Winter Running Tips – Part 2
By Mike Whalen
Continuing from last month let’s look at some more truck systems and how they can be prepared for winter.
Having an efficient engine cooling system in winter is just as important as in summer. If you have been experiencing high oil temperature, excessive fan cycling and little heat in the cab, it signifies a cooling system problem that may require a full clean-out.
Look in the top of the radiator. If the coolant is rusty and has a thick looking consistency, or if there are deposits on the top tubes in the header, then follow the recommended procedure to remove rust, solder bloom, corrosion by-products, and all the rest of the stuff that’s plugging the radiator tubes.
Before recharging, take a look at fan belts and clutch. Check fan blades for cracks and runout; check the fan clutch for play with the clutch released. Recommended maximum play for the fan is 3/16” at the fan blade tip.
Pressure test the cooling system. With the engine cold – this is when it leaks most – pressurize the system from 15 to 18 psi/100 to 125 kPa and verify that there are no leaks, either in existing hose joints or in any replacements.
Pressure test the radiator cap. It should hold a minimum 5 psi/35 kPa but do check the manual for the correct system pressure.
Once the system is recharged, a pre-charge of supplemental coolant additive must be included, according to the engine manufacturer’s recommendation. Also, new coolant filters should be used. When checking for leaks, don’t forget to check the sleeper and cab heater hoses.
Start the engine and check the performance of the cab and the bunk heater. Verify that the different fan speeds are all operative, and that the flap controls that redirect air for defrost are functioning correctly. Also recheck the operation of the air conditioner; A/C is critical in de-misting cold windshields and side glass.
Systems vary, but the recommended temperature out of the cab heater should be 100°F/38° C when ambient temperatures are around freezing.
Finally, check the weather stripping around the doors, grommets in the bulkhead, and the boot around the shift tower. Look to see they are not aged or compressed. Ensure there are no air leaks around the doors and adjust where necessary to seal properly.
A complete battery check is essential before winter. Check each battery with a tester to verify the battery’s condition under load. If this is not possible, at least check the voltage at the starter to see if there is any significant drop along the cable which could indicate a bad terminal or post. Check the batteries with a hydrometer. This should indicate a battery at the end of its life.
If you have a number of comfort systems tied into the truck look at fitting an isolator which would draw the auxiliary load from a single battery. This will ensure you have sufficient cranking amps to get the truck rolling again in the morning.
Perform the usual battery maintenance: check electrolyte, clean posts and terminals and verify terminals arc tight and lubricated. Ensure cables are not frayed or loose in the terminals.
An important step is to clear any pebbles and debris that may have accumulated in the battery box. Vibration can drive them through the battery case and ruin a perfectly serviceable battery.
Also consider fitting a battery warmer pad around the batteries. Connect it to the same circuit as the block heater. This ensures the batteries are warmed for their maximum cold cranking amps for cold starts.
Winter LED lighting:
Truck and trailer operators have been hesitant to use LED headlights and taillights for winter operations. The problem was they lacked the heat that halogen or incandescent lights provided. This meant snow build-up occurred reducing visibility. Today several lighting manufacturers offer heated LED headlights and taillights that eliminate the snow build-up while offering improved visibility to reduce animal impacts and warn of corners well in advance.
Trucks equipped with heated LED headlights operating on snow covered roads, in snow storms or when following another vehicle will have better visibility resulting in reduced fatigue and fewer accidents. Heated LED taillights will warn a truck following much sooner and reduce rear impacts.☚