6 Tips for the Annual CVSA Roadcheck
Before Preparing Your Truck for Summer, Let’s See What Ole’ Man Winter Has Done
Note: The following is a two-part series on getting your trucks ready for summer. This first part offers some ideas about what to look for when checking what Ole’ Man Winter has done to your truck. It may be especially relevant for those of you who have experienced the full brunt of this last winter. (These ideas may also help you prepare for the 2018 CVSA Roadcheck, which takes place June 5-7.)
If you had driven much in the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast regions this winter, you would probably have screamed if you had heard Mother Nature planned a fifth Nor’Easter last month to celebrate Easter.
Ah, after four of them in three weeks? No thanks.
Fortunately, that gigantic ocean storm that developed offshore New England and produced offshore swells up to 42 feet high just before Easter, didn’t bring another N-bomb. National Weather Service said it formed far enough out in the Atlantic to spare the East Coast from anything other than big waves.
Of course, those of you who drive in the Midwest and Northeast know Mother Nature wasn’t about to let you off that easy as she gave all you’all another wallop with Winter Storm Xanto (pronounced ZAN-toe) in mid-April.
Well, here’s some happier thoughts – summer is now just around the corner – just a few weeks away. As you think about how you’ll want to spend your summer vacation, now may be the time to also think about what you’ll need to do with your trucks to be prepared for summer.
But, first things first – if you spent a lot of time dodging those a-four-mentioned monster storms, or driving through their aftermath, consider the abuse and damage your trucks may have encountered. Beyond the day-to-day issues you might discover during daily vehicle inspections, consider how winter conditions, particularly during brutal winters like this past one, can negatively impact various truck and trailer systems and components:
1. Air system. Consider the moisture that cold air brought along with it when your compressor drew it in this winter. If enough moisture gets past the air dryer, condensation can build up in the air tanks. From there the moisture can travel downstream to the brake system and other connected technologies. Manually drain the air tanks. This should be done every three months for a typical line haul truck. More frequently when it gets really cold.
2. Brake system. If your truck’s air system froze and you had to use alcohol or similar de-icing, manually drain the system’s air tanks if it doesn’t have an automatic drain valve. If you find an excessive amount of water and/or oil, it may be a sign that the system needs a new air dryer cartridge. Inspect the glad-hand seals and hoses for cracks, missing sections, chaffing or damage. Examine the spring brake chambers looking for signs of corrosion from road salts, chemicals and other contaminants and check the spring brake chamber’s stroke indicator. Check CVSA guidelines to determine the maximum allowable stroke, which is based on the chamber size and type. Those wheel-ends with measurements beyond the maximum allowable stroke are considered out-of-adjustment and should be replaced. Remember, do NOT try to adjust this manually – it’s an automatic.
3. Fifth wheel slider components and locking mechanisms. Check the kingpin lock and plate for wear and function. If the fasteners on either side of the fifth wheel’s coupler assembly, including those on the mounting to the frame or the mounting plates and pivot brackets, are missing or ineffective, repair that pronto. Same holds true if the latching fasteners on either side of the sliders are ineffective or if any fore or aft stop is missing or not securely attached. Clean and remove the old grease and replace with an NLGI Grade 2, lithium-based grease. This type of grease has robust anti-corrosion and antiwear additives and because its synthetic it’s easier to pump and has stronger staying power while in service. A common mistake is to apply grease on the top plate and connector believing that it will all work around during the engagement. But that can create areas where there’s too much lubrication and other areas with not enough. When applying the grease, the best method is to apply a thin layer of grease starting at low end of the fifth wheel and about two-thirds of the way up the fifth wheel. Avoid applying excessive grease that will just end up on the floor or on the truck frame during engagement.
4. Running lights and tail lights. Even if your lamps light up, check for cracked, punctured or broken housings, or blown seals. Moisture and clouding inside the lamp housing is a clear sign that it needs to be replaced. Better to replace it now than to get sidelined at a CVSA Roadcheck site or at a weigh station.
5. Tires. Check the air pressure on all of your tires. Tire pressure drops with the ambient temperature, as much as 10 psi for every 20-degree drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Now that it’s warmer, it’s possible your tires are now over-inflated, which can lead to premature or irregular wear at the tire center. At the extreme, it can lead to a blowout or it can be dangerous for your technician when it comes time to remove them. You may also want to check and calibrate your pressure gauge to be sure it’s giving you or your drivers the correct readings. Over-inflated tires are also more susceptible to damage from road debris or potholes – which can be pretty common, particularly after the winter we’ve had.
6. Minor body damage and collision repair. You might be tempted to overlook that cracked or damaged fender or other minor, cosmetic issue, or have it repaired at a shop that uses untrained technicians and takes shortcuts. Don’t. It’s not worth it. Modern truck exterior design relies on advanced components and materials unheard of just a few years ago. It’s not uncommon for OEMs to use proprietary composites or metals in their design. In the long-run ignoring minor body or collision damage or doing repairs on the cheap could end up costing you a lot more when the issue becomes bigger or when it comes time to sell your truck. Besides that, unrepaired damage or improperly done repairs just look bad and convey the wrong image. Commercial vehicle enforcement officers are also more likely to take a harder look at your truck and trailer.