The snow has begun to fall, and rain is turning to ice, which means…winter is here. Are you prepared to face the harsh weather? If you haven’t started to winterize your fleet, the time is now! Here are our top ten tips for keeping you and your equipment safe this winter:
1. Diesel Fuel
If you’re starting your diesel engines in cold weather, make sure you are choosing the correct fuel type. Diesel engines are more difficult to start in cold weather because they require higher cylinder temperatures for successful operation. Diesel fuel contains an ingredient called Paraffin which causes fuel to gel as temperatures drop, which can make it more difficult to pump fuel through to the engine. This can lead to unexpected roughness while operating the vehicle, or even an engine failure.
To keep your truck running smoothly, check the cetane rating at the gas pump. The higher the number is, the easier it will be for your truck will start during the winter months. Most fueling locations carry a winter blend fuel for just such purposes. Not sure what fuel treatment is best to use? Check with your engine manufacturer for approved recommendations.
Make sure your brakes and brake pads are in good working condition. If you hear a squeak or a squeal when your foot touches the brake, it may be time for a replacement. Also, don’t forget to perform air dryer maintenance to keep your brake lines from freezing. Frozen lines can cause you to lose brake function.
Outfit your fleet with winter tires for the cold months. Winter tires offer a better grip on icy roads and improved traction in snowy conditions. Also, be sure to keep your tires properly inflated to reduce the risk of a flat so you aren’t stuck out in the cold!
The cold weather drains car batteries faster, which is the cause of most winter breakdowns. The typical life cycle of a battery is 4 – 6 years. Here are some signs that your battery may need replaced:
• The starter cranks slowly when ignition key is turned
• Headlights noticeably dim when the engine drops to idle
Our favorite subject! To keep your engine running, it needs to be properly lubricated with oil. Much like with fuel, using the wrong oil in the winter can wear on your engine, requiring more maintenance and more money from your pocket. Cold weather is not a friend of oil. The colder it is outside, the thicker oil becomes, and thick oil can’t reach your engine – leaving you with a truck that won’t start.
Changing your oil to a thinner option can help prevent damage to your engine and keep you on the road longer. To find out the proper viscosity for your engine, consult your owner’s manual or contact the experts at KWOil.
Check your fluids before the full force of winter arrives and ask your local technician to perform a winterization inspection of the cooling system. Make sure you check:
• Power steering fluid
• Brake fluid
• Windshield fluid
• Battery fluid
7. Belts & Hoses
Winter conditions can weaken the belts that help your engine run smoothly. If your belt gets worn out, it could end up being a serious safety risk – especially if you are driving in a remote area. Check belts and hoses regularly for cracks or leaks and replace them as needed to help avoid a breakdown.
8. Spark Plugs
If your engine starts to sputter, misfires, feels rough, or simply doesn’t want to start, damaged spark plugs may be the culprit. Be sure to inspect and clean or replace them if necessary.
9. Windshield Wipers
Inspect your windshield wiper blades and replace them if necessary. Getting into the habit of replacing wiper blades at the beginning of every winter is a good idea, since they should be changed at least once per year and the winter months are when you will likely need them the most.
10. Lights & Exterior
Inspect your vehicle to make sure that all lights are working properly, so that you can see the road clearly and other motorists can see you. It is also a good idea to wash your vehicle regularly, to help prevent paint chipping, rust, or salt damage.
Even if you have followed all the tips above and your vehicle is up to date, breakdowns can still happen. As the winter season approaches, make sure you are prepared for any situation. Keep an emergency kit inside your vehicle with supplies and equipment (a battery-powered radio, flashlight, blanket, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, gloves, bottled water, flares, etc.) in case you become stranded in inclement weather.