Winterizing Your Truck Fleet

Nov 11, 2019Idealease, News, Trucking


With fall and early winter weather seemingly less and less predictable, now is a good time to brush up on some fleet management basics. Seasoned pros like ourselves sometimes still need a little reminder of how troublesome this time of year can be for our trucks and our drivers.

If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, getting ahead of the snow and cold with some proactive maintenance is a smart and easy way to save your trucks from expensive repairs and keep them rolling strong until spring.

Winter temperatures, precipitation, and salt can quickly compromise your fleet’s wearable parts. So, bookmark this article for quick access to our handy checklist to get your drivers and fleets safely through the season.

  • Battery: Batteries drain quickly in cold weather and can be tough to charge on the fly. Test them using a handheld battery and electrical system tester to measure volts when they’re both fully charged and discharging; and clean those connections!
  • Fuel: Two of the most common complaints during cold weather are a loss of fuel economy and, worse, vehicles that won’t start when temperatures drop.
    • Diesel: The paraffin in diesel fuel causes it to “gel,” or turn waxy, in cold weather. To stop this, use a blend with a high cetane rating and anti-gel additives each time you fill up, and be sure to keep an emergency anti-gel additive on-hand in case temperatures drop severely.
    • Winterized Fuel: Alternatively, consider switching to seasonally enhanced fuels that will operate in temperatures as low as -30° F and have a cold filter plugging point (CFPP) of –55° F. A special additive also increases horsepower and fuel economy up to 5%, so fleet vehicles can stay on the road while reducing fuel costs
  • Fuel Filter and Water Separator: Water in the fuel system can damage fuel pumps and injectors in sub-zero temperatures. This creates cold engine startup issues that many folks assume is “fuel gelling,” when it could be water is turning to ice in fuel storage tanks and filtration systems, plugging filters during the first couple of cold snaps. Avoid those issues by replacing water-absorbing filters and regularly draining the separator.
  • Brakes: Thin brake pads always negatively affect stopping power, but in extreme cold, thin material can crack. Replacing pads early can save you from an emergency situation later.
    • Air Dryer: Without a working air dryer, the water in your brake lines will freeze in winter weather, putting you and others on the road in harm’s way. Check the air dryer and its filter to prevent problems on the road.
  • Cooling Systems: After letting the engine cool, pressure test the coolant to ensure it’s at the manufacturer’s recommended PSI after turning on the heater control valves. You’ll also want to pressure test the radiator cap for the correct PSI specs. Don’t forget to inspect the heater and water hoses for wear and tear.
    • Antifreeze: Make sure every vehicle has the proper amount of antifreeze. If a vehicle has only water, the block could crack if it gets cold enough. Or, more likely, the freeze plugs could pop out of the block. Antifreeze also protects the engine from rusting.
  • Engine Block Heater: If you have a diesel-powered truck and spend a lot of time driving in cold conditions, consider an electric engine block heater. Diesel engines need a higher cylinder temperature than gas engines and can be difficult to start if they’ve been exposed to cold weather.
  • Cold Weather Kit: Make sure your driver and rig are looked after in the event of a breakdown. With so many miles driven, there’s a good chance that any assistance will take a bit of time; equip each truck with:
    • Extra clothing: Warm boots, a solar or battery powered heated blanket, insulated layers and blankets.
    • Provisions: Food, water, and any medications.
    • Safety gear: First-aid kit, fire extinguisher, road flares, reflective triangles, jumper cables, chains, extra windshield washer fluid, and salt or sand.
  • Tires: Winter is the time to put safety first and foremost. Rotate your tires and consider changing any rib tread tires to lug treads. Lugs have much deeper treads and improve bad weather handling and stability.
    • Tire Pressure: Cold temperatures slowly reduce your tire pressures, impacting tread life, fuel economy, and safety. Fit each tire with a valve cap, as something so simple can prevent moisture and ice build-up in the tires’ valve cores.

No matter where you drive, winter weather can change without a moment’s notice. Just a little bit of time, attention, and planning can keep your drivers and trucks happy, warm, and working throughout the coldest months of the year!


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