Winter can take its toll on a truck, and if you don’t do a once-around inspection in the spring, it may cause you grief well into summer. Here are seven items to check, preventative maintenance items that may cost you an hour but might save you from many
Diesel Emissions Fluid (DEF)
Cap and tonneau cover care
Summer heat is just as hard on batteries as winter cold. For spring, clean and tighten the terminals, but also have it stress-tested to determine the health of the battery for the coming heat waves.
For any diesel truck this should be a normal part of everyday maintenance; however, as towing season is upon us, it’s good to remember that towing boats and RV trailers can easily double the normal consumption of DEF Fluid. Make sure it’s topped up before your summer road trip. (Photo courtesy 8Lug)
Caps and tonneau covers keep winter out of our truck beds and in doing so get covered in salt residue and road grime. This stuff isn’t only corrosive; it also gets into every nook, cranny, hinge and gear system. Wash everything down with soap – plain water won’t do it. A little water-repelling lubrication may also be called for, to keep everything loose and limber once it’s clean.
Out of sight, out of mind: that’s how many owners think of their truck’s undercarriage, making it the most often overlooked part in the spring tune-up. It shouldn’t be. Because of the way a ladder frame is constructed, it gathers more dirt, grime and corrosive salt residue than a unibody car. So get in there with the power washer and use the soap and degreaser—pay special attention to the cab and box separation and the engine cradle.
Have you used your hitch this past winter? Was the ball left in? Now, when you need it, can you be sure it isn’t rusted into place? Many owners encounter this surprise when they go to hook up for the first pleasure trip of the spring. Clean and lubricate all parts of the hitch receiver, ball and pins before you intend to head out. Check for corrosion damage at all welds and bolt heads where a hitch is attached to the frame—nobody want s to see their trailer in the rearview mirror disappearing into the distance as you roll down the highway.
Winter grime and corrosion is probably toughest on electrical lines and connections. Get a tester and check for current in all sockets. Clean the sockets and lubricate with light lithium grease. Pay special attention to ground wires—they are always the first to rust right off the frame.
Before hitting the road, inspect tire tread but, just as importantly, also look at the sidewall condition. Look for cracks and bulges that might indicate ply failure. Also remember summer heat adds one to two pounds of pressure for every 5-degree C rise in temperature. Towing also heats tires, so check pressures often. The added weight and heat stress may just be the straw that breaks your tire’s back. Anticipate this problem and replace rubber accordingly. Oh, and don’t forget to check the trailer tires too.