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How to Identify When a Clutch is Failing

5 Signs of a Bad Clutch

For heavy-duty trucks, the clutch plays a crucial role in the rig’s full functionality. The mechanical piece acts as the link between your engine, transmission, and driveshaft and allows drivers to shift between gears while hauling freight. The clutch also optimizes your engine’s performance, maximizes your rig’s fuel economy, and helps drivers achieve top-notch safety, when properly maintained.

While most clutches are designed to withstand long hauls and excessive use, these mechanical links are not indestructible. The fact is, at some point in your driving career, you’re guaranteed to replace a clutch or two. How often you replace them depends on several factors, including how well you operate the equipment and the amount of maintenance you put into it—but you’ll still replace the piece, eventually.

Signs of a failing clutch and how you can fix it.

As previously mentioned, the life of a clutch can vary depending on the application, hauling frequency, and the weight of your cargo; even the amount of traffic you face can have an effect. And while some modern rigs offer a maintenance light for the clutch, older rigs don’t have the luxury. So, how do you determine a failing clutch before it becomes a dangerous problem?

Here are the most common indicators to listen and feel for when determining the state of your clutch:

1. The engine is running fast, but the rig is moving slow.

When it feels like your engine is running faster than your rig, you may be experiencing “clutch slippage.” This issue occurs when the clutch’s ability to generate friction is compromised. 

The issue is, the clutch relies on this friction to turn the flywheel, and without it, the clutch has to work harder to produce less energy, resulting in the engine running harder than your truck. This could also cause your engine to be noticeably louder when accelerating.

So, what causes slippage, and how do you fix it? Generally, slippage is caused by wear and tear on the clutch or heat damage from “burning the clutch.” The problem can also be due to an oil or transmission leak, or occur when the pressure link is damaged or does not transmit adequate force due to a blockage or rust damage.

2. When the clutch pedal is pressed, you hear a squealing or chirping.

If your clutch pedal is squealing or chirping, it’s likely due to an issue with the throwout or pilot bearing. To avoid this problem, regularly check the parts and keep them well-lubricated to avoid frequent rubbing.

3. The pedal is noisy, sticky, spongy, or loose.

If you notice the pedal making any abnormal noises or feeling sticky/spongy, you may be looking at an issue with the clutch fork. This problem can be due to inadequate lubrication or general deterioration and can be determined/fixed by a technician.

If the pedal squeaks or feels loose, you may need to replace the pedal’s spring or another ill-fitting component.

4. The clutch won’t engage.

A few different things could cause this issue of a sticky or unresponsive clutch. For starters, there may be an issue with the clutch pedal not being compatible with a specific part or component. However, you could also be looking at a problem with the clutch disc or pressure plate. 

The possibilities for this problem are somewhat endless, so it’s best to have a technician run further diagnostics tests to determine the cause and solution.

5. You hear a grinding noise.

This grinding noise is often called a “dragging clutch.” While this could result from an issue with the pressure plate or throwout bearing, it’s typically a problem with the release mechanism. 

When you press the clutch pedal, your clutch should release so you can change gears without grinding them. However, if there’s a problem with the release, the gears will create a grinding sound and, in turn, damage your transmission.

You will most likely need a new clutch assembly to resolve this problem, but you should have a technician inspect your pedal to ensure all components are correctly installed.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s vital to make an appointment with a trusted mechanic or service technician. They will be able to diagnose your clutch’s issue properly and determine which parts and/or repairs you may need.

How to optimize the life expectancy of your clutch.

Whether you’re replacing parts of your clutch system or replacing the entire mechanism, every truck driver will eventually be forced to replace their clutch. However, with proper maintenance and regular inspections, you can optimize the life and performance of your clutch and keep on trucking. 

Below are the best ways to keep your clutch in top shape

1. Don’t ride the clutch.

You’ve probably heard this statement before, but it’s essential for a long-lasting clutch. After a long haul, it can be easy to rest your foot on the clutch pedal or leave it halfway down to make changing gears more manageable. But, in the long run, the minimal amount of comfort you will achieve is not worth the excessive amount of damage to your clutch and transmission.

Bottom line, when you aren’t shifting gears, keep your foot off of the clutch. Instead, use the dead pedal or the floor.

You should also avoid using your clutch as an alternate brake or as a way to prevent your rig from rolling back on hills.

