Good Wear and Tear on Trucks


Ranchers put trucks through a lot of torment throughout the year and winter is a great time for maintenance and repair. Bobby Sewell, the Automotive Service Technology program chair at Arkansas Tech University’s Ozark campus, and Brian Bass, an instructor in the department, said the biggest problems they see with working trucks are with those that don’t receive regular maintenance.“People do not take the time to grease it – check the proper levels in your transfer cases, your rear drive axles, transmissions – even your motor oil,” said Bobby. “If you do good maintenance on your vehicles, if you have somebody who services it or yourself, you’re going to have good wear and tear on your vehicles.”

For many truck owners, the best source of maintenance information is the owner’s manual. Bobby said it should be kept in the vehicle, not stored away; a quick check can provide information on the frequency for checking and changing fluids. He said one area that’s frequently overlooked is the coolant.  “Everybody has a dial or a gauge so they can watch their oil pressure,” he said, “but they don’t really pay attention to their coolant unless it’s the hot summertime and they’re baling hay or hauling hay, because then they put a load on their truck and it tends to overheat.”

Bobby’s own owner’s manual called for coolant to be replaced every 100,000 miles; a lot of people use Dex-Cool antifreeze, which at one point could not be mixed with the familiar green coolants. Now it can, but if you add it to the cooling system in an emergency situation, you should make a point of doing a flush afterwards and replacing it with the manufacturer’s recommended product. Brian added there are tools – strips or a hydrometer – that can be used to test the percentage of antifreeze versus water in the system, as well as the acidity; if it’s too high, that can lead to corrosion and electrolysis, which can cause the heater core to leak.
If the truck is used for frequent, short trips and the engine rarely reaches the optimum 210°, it can lead to breakdowns. Brian said, “That puts you in a severe duty category, to where your maintenance intervals are shortened drastically with short hauls, driving on dusty roads.”

Farm trucks are often used for tasks beyond their capacity and Bobby said that can wear on the drive train, from the motor and transmission to the drive axles and drive shaft. “If I’m pulling a big combine with my truck,” he said, “and a trailer all the time, then I’m putting a heavy, heavy load on a small truck, and it’ll play on your U-joints.” In particular, the rear end bearings can fail – they can’t handle the stress from repeated hauls. And, he said, ”You want to make sure that trailer brake system is working, because if it’s not it’s going to put a lot more pressure on the power train of your vehicle.”

Although the brakes can be checked superficially by pumping the pedal, Brian said the best way to check them is to pull the wheels off and look at the pads. “See if there are any deformations in the drums,” he said. “Hot spots – you’ll see discoloration in the rotors. If the rotors get hot, it can cause the bearings to get hot also and cause the bearings to go bad quicker.” On a lot of trucks, he added, the front wheel bearings can no longer be greased, because they’re encased in a unit called the hub assembly.

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This article written by Gary DiGiuseppe, Ozarks Farm and Neighbor Contributor.