The winter months tend to bring a few extra challenges that weren’t necessarily present during the rest of the year. Especially for winter trucking. Driving through the bitter cold, snow, ice, and other winter weather conditions can be hazardous to your safety and make even the best drivers susceptible to distractions while out on the road.
Whether you have a growing fleet or a single rig, you have multiple considerations when you’re preparing your truck(s) for winter. When winter comes, some areas will experience weeks of delays and months of lousy driving conditions. The primary purpose of performing routine maintenance on your truck in the fall is to ensure that your vehicle is in the best shape possible for winter.
So, How Do You Prepare Your Semi-Truck for Winter Trucking?
(wheels, wipers blades, engine maintenance, and more)
To prepare your semi-truck, you’ll need to take some of the same steps you always have, such as making sure your oil and filter changes are up to date. This is the first step in keeping your vehicle running smoothly in cold weather.
Consider adding anti-freeze or a small amount of windshield wiper fluid to your coolant if you’re running the engine regularly to help keep your engine from freezing during the winter months. Another great tip is to may sure your fluid lines for your wiper blades don’t become frozen. If by chance they do become frozen, thaw them immediately to ensure the freezing liquid doesn’t cause the reservoir to crack as it expands. You want to also make sure that you’re using the right oil for your battery in the winter months.
Check out the tips below:
1. Do Your Oil and Filter Changes
Oil life decreases drastically in the cold. Your truck should be refilled with high-quality, non-iodized, long-lasting, synthetic motor oil every 10,000 miles or so. The same is valid for transmission fluid. Depending on your vehicle, you may need to do it every 5,000 miles or so. However, you should check the manual to see what the recommendation is for your vehicle. Remember, oil can go bad and crystalize when exposed to extremely cold temperatures, so it’s a good idea to keep the fluids topped off during the winter.
2. Check Your Coolant Pumping Valves
You should be sure to check that your cooling system is appropriately hooked up to your engine. This will ensure it can deliver coolant to the engine if the engine dies and has to be restarted. Check to make sure there are no clogs in the lines or the pump itself. You may need to add fluid or make some other adjustments. You may also want to ensure that you are using the correct anti-freeze.
3. Make sure Your Tire Pressure Is Correct
Brake temperatures drop during the winter. Most modern trucks have intelligent anti-lock braking (ABS) systems that adjust engine rpm to help prevent the brake pads from overheating. However, your truck’s trailer brakes are typically self-serviced, and therefore unlikely to use engine rpm. You might still want to take a look at the pressure you’re using. Your vehicle’s owner’s manual can offer information on whether your trailer brakes are pressurized or not. Be prepared to add air if needed.
4. Disconnect Your Mobile Electronics
Winter tires on your truck will protect against snow and ice, but they can also make driving in snow and ice more treacherous. You’ll need your trailer’s brakes this winter. That’s why you should disconnect your trailer’s power cords before you start on a long trip. That way, if the truck fails, the trailer won’t be damaged.
What to Look Out for in Harsh Winter Conditions When It Comes to Your Semi-Truck
The following 10 tips will prepare you and your truck to brave the upcoming winter weather, including what to do if your truck gets stuck:
1. Learn to navigate in the snow. Knowing how to navigate in the snow can prove invaluable when you have to maneuver in icy conditions, especially in larger trucks. With lots of torque available from the engine, transmission, and driveline components, just knowing how to apply that torque to certain wheels/tires and create traction can help save you from a steep tow or dangerous slide.
2. Keep the weight down. As the saying goes, “pack it in, pack it out.” If you happen to be driving for snow removal or emergency assistance, try to limit the weight on your truck. During the winter months, you don’t want to place extensive weight at the axles, because that will raise the center of gravity and add to the likelihood of your truck tipping over.
3. Snow tread. Tires have an inner and outer surface, and they only have so much tread. Over time, snow gets into the tread, or on the tire, or both. That decreases the traction of your tires. Check your tire pressure and ensure the tread is visible.
