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Monday, October 31, 2011

Get Your Rig Ready For Winter

1. Check your rig's oil grade

The typical big rig operates on 15W-40 oil, which is good in a wide range of temperatures but excels in moderate to hot climates. This oil is typically rated effective in temperatures up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, but will cease being effective when the mercury drops below about 14 degree Fahrenheit. For truckers in more moderate winter climates typically those below the Mason-Dixon line, this will certainly suffice. But those who do most of their business in the mid-Atlantic states, New England, and the Upper Midwest will find that 15W-40 graded oil is simply insufficient for the types of frigid temperatures they'll encounter. For this reason, it's recommended that serious cold weather truckers switch out their 15W-40 graded oil for the much more resilient 10W-40 graded oil during the winter months. For most people, this will be necessary between November and March though it's always best to judge based on your local area's typical winters. 10W-40 oil can withstand temperatures up to -5 degrees Fahrenheit, a level that is rarely reached even in the coldest parts of the continental United States.

2. Get an engine heater

It's no secret that starting up a rig during the winter months is a challenge unto itself. Most truckers opt to let their rig idle overnight in order to keep the engine warm and make the morning easier, but this no longer has to be the case. Instead, many truckers are restarting to engine warmers which actually surround the engine in a metal jacket and help to heat the coolant and the oil needed for a smooth start. In addition to making the cranking process easier, these engine warmers allow the engine itself to undergo far less stress on a cold day, and that only bodes well for longevity and reliability on the road.

3. Check your coolant

Using a hydrometer, measure the amount of coolant and water in your rig and ensure that the mix is just the right blend, or else you'll encounter one of two problems: a cracked cylinder block (because water expands when it freezes), or antifreeze coolant that has simply frozen solid and prevents your rig from starting effectively. This tool costs about $100 and will help to ensure that your engine is running with a 50/50 coolant and water concentration, which is the ideal concentration to avoid dangerous freezes of either the coolant or its water concentration.

4. Get a diesel fuel additive

Here's something most people don't consider as a possibility: the weather may get so cold that the diesel fuel which powers your rig may gel and be unusable. And, if you typically drive north to south, from warmer climates in Florida to the colder reaches of Minnesota, you'll find that the diesel fuel is even more prone to freezing and gelling. That's because southern climates promote the use of a different kind of fuel which isn't tested to such low temperatures. To prevent this complication, invest in a fuel additive that will keep the diesel fuel liquid and usable no matter the outside temperature.

Winterize Now, Get Peace of Mind Later

The key is to get all of these items in place before winter actually arrives and because it arrives at different times each year, it doesn't hurt to be prepared early. These four steps will ensure that your rig can start up, stay running, and maximize driving time without dangerous freezing or gelling. And they'll make it easier to crank and start up the rig on those cold January mornings that are legendary among long-distance truckers.

Jim is the managing editor for Trucker To Trucker which offers the best truck deals around. Trucker To Trucker also offers tips for truckers buying insurance and truck financing options.


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