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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
In 2005, diesel engine manufacturers weren’t entirely sure how to attain the EPA’s future emissions regulations and standards. Ultimately, they were faced with having to think on their feet and start inventing new parts and systems if they planned on staying in business.
Not surprisingly, the industry delivered. The invention of SCR systems used fluid formulas to scrub nitrous oxides out of the diesel exhaust smoke chemically. This led to cleaner air and gave a much-needed boost to big rigs’ fuel economy. Experts say aftertreatment systems reduced harmful emissions by up to 90% for hydrocarbon and carbon dioxide and up to 50% in particulate matter.
While trucking companies and engine manufacturers feel the systems have proven safe and reliable, many aren’t fans of the amount of maintenance requirements to keep them functioning correctly.
Many don’t realize that before implementing the aftertreatment systems, private long-haul fleets were averaging around $1,200 per month on exhaust system maintenance, such as replacing a rusted or cracked pipe or fixing a turbo failure. Once the SCR systems were installed, companies were hit with an average of $27,000 per month in repairs. This 1,837% increase in expenses left fleet owners at a loss for words. We know what you’re thinking—how does any amount of maintenance add up to almost $30K per month? For optimal performance, today’s diesel emissions systems require EGR coolers and valves, diesel particulate filters, DEF dosing systems, and several sensors to work together in perfect harmony. If one item malfunctions or needs repair, the system will fail and force the heavy-duty rig and its driver to cease all operations, leaving the fleet owner with a severe financial burden.
In 2017, the American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council began monitoring various repairs and the costs associated with them to help fleets analyze how their fleets’ performance could be improved and, in turn, limit expenses. When data was first collected, exhaust system repairs were approximately $513; a year later, they increased by 27%, putting them at $405 per repair. Today, the costs are still rising as new technology, parts, and companies emerge.
Understandably, fleet owners and operators are tired of these looming and ever-increasing prices. However, the TMC found that these repairs wouldn’t be necessary with a bit of forethought.
Heavy-duty emissions maintenance tips
To combat costs and constant repairs, fleets have decided to operate outside of the aftertreatment system manufacturer’s recommendations. While the suggested intervals for repair and maintenance are fair in ideal scenarios, companies have quickly realized that it’s more effective to operate based on actual variables. These variables include truck usage, geography, fuel quality and consumption, weather conditions, applications, and more. After seeing how all these factors played a role in SCR system repairs, it became clear that investments in in-house equipment and technicians were necessary.
Another way to limit expenses is to perform routine cleanings, checks, and maintenance every 100,000 miles instead of the OEMs’ recommended 400,000 miles. Companies have also started looking at other vehicle functions to determine if they may be behind emission failures. For example, a simple fluid leak could be the cause of a reoccurring problem versus a malfunctioning sensor.
All of these preemptive measures will undoubtedly reduce costs and downtime, allowing more money to be available for improving your fleet.
With the need to meet the ever-increasing “just-in-time” demand for delivery timelines, changing logistics, and sweating the assets in longer life cycles of duty, it’s easy to slack on the preventive maintenance schedule.
As an operator, having the best tools in your toolbox to solve common problems and knowing when to make needed repairs is the key to meeting your target’s deadlines and keeping your rig rolling on schedule. That means that you’ve got to know all about the requirements of truck repair. Let’s explore some of the more common repairs that fleet operators see with today’s trucks.
1. ENGINE OVERHEATING
An overheated engine can cause many residual effects on a truck. For example, the issue might be a blown gasket, or something related to the fuel tank. Regardless, over time, this can lead to engine failure if the problem is left too long. Therefore, working with a maintenance professional is crucial to review and address signs of overheating on your vehicle. In the long term, this can prevent failure at a critical time and save you big bucks.
On average, here is what you will pay for “check engine” related repairs per state:
Starter mechanisms should be reviewed more often as the colder weather approaches. Starter failure can become a common problem in the winter months. Clear signs of issues with a starter will likely be noticed by the operator first, and the ignition will only get worse as the temperature outside gets colder. During the motor start phase, nonessential components (such as radios) should be turned off in order to diagnose the problem.