2. Be sure to shift gears properly.

To properly change gears, only shift after you’ve fully engaged the clutch and keep the pedal down until you’re in gear. Once you’re where you want to be, come off of the pedal quickly and smoothly.

It’s vital to the longevity of your clutch to make decisive changes. And while a few modulations may be necessary when coming out of first gear, it’s essential to not leave your clutch in between the “engaged” and “disengaged” positions for too long.

3. Always park in neutral.

When parking your heavy-duty truck, be sure to park while in neutral. To do so, put your transmission in neutral, then apply your parking brake. After that, shift into first gear if facing uphill, or reverse if facing downhill. Following these steps will not only prevent your rig from rolling away but will also ensure that there is no excess pressure on your clutch.

How a repair loan can help.

When your truck breaks down or needs parts and repairs, your income and livelihood are put at risk. And if the repairs or parts required aren’t within your budget, you could be facing quite the predicament. Fortunately, Mission Financial Services can help by offering specialized commercial vehicle repair loans that assist in covering the cost of repairs and help get your rig back on the road

To obtain a commercial vehicle repair loan, you will need to complete and submit three online forms, including a credit application, vehicle spec sheet, and sales order. 

Q&A: Trucking Expert Talks Inventory Shortage

What began as whispers of a potential vehicle shortage quickly became a leading source of concern for fleet owners and operators. This looming threat of operations being forced to shut down over inevitable repairs and mishaps or a lack of vehicles to move freight is troubling in these times of high demand. And with so much uncertainty regarding the issue, many in the industry are left with unanswered questions and concerns.

To answer the main questions surrounding the inventory shortage, we sat down with Charles Smith, Regional Business Development and Marketing Manager for Mission Financial Services. As an auto finance institution operating across the country, Mission Financial has provided Smith a unique opportunity to see behind the curtain on many of the industry’s pressing topics.

Exclusive Interview with Charles Smith

Q: What has been the most significant hardship for Mission Financial Services during the shortage, and how have you dealt with it?

A: The biggest hardship here at Mission Financial is the lack of applications being funded.

With the current situation, dealers just don’t have the inventory to meet the demand of the customer, which trickles down to financial institutions that are used to funding deals on a regular basis. One way we’ve dealt with this is to keep knocking on doors and letting my customers know that Mission Financial is still here for them.

Charles Smith, Mission Financial

Q: What has been the most considerable hardship for the dealers and/or others in the industry?

A: The biggest hardship for my dealers would be the lack of inventory. Now, the supply can’t keep with the demand. Not only is the trucking industry feeling the heat, but other industries are as well.

Q: Was COVID-19 the only cause of the vehicle shortage?

A: Yes, COVID-19 was the driving force of the shortage. When the pandemic hit China, the production of automotive microchips experienced a major decline, because that is where they are produced. Without these chips, manufacturers can’t produce new units, which is why we are where we are today. What we are currently experiencing is the result of a global domino effect.

Q: When and how do you think it will end?

A: Unfortunately, at the moment, I see no end in sight. According to recent market analysis, it may be another year before we can see some relief from this devastating virus. However, some of my dealers remain optimistic that we could feel some ease by the second quarter of 2022.

Q: Any advice for drivers, fleet owners, and other industry members?

A: To my drivers out there: keep your equipment well maintained so you can keep moving freight until you get the new rig you’ve probably already ordered. Plus, with spot rates at an all-time high, there’s a lot of money to be made out there. Just keep on truckin’ because we need you.

Related Content:

How to retain your top drivers during a shortage

Used truck prices continue to skyrocket

How to Keep Your Truck on the Road

The Importance of Semi-Truck Repair Loans

Recently, the trucking market has taken a nosedive due to the severe vehicle and parts shortage that has been wreaking havoc since 2020. With the current inventory not meeting industry demands, the market for these vehicles has become insanely competitive. In fact, in July of this year, Class 8 vehicles and other heavy-duty trucks sold rapidly while their prices spiked at a year-over-year rate. According to the ACT, unit sales went up by 26.6% compared to last year’s numbers and prices of Class 8 vehicles increased by at least $77,000. Unfortunately, due to the current state of the world, there’s no guarantee as to when inventory or prices will balance back out.

Those who already have a running rig have an advantage over the new drivers entering the buying and selling arena. However, if your truck breaks down and is in need of parts or a serious repair, you may find yourself in the same situation as green truckers. 

