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Maintenance Tips to Avoid a Summer Meltdown

Summer often means more work, not less, for transport and machinery operators. And that puts added stress and strain on equipment, pressures that are amplified by Australia’s notoriously hot (and often wet) weather.

Ahead of the peak Christmas period, NTI risk engineers suggest simple measures like regularly checking tyres, brakes, filters and fluids will help avoid equipment failures and unnecessary and costly disruption to business operations. It could also have a big impact on fuel efficiency and safety.

“The standard of vehicle servicing and maintenance has an impact on the life expectancy of trucks and trailers and the life of running items like batteries, tyres and brakes,” NTI Heavy Motor Risk Engineer Paul Bressan says.

“Unfortunately, in the transport industry, because of relatively low profit margins, things like servicing and maintenance get pushed aside. But it’s vital as it increases life expectancy (of equipment).”

Tyres, brakes and batteries

The summer heat and humidity place added pressure on tyres, brakes and even batteries.

For example, higher temperatures will affect tyre pressure, which is a major determinant of fuel efficiency. In particular, under-inflated tyres flex more, which causes heat build-up. If conditions are already hot, under-inflated tyres are even more likely to fail.

“The summer heat on tyres is going to have an impact. Retreads are more likely to strip away. Make sure your tyres are inflated to the correct tyre pressures,” Bressan advises.

Higher temperatures will also put added strain on brakes. Beyond regular inspections, driving technique is critical to reducing pressure on brakes, he points out.

“Driving technique is really important. Less unnecessary braking lowers the risk of brake wear and failure,” he says.

Bressan believes battery checks should also be a central part of a daily pre-start check list for all drivers.

He says batteries also feel the heat, whether it’s overcharging because of the higher temperatures or grimy discharge from humidity. They also get a bigger workout during summer as drivers have air-conditioning running full throttle.

While most batteries are maintenance-free these days, if your battery has caps check the level and top up as necessary. If you have a maintenance-free wet cell, gel cell or absorbed glass mat (AGM) battery, look them over to be sure that they haven’t cracked or leaked.

For all types of batteries, experts suggest cleaning any corrosion from the terminals, ensuring all connections are secure, and making sure the battery is firmly mounted and safe from vibration.

Fluids, coolant and radiator

One of the most common problems encountered with summer trucking is an overheated engine.

Generally, overheating is caused by cracked hoses, leaks or even a loose radiator cap. The single most common issue, though, is dirty, blocked radiator fins.

Bressan suggests drivers check radiators daily – and be trained on what to look out for.

“Truck drivers, particularly on line-haul, need to have a mechanical mindset,” he adds.

Driveline and engine

Hot weather driving puts heavy demand on engine components, not just the cooling system.

Bressan recommends regularly checking and changing oil filters and using high-quality oils to prevent engine and driveline issues. Transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid should also be checked constantly, he adds.

Similarly, checking air filters is just as important. Dirty or clogged air filters can be overlooked and cause problems in the engine combustion chamber.

As transport operators head into their peak season, NTI’s transport specialists say implementing summer preparation, such as following a daily checklist of crucial components – especially tyres, brakes, batteries, fluids and coolants, filters and radiators will help avoid unnecessary and costly disruptions to business.

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