With summer just around the corner, you’re probably thinking about barbecues, swimming pools and fireworks. But you should also be asking yourself, “Are my trucks ready for the summer?”

It’s always a good idea to perform a summer maintenance inspection on your trucks/fleet – especially if those trucks have possibly been sitting for extended periods of time. This will help ensure safe vehicle operation and eliminate unscheduled equipment downtime that can eat away at your bottom line.

Below are some tips to help you prepare for summer operations:

1 – Take a Break and Check the Brakes!

During the annual Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) Brake Safety Week held October 2021, the out-of-service rate related to brakes was 13.5% out of the 28,694 vehicles inspected. Here’s a few tips to ensure your vehicle doesn’t fall into these statistics: 

Take the time to verify that the brake system’s moving parts operate properly. S cams and automatic slack adjusters must operate properly to maintain the maximum amount of braking efficiency. 

Improperly adjusted brakes can affect brake performance and reduce braking efficiency. Check to ensure brakes are properly adjusted, and brake linings and shoe thickness are within safety standards. Also verify that brake hoses and tubing are in good condition. Hoses and tubing that are cracked, chaffed or kinked affect braking efficiency.

2 – “Kick the Tires”

During the colder weather months, tires experience temperature changes that can cause tire pressure fluctuations. Tire pressures should always be checked daily during pre-trip inspections to ensure proper tire inflation, which improves fuel economy and maintains proper road contact. If snow tires were installed, then now is a good time to change them for fuel economy purposes.

Inspect tire tread for abnormal wear and depth to ensure tires contact the road surface properly. Replace any tires with abnormal wear and insufficient tread depth. If tires are replaced due to abnormal tread wear, the root cause needs to be identified and corrected to prevent premature tire failure.

3 – Keep Your Cool with A/C

Test for system leaks and that the A/C system is properly charged for maximum cooling efficiency.

4 – Charge Up Your Truck

The summer heat can be brutal on batteries. If your battery is not up to par, it can fail. Verify batteries are fully charged and test them to ensure optimal performance and prevent a no-start.

5 – Tighten the Belts and Hoses

Give all the hoses and belts a once over to verify that they are in good condition and not showing any signs of leakage.

6 – Get Your Fill

Inspect the engine coolant to ensure it’s in good condition and providing proper protection to the cooling system. A properly maintained cooling system prevents rust, dirt and scale from entering the cooling system. It also prevents overheating conditions that may cause severe engine damage. It’s very important to use the coolant recommend by the equipment manufacturer. And don’t mix different coolant types.

Change engine oil as recommended by vehicle manufacturers for the vehicle application. Extending engine oil changes beyond specifications is a recipe for disaster, potentially leading to expensive repairs that could have been avoided. Also, make sure that transmission and brake fluids (for hydraulic brake applications) are at their proper levels and in good condition.

Remembering to this summer prep every year can seem like a laborious, unnecessary chore – but as the old adage goes, “a stitch in time saves nine.” So, following these basic maintenance tips will help ensure your vehicles run smoothly and keep all drivers safe throughout the summer months and beyond.

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About the Author

Ken Wagner

Ken Wagner is the Coordinating Senior Editor for Mitchell 1’s Commercial Vehicle Group (CVG) and has been with Mitchell 1 since 2007. He is an ASE-certified Master Truck Technician. Prior to joining Mitchell 1, Ken worked at an international truck dealership as a technician and in 2006 retired from the U.S. Navy Seabees as a Construction Mechanic Chief after 24 years of active duty service.