4. Tire Pressure. Drivers are reminded to check their tire pressure regularly, especially in winter months when the weather can be cold and damp. Tires with a low pressure are more prone to hydroplaning, the tendency of a vehicle’s wheels to lose traction, and they can lose traction at any hint of slick road conditions.
5. Engine maintenance. Engines have a finite number of hours, and winter can affect a truck’s gas mileage. Plan and make sure your truck has been fully inspected for any impending maintenance so you don’t run out of time during an emergency or in the middle of a heavy snowfall. If you’re hauling more than you can handle, consider selling your load or relocating your load to another truck. The loss of engine power and fuel economy, combined with the low center of gravity from the weight, can make it difficult to drive safely and even make your truck uncontrollable.
6. Clean air filter. During winter, snow can plug up your air filter, and freezing temperatures will cause your truck to run slower than usual. And if you’re not properly maintaining your truck’s air filter, you may not be able to use the heating system while it’s cold out.
7. Oil temperature. If your truck runs too hot during cold weather, you risk damaging the engine or overheating it. Ensure your oil and transmission fluids are adequately heated and maintain a tight seal on the oil filler cap.
8. Preheat the block. Driving with heaters and wipers on for more extended periods is a recipe for overheating. Freezing temperatures can force your cooling system to start working harder, which can cause fuel economy and performance to suffer. If you happen to be operating with an overheated cooling system, turn on your emergency flashers to alert other drivers and a tow truck driver that you require assistance.
9. Air temperature and humidity. Truckers should consider adding some fresh air in their cab or ride compartment to stay warm and comfortable. That means opening windows and the vents. Newer air conditioners work very well at keeping temperatures in your cab comfortable and circulating fresh air. If you do have a heater in your cab, it should work without the aid of a blower motor during winter.
10. Check your windshield wipers. Double-check and make sure your windshield wipers are in working order before you head out. Check your windshield wiper fluid as well, to ensure that the fluid level is full. Drive slowly in poor weather conditions.
Overall Best Practices for Winter Trucking With Your Semi-Truck
Any road-worthy experience can be of benefit when on the road in winter. If you’re driving a truck this winter, it’s important to understand the steps to take so that your truck can perform at peak efficiency. Winter roads have a variety of dangers to consider, so make sure you as the driver and your truck are prepared for every challenge. Here are a few more tips from industry experts that are considered best practices for driving a semi-truck in the winter:
1. Slip-free tires
Tires with the right traction are essential to be able to drive efficiently in winter weather. Braking distances will also be shorter, which means your truck needs extra traction to slow down. Make sure your truck has good treads and is properly inflated. Take time to adjust your truck’s tire pressure properly. With proper preparation, a set of simple steps can help your truck handle winter driving.
2. Winter maintenance
Your truck should be well-serviced. Ensure the oil, transmission, and brake fluids are changed at the proper intervals to prevent problems and extend engine life.
Be sure the tires are in good condition, as well as the tensioner and wheel bearings. Poor performance of the clutch, wheel bearings, or even winter road debris can lead to a tire blowout. Ensure that all brake lines are clamped and that the clutch cable is in good shape.
Road salt can wear down your truck components, especially if your trips require frequent exposure to it. It’s essential to test your brakes at least once a week to make sure they are strong enough to quickly get your truck stopping at an optimal rate.
5. Winter maintenance kits
While you can’t do anything about the weather, you can make sure your truck is ready for winter driving by using proper winter maintenance components to ensure that your truck and tires are operating optimally in the cold weather. Winter maintenance kits should be appropriately managed while traveling as these could be needed at any time.
We hope this information has helped been insightful in regards to how to apply some critical winterizing to your truck before the season intensifies. Sure, this will require some money, but overall, it’s much less expensive than towing your rig out of the ditch due to icy or critical conditions. A good winter-truck pre-trip inspection is a must. So, make sure that you follow the above-stated tips and tricks before driving your semi-truck this winter. Your safety is important!