Everything You Need to Know about Annual Semi-Truck Maintenance

The truth about used truck repairs

On average, a single truck driver travels anywhere from 45,000 to 100,000 miles per year. And with working hours and delivery demands regularly increasing, it can be easy to forget about scheduling regular or preventive maintenance. However, for used trucks, care is crucial for keeping your rig on the road, especially amid the current inventory shortage.

It’s also important to prepare and plan for the inevitable repairs that come with owning a used or older truck. As an owner/operator, it’s vital to keep essential tools in your cab so you can solve common repairs on the fly and stay on schedule. 

The most common used truck repairs include:

If you want to be extra careful, be sure to prepare your vehicle for the various seasons and the weather conditions that come with them, like high temperatures in the summer and icy roadways in the winter.

5 Most Common Truck Problems and Repairs

The impact of the vehicle shortage

As previously mentioned, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, automotive manufacturers and parts manufacturers have been battling a labor decline and production delays brought on by the effects of the coronavirus. These obstacles eventually caused a massive vehicle and parts shortage that still affects dealers and consumers globally. Once cases declined and businesses began reopening, manufacturers assumed they’d be able to ramp up production and compensate for the lack of product. However, they did not anticipate their suppliers being hit by a wave of various natural disasters, further causing more closures and setbacks. Dealers saw no end in sight and began offering extreme incentives and personalized financing plans to move stagnant inventory, not realizing they’d be left with virtually nothing in the way of new and used stock. This move ultimately solidified the shortage that companies and consumers are still battling to this day.

Unfortunately, this shortage has had a significant effect on the trucking industry. Newer truck production is still moving at a snail’s pace due to a large raw materials shortage, and truck dealers are experiencing drops in sales of up to 0.6% month-over-month. Under these circumstances, drivers could sell their used rigs and receive top-dollar, but it would be unwise if they plan on using that money to buy a new or used truck, seeing as how neither really exists at the moment. Shippers are also continuing to pay higher premiums for transportation due to the disruptions in the supply chains. The DAT suggests that spot and contract rates are higher than they’ve ever been while freight volumes decreased by about 8%. To top it all off, drivers are experiencing port congestion, unloading delays, a tighter intermodal capacity, and more freight than the commercial trucking industry can handle, especially as the holidays move in.

Where Did All of the Trucks Go?

How semi-truck repair loans can help

As a truck driver, your vehicle is your lifeline. When it breaks down or needs parts and repairs, your income and livelihood are on the line. And if the repairs or parts required aren’t within your budget, you could be facing quite the predicament. Fortunately, companies like Mission Financial Services can help by offering specialized commercial vehicle repair loans. These loans assist in covering the cost of repairs and help get your rig back on the road. 

With older or used vehicles, you’re more likely to face frequent, costly repairs than newer trucks, especially if you’re operating at a higher capacity. That’s why it’s crucial to have a personalized repair loan at the ready to protect your investments and income. 

For added protection, companies like Mission Financial Services offer a multitude of specialized loans and financing offers, including:

  • Repair loans
  • Commercial vehicle title loans
  • Personal loans
  • And refinancing options

What are your options to cover the cost of semi-truck repairs?

Why wait?

To obtain a commercial vehicle repair loan, you will need to complete and submit three online forms, including a credit application, vehicle spec sheet, and sales order. You will provide your contact information, your past and present employer, income specificities, and any previous financing information for your credit application. The vehicle spec sheet will require information like make, model, vehicle I.D. number, and mileage so you can obtain the best loan that fits your exact needs. The sales order will show the sales price of your commercial vehicle as well as its taxes and fees.

Top 10 Truck Driving Jobs

Take a moment and think, what is one industry that has been behind the success of every other business in the world? That’s right, the trucking industry. 

There’s no denying that the profession of trucking has and continues to be one of the largest contributors to the American economy. Without it, millions of hardworking individuals would be without a job, and other businesses, like Amazon and Walmart, would collapse due to limited resources and the inability to ship. Different vital industries like construction, oil and gas, and automotive would also suffer greatly without trucking. And without the success of these enterprises, America’s economic infrastructure would ultimately give way. 

-> What Would Our World Be Like Without Truck Drivers?

So you see, truck drivers indeed are the backbone of our society, the oil that keeps the machine running smoothly, if you will. Fortunately, the essential occupation doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, making it one of the most secure jobs in the world. The only thing left to do is pick the type of driver you would like to be. No pressure.

What are the Different Types of Truck Drivers?

