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  February 19th, 2022 | Written by

Preparing to De-winterize Your Truck Fleet: 8 Important Steps

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  • Maintaining efficiency and minimizing maintenance costs means adapting to all weather conditions.
  • Every fleet must include de-winterization as part of its maintenance schedule.
  • Without these considerations, de-winterization will be insufficient.

Experienced fleet owners understand the importance of winterizing trucks when cold weather comes around. However, de-winterization often doesn’t get the same amount of press. Despite being a crucial step, many fleets may overlook de-winterization or rush the process.

Maintaining efficiency and minimizing maintenance costs means adapting to all weather conditions, not just the cold. Here are eight important steps to de-winterize a truck fleet.

1. Inspect for Damage

The first step in the de-winterization process is to check for any damage that might’ve occurred in the winter. As ice accumulates and then melts, it could seep into a truck’s metal parts and cause rust. De-icing chemicals on the road have a similar effect, causing $15.4 billion in rust damage over the last five years.

As the weather starts to warm, fleets should inspect their vehicles for damage like rust, chipping paint, and excess wear. Many of these hazards can be small and easily overlookable when they’re not paid attention to, but they’ll lead to more significant damage. Looking for and addressing winter damage early can help prevent larger, costlier breakdowns.

2. Check Tire Pressure and Treads

As fleets inspect their trucks, they should also address the tires. Tires will lose a significant amount of air pressure in colder weather as the air condenses. As the weather starts to warm, this could lead to severely underinflated tires or uneven inflation.

Fleets will likely have to inflate their tires more frequently as the weather changes than they would normally. Anticipating this shift can help fleets adapt their maintenance schedules to prevent uneven wear from underinflated tires.

While workers inspect truck tires, they should also pay attention to the treads. The rubber could’ve hardened in the cold, leading it to wear down faster or even crack. If fleets don’t check for this damage and replace any worn-out or cracked tires, it could cause serious accidents.

3. Look for Animals and Nests

One part of de-winterization that can easily go overlooked is checking undercarriages and engines for animals. As temperatures drop, small animals sometimes shelter in vehicles to stay warm. If they stay hidden, they could cause serious damage to a truck and may get seriously injured in the moving parts.

Fleets should inspect truck engines, wheel wells, and undercarriages for evidence of animals. If they find any, workers can get rid of them by making loud noises on the truck to scare them away or enticing them out with food. These checks should happen regularly throughout the winter, especially if some vehicles lie dormant, but they’re a critical part of de-winterization, too.

4. Change Oil and Check Other Fluids

A more obvious but still crucial de-winterization step is checking and changing the trucks’ fluids. Lighter fluids don’t thicken as easily, so many fleets switch to lighter oils in the winter. While most drivers know to make this switch, it’s important to change back to a heavier oil as the weather warms

If trucks used 0W-20 in the winter, they could switch to 5W-20 as winter ends to ensure proper lubrication. This switch shouldn’t add any time to regular maintenance schedules since fleets should already perform regular oil changes.

This step applies to other fluids, too. Fleets should check their wiper fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and – if any trucks have automatic transmissions – transmission fluid. Even if fleets don’t need to change them, they may need to replenish them.

5. Wash the Exterior

Washing fleet vehicles may seem unimportant at first, as their utility is far more important than their appearance. However, washing should be a standard part of de-winterizing fleets, not to get rid of dirt but salt and de-icing chemicals.

Since more than 70% of roads in the U.S. are in snowy regions, salt and other de-icers have likely accumulated through the winter. These materials can corrode metal parts if they sit on the vehicle for too long. Fleets can avoid breakdowns and high maintenance costs simply by washing these materials off their trucks.

Some fleets may even want to wax their trucks. While this step isn’t necessary, it can protect the trucks’ paint and prevent early corrosion.

6. Align and Balance the Wheels

As trucks stop for de-winterizing maintenance, fleets should align and balance their wheels. Fleets likely already include wheel alignments and balancing in their regular maintenance schedules, but it should be a part of de-winterization regardless.

Water that seeps into cracks in the road freezes and expands in the winter, creating more cracks and potholes. As a result, road conditions during the colder months tend to take a larger toll on truck wheels. Aligning and rebalancing them as the weather starts to warm will help avoid damage from these poor conditions, minimizing ongoing maintenance costs.

7. Check the Batteries

Another part of the truck to inspect is the battery. Batteries produce less current at low temperatures, so they have to work harder to deliver the same power in the cold. Consequently, they’ll wear out faster in the winter, so fleets should check to see if they need to change them as winter ends.

De-winterization checklists should include a battery voltage test. This will reveal if a truck’s battery has depleted faster than expected, and fleets can adjust their maintenance schedules accordingly. If batteries have seen substantial damage or drainage, it’s best to replace them ahead of time to avoid complications down the line.

8. Replace the Wiper Blades

Finally, fleets should replace all trucks’ wiper blades as the winter subsides. The rubber on these parts becomes hard in the cold, causing them to wear down and crack faster. Replacing them before heavy rains start will ensure this damage doesn’t cause more significant issues.

Even if wiper blades seem fine, it’s best to replace them during de-winterization downtime. That way, no cracks or other damage invisible to the naked eye threaten the wipers’ integrity down the line. It may also be a good idea to supply drivers with an extra pair of wiper blades in case they encounter any issues while driving.

De-winterization Is as Important as Winterization

De-winterization may not see as much conversation as winterization, but it’s just as important. If fleets overlook these maintenance steps, lingering issues from the winter or improper preparation could create larger issues. They could endanger drivers or lead to more expensive repairs in the future.

Every fleet must include de-winterization as part of its maintenance schedule. These eight steps aren’t the only things that these processes can cover, but they provide a baseline. Without these considerations, de-winterization will be insufficient.