Mechanical breakdowns are the bane of every trucker's existence. When a truck's wheels are not turning, the driver isn't making money. So it's in every driver's best interest to avoid breakdowns at all costs. At no time is this more important than during the winter. For some reason, winter weather seems to increase the likelihood of breakdowns occurring at the worst possible times.
Unfortunately, there are no CDL jobs where breakdowns are unheard of. Breakdowns are part of what we do. But knowing what to look for and how to address minor problems can keep you on the road longer. According to RoadKing magazine's Mimaro Abasacovabu and Homer Hogg, the most common Winter breakdowns are related to batteries, fuel systems, and brakes. Let us look at all three in greater detail.
Dead Batteries in Cold Weather
Cold weather can certainly do a number on a truck's batteries. It's not uncommon for winter service calls to include numerous jump starts during exceptionally cold weather. But as we learned from RoadKing, it's also not uncommon for truck drivers to get a jump start and then immediately proceed down the road without trying to identify what caused the dead batteries to begin with.
The problem here should be obvious. Batteries that are in good working order should not go dead overnight except under the most extreme conditions. So a dead battery signals something else is wrong. Ignoring it and expecting a truck's alternator to completely recharge a dead battery is not only misinformed, but it's also actually bad for the alternator. If your batteries go dead, it's better to make a service call and then have the technician diagnose and correct the problem before you get on the road.
Fuel Systems and Cold Weather
Truck drivers are known to let their vehicles run overnight so the diesel fuel doesn't gel up. But that's not the only problem fuel systems are subject to in extreme cold. There are also issues involving water in your fuel and wax build-up blocking fuel flow. RoadKing recommends a couple of solutions for avoiding fuel system problems.
First, they say drivers should make sure fuel heaters are operable before they are needed. Second, fuel-water separators should be inspected to ensure they are operating correctly. Finally, drivers should check to make sure their engines are not running too cold. A cold running engine may contribute to fuel problems.
Brake Freeze Ups
Lastly is the issue of break freeze ups during winter weather. As truck brakes rely on compressed air rather than hydraulic fluid, they are especially sensitive to moisture. The problem is the difference between the hot air of the compressor and the cooler air in the brake lines. That difference in air temperatures can result in condensation that ultimately causes brake freeze.
One strategy to prevent break freeze is to completely drain the air tanks at the end of the day. Excessive moisture observed during tank draining is cause for concern. Drivers should also be sure to maintain their air dryer filters as recommended by their manufacturers. Using a deicing agent is also helpful, but make sure to use any deicing product according to the instructions that come with it.
Winter driving is made more difficult by weather conditions and other drivers with less experience. You don't need additional headaches related to breakdowns. As a professional driver, be proactive in maintaining your batteries, fuel system, and brakes at this time of year. The more you can do to prevent weather-related breakdowns, the more miles you will put under those wheels. That's what it's all about, right?