Hotshot truckers depend on their truck to pull their trailer and haul their load. A truck that is broken down can put you out of work for a week and that means no money. Preventive maintenance is the best way to take care of your truck properly, and it is probably the single best thing you can do for your hotshot truck.
Not everyone agrees on what preventive maintenance is, what you should do, and when you should do it, but have no fear! Here are some tips for keeping your truck in check.
1.) Read Your Owner’s Manual
Pay attention to your owner’s manual. Regardless of the truck you drive, your regular maintenance schedule is inside it, and you will never fall for old car myths like, “You should change your oil every 3,000 miles.” Unless of course, your manual says you should, but odds are it does not.
Seriously though, you would not build a bookshelf or set up a laptop without checking the manual to make sure you know what you are doing. By checking the owner’s manual, you will know how often to change your oil, your filters, any drive or timing belts, and even what kind of gas to put in your truck.
2.) Do Your Own Inspection
It is basic, but give your car a thorough once-over regularly. The point of this is to catch anything that looks out of the ordinary before it becomes a bigger problem. Make sure all your lights are working. Check the air pressure in your tires. Listen for any strange sounds, inside and out.
If you notice anything out of the ordinary, do not ignore it. You should fix it, and if you cannot do it yourself, find someone who can.
3.) Learn to Check Your Fluids
If you do not ever learn how to change your antifreeze, power steering, coolant, or even your wiper fluid, you should learn how to check those fluid levels.
Even if your owner’s manual does not have much to say about checking your transmission fluid or antifreeze, do not be afraid to open the hood and see if you can find it. If you are running low, add more (if you can) or get it changed. Most importantly, never ignore a leak.
4.) Inspect and Get Your Timing and Serpentine Belts Replaced When Necessary
Many people will tell you to get your timing belt replaced every 60,000 miles or so, and your serpentine belt needs to be replaced every 40,000 miles or so. Again, your owner’s manual will offer real numbers for your type of vehicle. If you cannot find the manual, research around online.
If you look around online, you will probably find the actual recommendation for your car. Use it as a guideline, and ask your mechanic. If they are still in good shape, don’t worry about it. If they are worn out, get them replaced before they fail. If you wait and those belts do fail, you will break down, and the damaged belt can damage other accessories, making the repair even more expensive.
5.) Check Your Oil and Get it Changed Regularly
Whether your car has a dipstick to check the oil’s color and oil level or the dipstick has been replaced with an electronic gauge, you should know how to check it. Knowing the difference between clean oil and muddy oil will save you a ton on unnecessary changes and gives you a way to tell if something’s wrong with your engine (for example, the oil looks terrible but you just had it changed).
It is hard to make a universal recommendation for how frequently you should change your oil, but the answer is mentioned in the owner’s manual. Do not just blindly follow the 3,000-mile myth though. Most vehicles can go as long as 10,000 miles, depending on the oil your vehicle calls for.
6.) Check Your Battery
Most batteries do not require much in the way of maintenance, but you should know where it is, and check it to make sure it is not leaking, or there is no mineral or another build-up on the contacts. If there is, clean it off with a battery cleaning brush. It will only set you back a couple of bucks at any auto parts or department store. Buy one and keep it in the truck.
While you are it, consider buying a cheap battery tester or jump start. You will never need to call and wait for someone to give you a jump.
7.) Change Your Spark Plugs
If your spark plugs are worn out or covered in the build-up, your engine is not working efficiently. That can cost you money in fuel for one, but it can also lead to a breakdown. A breakdown is not good for anybody.
If you do not feel comfortable changing them yourself, follow your manual’s recommendation and get them changed regularly.
8.) Replace Your Windshield Wipers
It may sound silly, but when the view gets streak-y, it is time to change your windshield wipers. Wipers are cheap and easy to replace yourself. Do not wait until you can barely see through your windshield.
Visibility is important, and you would not wait until you saw an optometrist to clean your glass, right? A good cleaning inside and out works wonders. Maybe the problem is the inside, not necessarily the outside.
9.) Replace Your Engine Air Filter
Getting to the engine air filter may be a little trickier depending on the vehicle you have, but replacing it regularly is important. Your owner’s manual will give you a mileage estimate for how frequently you should replace your engine air filter.
If you can get your engine air filter, check it. If it is dirty, replace it. If you drive a ton, like most hotshot truckers do, your engine air filter may get dirtier faster than someone who drives open roads or only drivers around on the weekends.
10.) Get Your Tires Rotated, Balanced, and Aligned
Your manual will tell you how often to do this, and it is important to do to make sure your tires wear evenly and your truck drives smoothly. You can make your tires, which are expensive to replace all at once, last much longer by getting them rotated and balanced.
Your alignment is just as important. If you are fighting with your car to keep it straight, that is a bad situation that can be easily corrected.
These are just a few things that every truck needs. It is not just something mechanics and car people tell you to do to spend money. Maintaining your truck will only let you spend more time out on the road.
How often do you maintain your truck? Let us know your tips and trick in the comments below.