U-joints are necessary for power to transfer to the differentiator from the transmission. The U-joints must be lubricated to minimize wear and tear, and if the U-joint is about to fail, a driver may notice a clicking sound. Another sign of imminent U-joint failure can be vibrations at higher speeds. If a driver experiences either of these signs, at the earliest convenience, the U-joint has to be replaced.
4. BRAKE ISSUES
A comprehensive strategy for brake maintenance is critical. On a regular basis, likely due to the pressure from today’s larger payloads, modern trucks frequently experience issues with brake pedals or the braking system. Brake fluid leaks and even total brake failure can occur if trucks have not been maintained effectively. Fortunately, if one brake fails, the independent brake system still allows the driver to stop using the other brakes.
5. WHEEL BEARINGS & TIRES
In order for your wheel to move along the road with as little friction as possible, important components called wheel bearings are necessary. While they’re moving, if the driver notices an unusual amount of noise generated from the wheel wells, the bearings could be degraded. Another sign could be unstable road movements or a jerking feeling of the truck. Even if your tires are properly inflated, these types of problems are extremely common. Make sure to always replace worn out tires and keep plenty of spares on deck.
Federal safety regulations require all semi-trucks to have a full inspection by a qualified inspector annually. The inspection must meet the federal guidelines, performed by someone with the proper training, certifications, and experience.
Having a five-plus year plan of what you will need to replace could aid in planning and avoiding a show-stopping price tag. In addition, with the current post-COVID-19 climate, finding OEM assets required can be challenging in an emergency. Being prepared and aware of your options can be very critical in a crisis.
Semi-truck maintenance can be expensive and unpredictable, but it’s a necessary evil that comes with ownership. It’s tempting to put off repairs until damage occurs, but regular maintenance is crucial to preventing more severe problems down the road.
Want more information? Check out our blog, Everything You Need to Know About Annual Semi-Truck Maintenance.
Are you ready for a hot semi-truck summer? The warm weather is already here in some places, and truckers need to prepare their vehicles for what lies ahead. While most of this information may seem common sense, it serves as a good reminder for even experienced truckers to take proactive steps to prepare for the coming months.
With more than 15 million trucks and 2 million tractor-trailers on the road, owner/operators need to take special care of their equipment at all times. Here are some things truckers should keep in mind this time of year:
1. Do a summer maintenance checkup
Truckers traditionally make preparations for the harsh winter weather, while summer conditions are sometimes overlooked. Hotter temperatures may mean a new set of measurements and calibration to ensure each component is set to work properly.
Colder temperatures compress air within the tires, giving off the impression that the tire pressure is too low. Some drivers will put more air into the tires to account for this change. However, once the weather begins to warm up, the air decompresses and can make tire pressure too high. As temperatures rise, do a tire pressure check to set a new normal.
Battery and Engine
Batteries struggle to work their best in cold weather, so keeping a solid charge during the warmer months is usually not a concern. Truckers should double-check their battery, though, heading into summer to ensure it works properly. Sometimes excessive heat can drain a battery, so monitor its charge regularly. Truckers also need to verify their truck engines stay cool as well. Inspect the truck’s coolant levels and hoses to avoid overheating and replace any suspect parts before they break.
Spending all day in a truck without air conditioning sounds like a nightmare. Check internal cooling systems as summer starts, looking for leaks or cracks in the tubing. Get any parts replaced in order to have a comfortable ride no matter how hot it gets outside.
2. Be ready for emergencies
All experienced owner/operators know to be ready for whatever comes their way. That includes creating an emergency kit that can help when something goes wrong. An emergency kit should include items to help truckers survive and recover whenever an emergency happens.
Some key things to have in an emergency kit:
Several days of food and water
Cellphone and charger
Toolbox with tools of varying sizes
Swiss Army knife
It’s also a good idea to keep a first-aid kit in the truck. Use the beginning of summer as an opportunity to check that everything in the kit is current and replace any items that may have expired.
3. Take care of your health
It is vital that owner/operators take care of their physical and mental health at all times. During the summer months, truckers should wear sunscreen each day, even if they do not plan to spend much time out of the cab. While some truck windows protect from harmful UV light, truckers may often find themselves outside and need that layer of protection.
Truckers should also stay hydrated, drinking water and other healthy drinks while avoiding soda. Staying hydrated will help keep drivers alert while driving and avoid any possible distractions from feeling thirsty or dehydrated.
