Taking Advance Care of Your Big Rig

Today’s semis are complicated, and sometimes temperamental.  But the basics still remain: truck breakdowns are a big frustration, and a big cost.  And the pros recognize the importance of preventive maintenance.  You’re a professional truck driver and know about advance care big rig things like tire pressure and tread depth, safety checks, and so on.  But a reminder is always helpful, and perhaps you’ll find something new that helps you avoid repairs and down time.  But when the inevitable does happen we’re ready with big rig towing and roadside assistance for truck breakdowns.

Top 5 Most Common Causes of Big Rig Breakdowns

Based mostly on information from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), here are the most common causes of semi truck breakdowns.

  1. Tire inflation and tread depth are the direct or indirect cause of just over half of all big rig truck accidents.  It’s tempting to try to squeeze a few thousand miles more out of each tire, but that carries a huge risk.
  2. Brakes account for more than a fourth of all accidents and problems.  So don’t ignore vibrations, squeal, or a soft pedal.
  3. Electrical systems are more important than ever, with the alternator and battery serving on-board computers and accessories.
  4. Half of major engine failures are the result of a weak or failed cooling system.  The exhaust after-treatment system is a path for coolant leaks that can damage diesel particulate filters.
  5. Age.  Older big rig trucks are more likely to break down, plain and simple.

Low engine oil is also among the more common causes of engine damage despite being one of the easiest to check  And chassis lubrication is another part of truck maintenance that greatly reduces problems on the road.

Avoid a Big Rig Breakdown

By FMCSA regulations you should already have a preventive maintenance program with “A,” “B,” and “C” services.  But it really pays to perform some checks much more frequently.  Think about what makes sense for pre-trip checks, on-route checks, and post-trip inspections.  It may sound unimportant, but having a printed list with boxes to check actually helps.  Such lists even help reduce surgery mistakes in operating rooms!

Advance Care Big Rig Tips

Here are some of the most important items to have on your truck maintenance checklist.

  • Always pre-check those “small things”
    • Check the fuel vent before driving when you’ve stopped overnight or over a day.  Bugs and even animals do get in there.
    • Matching tire pressure to the load is critical to safety and longer mileage. Don’t forget that the pressure will fluctuate with the weather, road conditions, load, and speed.
    • Pre-check your fluids before each start-up.  Double-check your coolant levels and keep an eye out for any sign of a leak.
    • Triple-check your brake system for any contamination, corrosion, or air leaks.  Water contamination can freeze the lines in winter months, so it’s also a matter of air and moisture getting in.
  • Have your battery checked at least once a year.  They rarely last more than 3-5 years.
  • Other shop inspection items include a coolant pressure test, and checking front axle toe-in.  And of course oil changes, air and fuel filters, and chassis lube.

Preventive maintenance really does reduce operating costs.  A short-term saving usually ends up costing in the long-term. Especially when a single breakdown can pay for a year’s worth of garage visits.  Rather waiting until there’s a problem, a check-out and safety inspection by a mechanic as frequently as every 5-10,000 miles can be worthwhile.

Extra Tip:  Carry an emergency kit with food, warm clothes and a sleeping bag, a flashlight and a second radio (or a cell phone).  You’ll also want to include a good set of basic tools, hose clamps, electrical tape, extra fluids, a fire extinguisher, and of course duct tape.

If You Do Breakdown

You know the drill.  Safety first — yours then others — by getting as far out of traffic as possible and setting up cones, triangles, and/or flares.  Tilting the hood up also alerts others.  Then call in professionals like those at Hollywood Towing.


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