Flatbed Truckers 

Built differently than traditional tractor-trailers, flatbed trucks typically require additional training or education to execute safe and effective operations. On top of that, their drivers must thoroughly understand what they will be hauling and how to secure it properly since flatbed loads must be secured differently from tractor-trailer cargo. Typical freight includes vehicles, military vehicles, oversized freight, and oddly shaped cargo that doesn’t fit well on other truck types. Fortunately, since flatbed trucking is more demanding, it typically offers higher pay than different driving positions.

Dry Van Truckers 

Dry van trucking is an excellent position for those entering the occupation with minimal experience. These drivers are typically responsible for single trailer rigs that contain items like non-perishables and dry goods. A bonus for this title is that drivers are often not accountable for unloading upon arrival.

-> Buying vs. Leasing a Semi-Truck: An Owner Operator’s Guide

Tankers 

If dry goods aren’t your thing, you may be interested in becoming a tanker. Tankers primarily transport a variety of liquids, including gasoline, chemicals, and even milk. However, there are times that tankers will also be responsible for hauling dry products like cement or sugar. But in some cases, these drivers could also be dealing with highly explosive chemicals and gases. Since moving this delicate cargo can be, in some ways, dangerous, special training is required before starting this job.

Freight Hauler 

Otherwise known as commercial truckers, freight haulers specialize in moving cargo that does not fit into a specified category like reefers and tankers. These drivers need to be flexible and good with change.

-> Post-Pandemic Era for the Freight Industry?

Refrigerated Freight (Reefer Drivers) 

Refrigerated freight truckers have a pretty strenuous position. They are responsible for hauling loads that need to be kept at specific temperatures, like food, meats, highly perishable goods, medical products, and body products. That all being said, it’s crucial that reefer drivers know how to regulate the trucks’ temperatures, monitor for fluctuations, and adequately store freight for best refrigeration and temperature stability. Like flatbed drivers, reefers are often paid more than other types of drivers due to the amount of responsibility they are charged with.

Local, Regional, and OTR Drivers 

Local, regional, and OTR drivers are labeled or defined by the mileage they acquire. While local drivers only haul within a city, regional drivers often move freight throughout an entire state or metropolitan area. For OTR drivers, they have the potential to be given routes across the United States.

-> Why Owner/Operators Should Run Hard This Holiday Season

Auto Haulers / Car Haulers 

Auto haulers, are given special trailers that can hold an abundance of various automobiles. Where they are taking these automobiles varies. Drivers may be transporting from auctions, local vehicle lots, or ports; you name it. With tens of thousands of dollars on the line, you better believe this job comes with a more than fair wage.

Hazardous Materials Drivers 

The typical hazardous materials driver will haul fuel, compressed gas, chemicals, waste, and other flammable/combustible materials. It’s crucial for drivers to be knowledgeable about the contents they’re hauling and how to handle them safely in the event of an emergency. To ensure everyone’s safety, special training, certifications, and/or permits will be required.

-> 5 Things Owner/Operators Should Do to Achieve Success

LTL Freight Truckers

 LTL, or Less Than Truckload, drivers move smaller freight and don’t need to go as far as standard shipments. With their cargo being on the smaller side, they will typically have multiple stops to make in one day and are generally responsible for unloading their own freight.

Low Boy 

The trailers that sit close to the pavement and the truckers who drive them are low boys. These rigs sit lower to accommodate taller equipment or cargo and provide stability with a lower center of gravity. In most cases, these trailers are hauling overly large freight, like manufactured homes, construction equipment, etc. However, these low boys don’t fly solo. They often are escorted by vehicles with flashing lights and signs that read something like ‘Caution’ or ‘Oversized Load.’

Which Type of Truck Driver Should I Choose? 

It’s clear that trucking is not only a high-demand profession, but it is a career that offers flexibility, the opportunity to travel, and the chance to meet and develop camaraderie with fellow drivers. Regardless of your age, gender, or educational background, your chances of achieving success are just as probable as the next. Best of all, the variety of job titles allows you to choose an occupation that best suits your life.  

Before deciding, you’ll want to consider personal factors such as your location, risk tolerance, situation, and experience. For example, if you’re new to the industry, you won’t want to dive headfirst into something like transporting hazardous materials.  There is a great likelihood that you will hold multiple positions with various skill requirements throughout your career. So, use this list as a guide to discover where to start or where to go next. 

Want to know how much truck drivers make? Download our infographic!

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