Tips on properly maintaining work trucks to avoid expensive repairs and preserve profit margins.

Proper maintenance has and always will be a key factor in the longevity of heavy-duty trucks. This is especially true for trucks and equipment used in the construction industry. The extreme conditions in a construction environment can wreak havoc on trucks and equipment if they are not regularly maintained.

Everything from a truck’s engine to  its transmission and chassis is subject to wear. Teach your workforce to properly lubricate these components by establishing regular maintenance intervals. Regular maintenance is critical to avoid expensive repair bills and costly downtime, which can result in huge setbacks when working on a schedule. It is especially important to conduct a pre-trip inspection on equipment at the beginning of each day to catch potential problems early.

The best method to properly maintain vehicles is following the literature provided by the vehicle component manufacturers. Also, consulting with your dealer is always a viable option. Many dealers offer on-site maintenance services and expert advice. By following these important maintenance guidelines, your construction truck will give you more reliable service on the jobsite and improve your bottom line.

1. Poorly Maintained Cooling Systems

One of the more common causes of downtime is from a poorly maintained cooling system. The cooling system is relatively easy to maintain but often gets overlooked. Proper cooling system maintenance is especially important in a diesel application. Overcooling, pitting, overheating, cracked heads, cavitations, piston seizures and plugged radiators are some common cooling system failures. It is important to maintain the recommended SCA (supplemental coolant additive) /DCA (dry coolant additive) levels in your engine’s cooling system. 

You should also decide whether to use an extended life coolant or the type that is mixed with distilled water—once you have decided which coolant to use, you must always use this kind and never combine the two. You can purchase test strips from a local dealer to check your cooling system’s protection levels. A hydrometer is another commonly used tool that will measure your cooling system’s specific gravity level and deliver degrees of protection. The degree of freeze protection—how much the temperature can drop below the freezing point before causing an adverse effect on the liquid in the system—is related to the density of the antifreeze.

2. Insufficient Lubrication

Another common cause of downtime is insufficiently lubricating the vehicle’s chassis components. Everything from u-joints to king pins and brake system components are subject to failure due to inadequate lubrication, especially in a gritty or wet construction environment. Also, be sure to use grease that will adhere to your equipment’s moving parts in all conditions.  The grease should be formulated with a type of calcium sultanate thickener technology, which is made for heavy-duty construction applications and will adhere to the components even in very wet conditions.

3. Plugged Air Filters

In addition to these basics, do not forget that your engine needs to breathe. Another commonly overlooked maintenance item is the engine’s air filter. The damage that can occur from an improperly maintained air system can be catastrophic. Among other things, a plugged air filter is a common cause of turbo failure, which will void the manufacturer’s warranty, leaving you with a costly repair bill. In more extreme cases, dust entering the engine’s intake due to improperly maintained air systems can damage your engine permanently. Always keep a close eye on your vehicle’s air restriction gauge, and check regularly for leaks in air system components that may allow foreign matter to enter the air intake system.

By following these important maintenance guidelines, your construction truck will give you more reliable service on the jobsite and improve your bottom line.


Construction Business Owner, April 2011