some parts that wear out faster than others.  Because most of the truck's components rely on each other to work properly, when one used part is replaced with a new one, this action may cause the related parts to fail soon afterwards if they are not replaced at the same time as the failed part. 

So, for example, if a hood has two hinges and one of them fails, it's best to replace both of the hinges.  The components of the truck that rely on each other and work together should be replaced together.  The truck as a whole has its own lifespan.  This lifespan is dictated by the life of each of the truck's components.  This is more plainly stated as the truck's "life". 

The truck's life is spelled out in the manufacturer's warranty.  Usually the warranty periods for each component can give you an indication of just how long that truck will "live".  For example, if the transmission has a 750,000 mile warranty, at about the time the transmission reaches 750,000 miles, you should be even more vigilant about the maintenance because the warranty implies the end of  that component's life.  Once the component's life is near the end, it's time to start thinking about rebuilding or replacing the component. 

This is when the old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" becomes relevant.  It's important to stick to the maintenance schedule and monitor all of the truck's components for any signs of early failure. The earlier the failing component is spotted, the better.

The inside of the engine is especially difficult to monitor for failure.  One way to try to catch internal failures in the engine early, is through sampling the oil and sending it to a lab for analysis.  Sampling the oil is useful, but not always perfect.  The lab will look for contaminants in the oil which indicate which internal component is failing based on the level of the contaminant.  There are bypass oil systems that utilize extra filtration which filter contaminants out of the oil beyond what the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) designed but it is still a good idea to change the oil a couple of times a year in my opinion, because when oil degrades, this causes failure. 

Internal engine component failure is systemic as it causes multiple components to fail. Once the internal parts start to wear out, it's near impossible to catch them before they fail completely. You can tear down your engine regularly but that's really unheard of by most truckers as the practice is cost prohibitive.

Historically, oil changes occur every 15,000 miles.  At that time the oil filters and fuel filters are also changed, in addition to the chassis being greased.  Normally at this time, in addition to the anti-freeze, the quality of the fluids in the transmission and both differentials are checked for quality as well. 

Modern day engines with better oils and filtration are scheduled for this typical service every 50,000 miles.  And many of the components that require grease, have become greaseless utilizing new technology. 

Even if you are driving older technology, you can install automatic greasing systems and bypass oil filtration to stretch out service intervals.  However, regardless of which type of truck you have, you must be proactive in catching failures early.  I cannot stress this enough.

The bottom line here is, when the truck is nearing the end of its lifespan, its important to stay on top of maintenance.  This practice can allow the return on investment to grow as opposed to having to buy a new truck.  It's important to put in the time to know the truck's lifespan and focus on maintenance as a daily practice. 

So if you have an older truck, keep it new, and it will last for years and years without payments or a substantial repair bill.

1 comment:

Marlaina said...

Excellent reminder, excellent advice. We rolled over 900,000 miles. We are not ready to get a new truck. I love my truck. And as you say, little, but very important, components are wearing out. Hinges, latches, etc. The most frustrating part is that one can't see directly into the engine to see what's about to go. We are also faithfully taking in oil sample.