Essential Diesel Engine Maintenance Checklist for Truckers

According to the United States Census Bureau, there are more than 3.5 million American truck drivers as of 2019. The job comes with a ton of responsibility, as drivers transport goods and products that help make this country run smoothly. 

On top of daily tasks, truckers need to maintain their trucks so they remain reliable and don’t run into breakdowns. If you’re a trucker, you probably know that sticking to a diesel truck maintenance schedule is the best way to prevent your truck from breaking down while you’re on the job. 

However, if you don’t know what actions you should be taking when conducting your diesel maintenance check, you might be missing some crucial maintenance that could lead to engine problems and truck breakdowns. 

So, what are the best tips for diesel engine maintenance? Here is a comprehensive guide. Use this as your diesel maintenance checklist to ensure your loads get from point a to point b as smoothly as possible.   

What Are the Best Tips for Diesel Engine Maintenance?

There are many measures to take before heading out on the job. Knowing how to check your diesel engine can save you a ton of time and hassle. If you can identify an issue before you start driving, or you’re able to perform maintenance to prevent any future issues, you’re much less likely to experience breakdowns. 

Plus, your truck is your moneymaker, and you want to keep it in good working order. So here are seven tips to keep you and your truck on time, so you can get home to your family when you’re finished.

1. Follow A Maintenance Schedule

As you may know, diesel engine problems can cost you a large sum of money. Instead of waiting until your truck runs down for you to tend to it, get ahead of the game by taking some preventative measures.

For truckers, check the system regularly and replace any worn-down parts. This will reduce future maintenance and repair costs. 

If you’re a fleet owner or manager, it’s important to stay informed about the condition of every vehicle in your fleet. You should keep inspection documentation organized and available so you know the last date of inspection and when each truck needs an inspection next. 

For truckers and fleet owners, keep track of your regular maintenance. Keep a maintenance log and schedule, so you know the last time you performed maintenance and the next time you’ll be due.

2. Diesel Truck Coolant

Coolant prevents your engine from overheating. But old coolant that isn’t replaced can cause damage to your diesel engine. An ingredient in coolant is liquid ammonia, which has a pH level that increases over time. Its acidity creates problems for the other parts of your engine’s cooling system, causing them to rot. 

It’s important to check your coolant and replace it when necessary. To avoid burning yourself, check the coolant after your engine has been off for a while. You can access the coolant reservoir by removing the cap. Look down into the reservoir to see how much of the liquid remains. Then, decide if it needs topping off from there. 

If the coolant is old, flush it using distilled water to prevent harmful minerals from entering your cooling system. Once you’ve successfully drained the coolant, refill the reservoir.

3. Clean Your Engine

After miles and miles of driving on dirty and salty roads, your engine is going to need a pick-me-up. The three areas to focus on are fuel, oil, and air. That means checking that each part of your diesel engine is clean and running smoothly. 

Dirt and grime can also get into your engine after a long drive. Make sure you stay on top of this, so nothing in your engine gets clogged. This can be a big problem in the winter when salt from the roads gets into your truck engine. 

If you drive through salty areas, always do a thorough engine check periodically to counteract the effects of salt lingering on your vehicle and in your engine. If you’re not driving through salty areas, you still need to check for dirt and grime.

4. Truck Oil Change

Semi-trucks need their oil changed approximately every 25,000 miles. As you probably know, oil is what allows engine parts to run smoothly without overheating. Since one of the most common causes of semi-truck breakdowns is engine problems, keep an eye on your vehicle’s mileage. 

Other signs you probably need an oil change are your oil sensors detect low oil or your engine oil stick indicates low oil. Never ignore these signs because they could lead to much larger engine problems.

5. Fuel Filter Change

Every time you fuel up your diesel truck, it goes through a filter to make sure contaminants don’t enter your engine. How often should you change your fuel filter in a diesel truck? There’s some debate about this in the trucking industry, but it will depend on your truck and how much you’re driving. 

A good rule of thumb is to change the fuel filter every 10,000 to 15,000 miles. Your repair shop can give you a good estimate based on your individual specifications. It’s always a good idea to carry a spare with you, in case you realize you need to change it when you’re on the road.

6. Drain the Water Separators

Water and gasoline don’t mix. But diesel fuel is very hygroscopic. This means that diesel fuel can absorb water, which is why many trucks have a water separator near the fuel filter. 

Check your water separator before every trip. You should look for fuel in the see-through bowl and make sure nothing is leaking. Then, check if water needs to be drained. 

When the water separator gets full, you’ll need to drain it manually. Get a container to collect the water and place it underneath the spout. Turn the drain valve until the filter is empty and then close the valve again. Dispose of the water in an approved container, as it may contain fuel, making it hazardous. 

7. Check the Exhaust System

Our last tip for maintaining a diesel engine is to check the exhaust system. More specifically, check the diesel particulate filter. This part of your truck is responsible for lowering its emissions by capturing carbon particles before they escape through the exhaust pipe. 

The filter needs cleaning every 100,000 to 200,000 miles, depending on your vehicle’s duty cycles. Occasionally, your diesel particulate filter can malfunction, and the exhaust system will burn the carbon particles instead of capturing them. When this happens, you’ll need to take your semi into a repair shop for maintenance.  

Professional Diesel Engine Maintenance

Keeping your diesel engine well maintained is the best thing you can do to prevent breakdowns. Many small maintenance checks, like the ones discussed in this article, can be done yourself. 

When it’s time for full maintenance or repairs, or if you have questions about diesel engine maintenance, call Kelly’s Truck at 1-800-793-9282.

At Kelly’s, we offer small-scale maintenance to large-scale repairs. You can request quotes for services online and put in parts requests online. We also offer roadside assistance, and all our repairs are done in-house, so you know you’re getting the most efficient service possible. 

Serving the Bay Area community for over 50 years, Kelly’s Truck is here for all your maintenance and repair needs.

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