Proper truck maintenance matters all year round. It’s especially critical when the weather cools down, though. Do you know how to prepare a diesel truck for winter? If not, this guide is for you. Below, you’ll learn ten essential steps every truck driver should take to weather the winter safely.
Your truck’s battery generates electrons using chemical reactions. Even when it’s not connected to the terminals, these reactions still occur — that’s why batteries can die if they’re left in storage for extended periods. When temperatures cool down, chemical reactions slow down, resulting in reduced current output. That’s why battery failures are more common in the winter. Test your battery at the beginning of the season. If it tests poorly or is on the edge of Bad and Acceptable, replace it.
The rubber components of your engine — the belts, boots, and hoses — are more prone to damage during the winter. Cold temperatures cause the rubber to become brittle, meaning it’s more likely to crack. Scrutinize these components, looking for cracking, torn strands, and other signs of wear. Make sure the material feels soft and flexible, too. Boots and hoses should have a spongy feeling and return to their original shape when squeezed.
If the coolant freezes, your engine can become seriously damaged — so damaged, in fact, that you might need to replace it entirely. To avoid this expensive repair, test your cooling system, ensuring it has a good mix of antifreeze and water. If it’s been years since you last changed your coolant, consider flushing and replacing it.
Your thermostat regulates coolant temperatures and, of course, keeps you warm in the truck’s cabin. If your thermostat fails while open, it’ll take longer for the truck to warm up, and the check engine light may turn on. If the thermostat files while closed, it can cause overheating and potential damage or a blown head gasket.
Most drivers know right away if their thermostat isn’t functioning correctly. To double-check, you can use gloves to touch the upper and lower radiator hoses after the vehicle has warmed up. If one of the hoses is cold, the thermostat might not be opening properly. If they feel extra hot, the thermostat might be stuck closed.
Glow plugs heat the truck’s combustion chamber for cold starts. A grid heater performs the same function, warming incoming air going to the engine to help with cold starts. Test your glow plug or grid heater early in the season. You can find testing devices specifically for this purpose, making it relatively easy for you to ensure they’re functioning properly.
In cold weather, oil thickens. Thicker oil creates additional resistance for the engine and makes it harder to start your truck. During the winter, it’s best to switch to winter-friendly oil (such as 5W-40 or 0W-40). This oil will reduce wear on your truck’s starter, battery, and injection system.
Diesel fuel contains paraffin, which can cause your fuel to gel and become solid. Gelling leads to clogged fuel filters, lines, and potential engine shutdowns. To prevent gelling, ensure all water is removed from your fuel system. Special additives contain isopropanol to help with this step. You can buy additives that prevent water and wax problems, too. You should also change your fuel filter. A dirty filter clogs more easily.
Inspect your tires and ensure the treads have not worn down beyond safety regulations. Look for debris lodged in the rubber that could contribute to leaks, too, and patch any holes left behind. If your tires aren’t in good shape, replace them before rain, snow, and ice hit. Worn tires will increase your risk of sliding on wintery roads.
Check your windshield for chips and cracks of all sizes. Remember that tiny cracks and chips can easily lead to larger cracks that obstruct your vision — especially in cold weather.
Consider two additional upgrades to care for your truck and keep it in good shape during the winter. The first is a block heater, which keeps your engine block and coolant warm when the truck is parked overnight. It makes starting easier and reduces fuel consumption. The second is a grille cover. A grille cover helps to warm your truck up more quickly and prevents it from over-cooling when idle.
Don’t stop with the preparation tips mentioned above. These cold weather tips will help you avoid issues on the road and maximize the results of your preventative measures:
Give your truck plenty of time to warm up before driving. Wait at least five minutes to bring everything up to the ideal temperature and save your engine from working harder than necessary.
Condensation in your fuel tank can freeze and cause issues similar to those brought on by gelled fuel. Keep your fuel tank full to minimize space for condensation (winter diesel fuel additives can also help with this).
During the winter, the roads are covered in salt. Salt speeds up corrosion and harms metal surfaces. Even if your truck has underside coating, it can still be susceptible to rust. Wash your undercarriage after major storms to prevent this from happening.
From testing the battery to replacing the tires, there are many steps you can take to prepare your diesel truck for winter. Follow the guidelines discussed above to prevent damage and stay safe on snowy or icy roads. Do you need help with diesel truck maintenance or repair in Ohio? If so, JE-CO is here for you. Contact us today to learn more or request service.