Trailer Maintenance for the Winter Ahead
As the cold winter months are now upon us, we usually discuss ways to prepare a truck for the harsh weather that awaits. However, the steps needed to prepare a trailer are rarely talked about but are equally important.
Trailer maintenance is obviously a year-round obligation, and Preventive Maintenance (PM) is the key to managing your ownership costs – especially when the seasons change. The fluctuation in temperatures, humidity and road conditions can wreak havoc on both trucks and trailers. So as preparations are being assessed for the winter ahead, let’s take a look at how you can keep your trailer in prime operating condition.
A change in temperature will change the air pressure in your tires. Hotter weather tends to increase pressures, while colder weather will decrease pressures. Both situations require close attention, and regular adjustments, to ensure safe and efficient operation. Fuel economy is a major factor for owner operators these days, and properly inflated tires can also go a long way toward optimizing the efficiency of your trailer.
Having enough tread depth is important all year round. But when the temperatures drop and the snow begins to fall, the tread depth of tires on your trailer can take on added importance. Make sure each tire meets proper federal regulations (a minimum of 4/32 of an inch on the steer tires and 2/32 of an inch on all other tires). Even if all tires meet these regulations, if some are even close to the minimum limit, it may be easier and less costly to replace them before the weather turns.
Besides regular washes, diligent lubrication of trailer components can help prevent corrosion, especially during the winter. Some of the components that should be checked every 12,000 to 24,000 miles include the kingpin, 5th wheel pivot and plates, main rail, and drag link. Maintaining a keen eye on these components, and addressing them accordingly, can go a long way in ensuring proper winter maintenance.
Road salt can be both a blessing and a curse. It greatly improves traction on pavement, but it is also extremely corrosive. During the winter, it’s important to visit a truck wash on a regular basis to help avoid shortening the lifespan of both your truck and trailer. Doing this also gives you the opportunity to conduct a full visual inspection, which may reveal other issues you may not have been aware of, as well as locate any debris that might have been caught in those hard-to-reach areas.
Braking capacity is a factor that takes on additional significance during the winter. As roads become slick with snow and ice, you need to make sure your trailer brakes are up to the task of traversing such terrain. A thorough inspection of the brake hardware and ABS system can provide you with added peace of mind when driving in stressful winter conditions.
The change of seasons is typically accompanied by a change in temperatures and humidity levels – and both of these changes can lead to potential issues – especially for refrigerated trailers. Moisture can cause the insulating materials inside the walls to break down more rapidly, which can negatively impact the unit’s thermal efficiency. It’s also important to check for any damage including rips and punctures to the trailer’s inner or outer walls. Any holes that allow moisture inside the walls, ceiling or floor can cause a multitude of problems.
Climate Controlled Efficiency
Once the walls of a refrigerated trailer become compromised, the refrigeration must work harder to maintain proper temperature control. Which consumes more fuel and adds additional wear and tear to the equipment. Monitoring the weight of the trailer at regular intervals can help determine if there is an accumulation of moisture, or water pickup through condensation or leakage into the walls, floor or ceiling.
Other areas you’ll want to add to your checklist include looking for air leaks, door seals/locks, around vents, side doors and the refrigeration unit itself. To ensure a proper seal, check rear doors for any damage or warping to the panels, frame, or hinges. Also check all compression seals (including the vent doors) to be sure there’s a tight closure.
Ultimately, it’s important to make sure your trailers get the same attention as your trucks when it comes to routine maintenance and seasonal preparation. The last thing you want is a delayed shipment due to a preventable maintenance issue with your trailer. So, be sure to check in on each of the above listed items before you start rolling this winter.