Winterize Your Truck: How to Prepare Your Truck for Winter Weather
If you have ever driven a semi-truck, you already know that cold weather is a recipe for troublesome driving conditions. It can also have negative impacts on the various truck components, functions, and systems. If not taken seriously and without taking the proper safety precautions, commercial truck drivers may face avoidable breakdowns and encounter life-threatening situations. This is why it is important to know how to winterize a truck. When you winterize a truck with preventive maintenance, you are more likely to be able to avoid cold-weather-related issues and help limit repair-related downtime and expenses.
Top Tips for Winterizing a Truck
- Test the Battery and Electrical System –
Given batteries tend to drain faster in cold temperatures, the likelihood of a battery failing notably increases during the winter months. That said, be sure to test the battery’s state of charge using a handheld tester or digital voltmeter, ensure it is mounted properly, and is free of corrosion. Also double-check for loose connections and corroded/frayed wiring. Furthermore, if the battery is older than 3 years old, you may want to consider replacing them before winter just to be safe.
- Install or Service the Engine Block Heater –
Block heaters help keep the engine warm overnight and improve the likelihood of your engine starting as it should in cold temperatures. If you don’t already have a block heater, you will want to install one before temperatures drop. If you do have one, be sure it is working properly or gets serviced if needed. Given diesel engines have a more difficult time starting in cold weather due to needing a higher cylinder temperature, this is important when winterizing a truck.
- Inspect the Coolant System –
When setting up your winter truck you want to be sure you check the coolant system for leaks, cracks, and/or corrosion. The coolant system usually consists of a radiator, water pump, thermostat, fan drive, and fan, but pay extra attention to clamps and hoses. If the coolant level isn’t reaching the “full” mark, you may have a leak. If the location of the leak isn’t obvious, pressurize the system to help locate it. Furthermore, be sure to test and replace the coolant if it is getting old. In general coolants last around 24 months, so if you’re working with older coolant, flush the system and replace the coolant before the winter season. If the coolant hasn’t quite reached the 24-month mark but is getting close, you can use test strips to determine whether or not the freeze point is adequate enough to allow the coolant to prevent aeration, corrosion, and cavitation.
- Inspect the Air Dryer –
The air dryer in your semi-truck is what helps collect and remove water before it can enter the brake system, where liquid can freeze over and threaten the brake function. That being said, before the winter weather takes its toll, it is important to make sure the air dryer is functioning properly and in good condition. In addition to testing that it is functioning properly, when checking the air dryer, be sure to look for any signs of leaks and corrosion. It is also a good habit to clean the air tanks annually by removing the drain plugs and allowing them to dry. If necessary, you might also need to replace the filter from time to time.
- Check Tire Pressure and Condition –
To perform optimally, every winter truck needs to have an adequate tire tread thickness for winter driving. If your tire tread seems worn down (circumferential cutting, chunking, spin damage, tearing, etc.), you will want to consider replacing them. If you drive in areas with winter road conditions often, you may want to make the extra investment and purchase tires with a tread pattern suited to those specific conditions. Regardless of what tire you go with, be sure that you also have tire chains that properly fit on your tires.
- Look for Cracks in Windshield –
When you winterize a truck, one thing you definitely don’t want to overlook or ignore are small chips and cracks in the windshield. When temperatures start to drop, additional stress is put on the windshields making them more susceptible to cracking all the way through. If you discover any cracks or chips in your windshield, avoid having to replace the whole windshield by repairing the minor cracks and chips before they potentially get worse when the temperature drops.
- Refill Windshield Washer Reservoir –
Although not as major as some of the other items mentioned above, make sure the windshield washer reservoir is full and has enough deicer/solvent solution to effectively help defrost the windshield and keep the washer fluid container from freezing/breaking.
- Check the Defrost Function –
Due to the fog that can develop on your windshield during cold weather, it is important to ensure that the directional vanes are functioning properly and are in the optimal position to defrost the windshield quickly and effectively. If your defroster is not functioning properly, you may experience a loss of visibility from time to time – which can increase the chances of being involved in an accident.
Now that you know more about how to winterize a truck, it’s time to make your own winter truck checklist. We also recommend doing routine preventive maintenance all year round, not just right before the winter season. Once you make preventive maintenance a habit, you will be ready for anything while out on the road. Although this does take extra time, it will help reduce on-road risks, repair downtime, and repair costs – so it will be well worth the effort.