It’s also important to focus on regulating emotions on the road. The summer typically means more drivers on the road, especially on weekends. This may lead to increased traffic or more inexperienced drivers trying to navigate the increased traffic. Truckers must remember this fact and attempt to stay calm during stressful driving situations.
Preparing for a Busy Year
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to fade away, more and more people this summer are expected to travel. Even with increasing gas prices, there is expected to be a significant amount of traffic on the road as people want to leave their homes after spending much of the past year stuck inside.
Both owner/operators and other truckers must be prepared for this surge and ensure both their trucks and themselves are prepared for what comes ahead. For many truck drivers, the summer season may be seen as a respite from the snowy and icy conditions of winter. Summer brings its own challenges, but by taking the steps mentioned above, they can feel prepared and ready to take on the coming months.
Why it’s important to choose the right tires for your semi-truck
Every trucker has heard it a million times: The tires are the only part of the truck touching the road, so take care of them at all times. This advice has become so commonplace that it likely gets overlooked among the wide range of safety and performance checks drivers make each day before hitting the road.
It is imperative, though, that truckers ensure their tires work at peak performance at all times. A damaged tire presents an immediate safety concern for the driver and other motorists on the road. Let’s take a minute and look at what truck drivers should look for in their tires and the best ways to maintain them for safety and efficiency.
How to Pick the Correct Tires for Your Truck
The best tires for each driver depend on the type of truck piloted and the driver’s typical routes. Advances in tire technology continue to provide benefits, but even then, truck drivers may not be comfortable with some of the performance or cost tradeoffs that happen.
The traditional dual tire structure remains the most popular, but wide-based low-resistance tires continue to grow in popularity. As their name suggests, these tires provide less resistance than traditional tires, offering drivers improved gas mileage. When the price of diesel fuel is low, these types of tires are used less, as they need to be replaced more often; however, when the price of fuel climbs above $4 per gallon, they may become more cost-efficient over time.
How to Take Care of Your Truck Tires
No matter what type of tires you use, it is vital they work properly. Here are some tire maintenancechecks all drivers should regularly make.
Check air pressure.
Over- or under-inflated tires can reduce the performance of a truck and alter how it drives or reacts in an emergency. Drivers should manually check their air pressure before every trip to ensure it meets the manufacturer-designated standards. Larger fleets should consider using tire pressure monitoring systems (TMPS) and continuous tire inflation systems (CTIS) on trailers. While they bring an added cost, these systems ensure tire pressure remains safe and consistent.
Along with air pressure, the depth of tire treads should be checked before every trip. The standard way is to put a penny with Lincoln upside down between the treads. If Lincoln’s face is visible, it is time for a new set.
Based on where they are on a truck, tires can receive uneven wear and tear on the tread. Rotating tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles can help expand their life span. Along with rotating tires, complete a full three-axle wheel alignment as well. While these measures may seem tedious, they go a long way in keeping tires on the road.
Ensure proper wheel torque.
This is easier than it sounds. Wheel torque is the simple act of adjusting the lug nuts on your wheels. Wheels that are either too tight or too loose can cause damage while driving, so take a few minutes and check each one before you start a trip.
Practice good habits.
Tires are designed to perform a certain way. Driving too fast, making hard stops, or accelerating too quickly can quicken tire deterioration. Continue to drive in a safe manner that follows all road laws and best practices to protect tires and other valuable equipment.
Fix problems when they happen.
For busy truckers, it can be easy to neglect small items that need fixing. Too often, these smaller problems grow into larger ones that can increase the cost of repairs. If you notice something is wrong with a tire or any part of your truck, make an effort to fix it as quickly as possible, so it does not turn into a larger problem.
Stay up to date.
New information about tires and other preventative safety measures constantly change and are continually updated. Even experienced drivers need to ensure they have all the latest training and adhere to new standards and laws when driving. Drivers can never have enough training, so put yourself in a continuous learning state to enjoy long-term success.
Drivers today must work within several standards and regulations to properly operate on the road. This can feel like a lot at times. These steps are important, and taking smart care of your truck and its tires will provide sustainable financial benefits for you and your operation.