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Winter Running Tips – Part 1

By Mike Whalen

Truck magazines repeat the same messages in the fall of each year covering winter operations. Considering the fact that the company driver or owner-operator is responsible for monitoring the truck’s operating performance, and in many cases performing light maintenance functions, the driver turnover and new young drivers being added to the mix each year necessitates a fresh look at winter operations.
This year we have more medium duty work trucks using electric drive trains. Great for warm weather but what about the cold Canadian winters.
No worries about cold cranking, and the cab has instant heat. Auxiliary heaters are not required, and idling is eliminated. Plus – there is no effect on the environment. The main issue with electric power, when operating in winter conditions, is an up to 30% drop in power. This would be a major consideration by operators of work trucks that need power to haul aggregate, wood products, fuels, cranes, heavy equipment, etc. But not so much for trucks working in urban logistics.
Electric drive trains have other plusses and minuses. Until the recharging infrastructure is in place most of today’s users are centrally located, returning to the same yard each night. Municipal vehicles, airport and freight yard shunt tractors are examples.
Construction fleets are usually transient, moving from job to job. These fleets are made up of diesel-powered off-road vehicles as well as trucks, so it makes sense to employ trucks using diesel as well.
The main considerations for cold weather operations are fuels, lubrication, cooling and lighting – as well as tires and traction devises.
Work trucks can be configured to run on several fuels – either gasoline, diesel, propane, natural gas, biofuels or electricity.
Fuel System:
Arguably the most important concerns when operating a diesel engine in winter conditions is that the fuel being used is formulated for below freezing temperatures. As the temperature of diesel fuel drops below freezing it thickens and causing filters and fuel lines to plug and restrict flow.
Use filters combined with a water separation device and fuel heater. It’s worth knowing that there is a big difference between a water separator and a water coalescer. A separator removes large droplets of water while a coalescer removes emulsified fuel/water. When the water in fuel emulsifies it takes a special material to coalesce the water into large droplets so they can be removed by a separator.
Low temperatures will cause diesel fuel to become thicker and, depending on temperature, plug fuel filters and restrict the performance of pumps and injectors.
The kerosene in winter diesel helps to prevent gelling, but it can also act like a solvent and wash away the lubricating properties of the diesel fuel. Winter fuel additives contain lubricants to make the fuel slippery again – it’s like adding tiny liquid ball-bearings to your fuel system. Stanadyne Performance Formula, for example, contains detergents to help reduce carbon deposits and keep the internals of your pump and injectors clean and working properly.
Winter (No.1) diesel fuel has kerosene added to keep the fuel from gelling up and keep it flowing. Using a quality fuel additive is highly recommended when using winter diesel. An additive will help address the lower power issue with a Cetane enhancer, and also has anti-gelling properties to keep the fuel flowing smoothly at low temps.
Lubrication:
Having operated a heavy truck hauling sand and logs in the winter I know that manual greasing can suffer due to weather conditions. Who likes to crawl under a truck and trailer to grease at the best of times? Owners will – most of the time – but will a hired driver? Winter conditions usually require more frequent greasing due to slush, salt and sand on the roads.
Employing an automatic lubrication system, using cold temperature grease and an integrated warmer, will provide all grease points, including the fifth wheel, with just the right amount of lubricant at the time needed.
It’s documented that bearings can last five times longer when an auto-lube system is used.
In Part Two of Winter Running Tips we’ll look at cooling systems, brakes – plus lighting and traction assistance.

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