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Engine Cooling System Maintenance Tips for Truck Drivers

technician inspecting condition of coolant

Did you know that up to half of all major engine failures are a result of cooling system issues? That’s a lot of downtime, which costs drivers big. Establishing a well-rounded preventive maintenance program is the best way to get the most value out of your equipment and maximize uptime, especially when it comes to the cooling system.

Essential Duties of Cooling Systems

The cooling system is the primary way your engine protects itself from the heat of combustion. In other words, it keeps your engine from overheating. The primary function of the coolant is to regulate the heat and transfer it to the radiator. If a problem in the cooling system hinders that removal of heat from the engine, equipment issues and eventually engine failure will occur.

Coolant is also used to cool doser assemblies and keep DEF tanks thawed in the winter. If coolant is leaking from the system, it can travel to the exhaust system and eventually damage aftertreatment devices as well.

Over the years, engine cooling systems have evolved to keep up with exhaust gas recirculation and other emission and fuel efficiency technologies. Today, these systems have different coolants and metal protection strategies as the industry adapts to newer technologies, but the inspection process is still very much the same.

Cooling System Maintenance Tips for Maximum Uptime

Damage to this system can be difficult to see until it’s too late, which is why cooling system maintenance must be included in every driver’s preventive maintenance routine.

Recommendations may vary from one manufacturer to another, but there are still common cooling system maintenance guidelines every driver should follow:

  • Make sure your cooling system is properly filled with coolant at every PM interval and during pre and post-trip inspections. Most trucks have translucent tanks or a sight glass for checking coolant levels. 
  • Check the condition of your coolant to ensure it’s at the optimum freeze point. 
  • Inspect your radiator, belts and hoses for potential failures and deterioration, especially ahead of winter. 
  • Perform a pressure test on your cooling system to make sure no leaks are present. The most common cause of cooling system issues is due to a lack of coolant as a result of leaks. Have any leaks repaired by a professional technician immediately.
  • Properly flush the system whenever coolant is changed and be sure to use the right coolant mix and water dilution. Coolant is comprised of 50 percent water and can rust or cause metal flaking in the engine—contaminants which must be removed by flushing the system. 
  • Check the engine fan to ensure it cycles properly and is in good mechanical condition. Make sure the shroud and all mounting hardware are secure and in good working condition.

Catching Issues Early On Helps Control Maintenance Costs

Identifying leaks and catching issues early on is key to controlling maintenance costs. That’s why knowing when to address them is also crucial. Pay attention to these warning signs and symptoms that may indicate your cooling system needs maintenance:

  • Low coolant light comes on.
  • Check engine light comes on.
  • Engine shuts off by itself. 
  • Coolant is leaking under the engine on the ground. 
  • Heater or defroster issues.
  • Temperature gauge running higher than normal.

If you experience any of these warning signs or are due for your next PM, stop into a TA Truck Service shop near you to see how our technicians can help. Our PM packages include more than just an oil change—choose our Ultimate PM package and we’ll check your coolant level and freeze point, all coolant hoses and belts for any wear and tear and more!

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