Spring Checks

Preparing your diesel for warmer weather

September 2014 Feature Michael Deulley

Every diesel owner has taken the time to prepare their truck for the Winter. Bone-chilling temperatures, the treacherous blanket of snow and ice on the roads and heavy salt deposits can take their toll on your daily driver. When winter is over, many diesel drivers feel that they are in the clear. The truth is, however, that winter may have had a greater impact on your truck than you thought. Although there are a few Spring tasks that are commonly performed like changing out your winter tires and having your plow (for the plow trucks out there) taken off for the warm season, there are many important steps to take that will ensure that your truck keeps running smooth this year.

During the Winter, a diesel truck combats fierce temperatures, corrosive salt deposits, ice and deep snow. With all the extra work that the truck is doing to keep running in the Winter, it comes as no surprise that some parts will exhaust themselves. Before any serious examination takes place, it's important to do a thorough cleaning of the diesel's underbody. Salt deposits and whatever else gets thrown around on the road will end up gnawing away at anything that isn't cleaned which leads to rust and an expensive repair down the road. After you're truck has it's bath, it's time to start with the basics.

Getting Started

Changing and rotating your tires is a good place to start. Winter tires wear out fast in the Spring and Summer months and it's important to have the proper rubber on the roadways. Checking and changing out your fluids is another important part of Spring prep. That engine still burns through fluids and it's important to keep track of fluid levels and how clean they are after the rigors of Winter. Another important thing to keep in mind is fuel and air filters. They're easy enough to replace if need be and will keep your fuel lines and air hoses flowing freely.

A Little Deeper

Once you've gone through the basic checks is when things start getting interesting. James Warren of Rollin Smoke Diesel in La Porte, Indiana, stresses the importance of battery inspection.

"After a cold season of glow plugs and grid heaters" Warren remarks,"it can take its toll on the batteries." Warren also pointed out. "If the truck was a plow truck, brakes are a must to replace as well as transmission servicing."

Many truck owners have probably had these checklists branded into their minds a million times over, but the importance of these checks are paramount to the safe and easy operation of the daily driver.

Air Conditioning?

Like the mid-west of the country, the far west sees its share of harsh weather and excessive snow fall. Every season, snow falls throughout the northern portion of the country and a lot of drivers have to force more power out of their engines to keep their truck moving along. Brent Willsey, owner of Powerlabs Diesel in Idaho Falls, Idaho, put emphasis on thoroughly inspecting the transmission.

"I normally tell them to check the transmission fluid." Willsey continued, "Because of the snow, people tend to run them harder." Brent also went on to talk about something that a lot of diesel drivers probably forget to consider: The air-conditioner. When the Winter is coming to a close, the weather may become a few degrees warmer, but it's not remotely warm enough to crank the AC. Unfortunately, most of us don't think about the AC until it's 100 degrees out and we're panting like the dog.

Taking care of the typical inspections are a great way to get a diesel truck functioning smoothly once the warmer weather hits. Most of these checks are done regularly throughout the year, but as diesel owners, it's important to take care of the simple stuff and protect everything that you've invested into it. But just because you did the "once over" and added an inch of wax over the clear-coat, doesn't mean you're ready to roll just yet. There are a few in-depth tips that will save you time, money and most importantly, your truck.

Full Inspection

Levi Perkins, the program manager for the diesel technology program at the College of Southern Idaho has spent the last 5 years as program manager instructing diesel technicians on the importance of diesel mechanics and how to properly care for diesel trucks. He stressed the importance of examining the front axle and the components associated with four-wheel drive pickups.

"One suggestion for owners of 4x4 diesel pickups is to have their inner axle universal joints inspected for wear and looseness." Perkins added "Another problematic area of concern on most modern diesel pickups are the unitized hubs…Unlike the old hubs, they are not serviceable, adjustable and cannot be greased and last half the amount of time as the older hubs."

In today's market, most diesels have been outfitted with larger tires due to the growing trend. While the truck may look more intimidating and give that flair that drivers are looking for, the larger tires wear out the hubs faster and need to be serviced more often. Fortunately, the process of checking the hubs is much the same as checking a ball joint so a simple look may be all it takes. While checking the front axle, be sure to gander at the tie rod ends and ball joints to ensure your suspension is still road worthy and make sure the alignment doesn't need corrected. Tire wear is one of the top issues that diesel owners face throughout the life of their truck and Winter is notorious for hiding potholes and curbs. I can understand if this seems like a lot to absorb, but don't worry, once the work is done you'll have another Spring and Summer to just enjoy the open, non-snowy road.

These handy little tips–although labor intensive and somewhat tedious–are a pivotal set of guidelines that will help provide an extended life for your truck and give you a perfect daily driver this Spring.For many diesel drivers, a lot of these tips may be common knowledge.  For others, these tips will give you that "Ah-ha!" moment and keep your truck on the road this year. Whatever driver you are, you have invested a lot of time and energy into getting your diesel just the way you want it and keeping up with the preventative maintenance will help ensure that your truck gives you that time and energy back. And hey, this Spring cleaning doesn't involve feather dusting drapes, so it's not all that bad.

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