December 23

How to Know If You’re Properly Maintaining Your Truck

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Last Updated on December 27, 2022

Components wear out, fluids get used up, dirt accumulates, and parts get damaged. To get the most out of your truck(s)—from pickups to big rigs—you need to properly maintain them. We can help. Here’s how to know if you’re properly maintaining your truck!

Proper maintenance ensures small repair issues don’t morph into big problems, and that you don’t experience any truck-related downtime. This is especially important when you use your truck for business purposes, such as making deliveries or heavy hauling. 

In a work fleet of 10 delivery vehicles, if one truck experiences downtime due to mechanical issues, then the company loses 10 percent of potential revenue for as long as that truck is out of service. 

One of the best strategies to ensure your truck is properly maintained is to change out components before they break down. To do this, you have to know the life expectancy of key components and then schedule maintenance to replace those components before they reach the end of their lifespans. Otherwise, they end up failing while in use.

The truck’s owner manual will outline the lifespan of key components, so you have that option and you can consult the list below.

Maintain the truck’s lifeblood 

Every truck uses a lot of fluids, fluids which allow them to function properly. At certain intervals each of these materials will need to be changed.

Engine oil:

5,000-10,000 miles on pickups and 10,000-25,000 miles on semis. Some pickup truck manufacturers specify a lower range (5,000-7,500 miles) while using higher quality filters capable of 7,500-10,000 miles. Factors such as the quality of the oil, the cleanliness of air in the truck’s environment, and weather and climate also affect how long your truck can go without an oil change. 

Differential oil:

30,000-50,000 miles for both pickups and semis. Differential oil lubricates clutch packs, gears, bearings, the ring and pinion gears, and the differential, which is also known as the transaxle. This component is responsible for helping provide a smoother drive. Unlike engine oil, it’s designed to perform under high-pressure situations—not high temperatures.

Brake fluid:

Carfax recommends 20,000 miles (every two years) for pickup trucks but JiffyLube recommends 45,000. Check your owner’s manual. For semis, brake fluid should be changed every 35,000-40,000 miles. 

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Power-steering fluid:

50,000 miles for both pickup trucks and semis. Moisture and heat affect the quality power-steering fluid. If the fluid mixes with water, rust forms. If it becomes overheated for a long time, the heat will degrade the fluid’s quality. If either happens, replace the fluid immediately. 

Transmission fluid:

30,000-60,000 miles on semis and 100,000-150,000 on pickup trucks (although recent models of the Dodge Ram 1500 and the Chevy Silverado come equipped with transmissions whose fluids never need to be changed out). If transmission fluid is dark in color or smells burnt, drain it and fill the transmission with new fluid.

Coolant:

30,000-50,000 miles for both pickup trucks and semis (although some manufacturer’s specify 100,000 miles on their trucks).

Replace parts before they break

Here are the top five components regularly scheduled maintenance programs should check: 

Air filter:

30,000-60,000 miles for pickups and semis. However, pickups and drivers who drive long distances can expect air filters to last for a shorter duration.

Fuel filter:

10,000-25,000 miles for diesel-powered pickup trucks, 100,000 miles for gasoline-powered trucks, and 30,000-40,000 miles for semis. Although, some high-efficiency engines can go up to 60,000 miles.

Water separator:

20,000 miles for both diesel-powered pickups and semis. Diesel engines have a filter for separating water out of the fuel. The separator fills up with water and needs to be drained regularly. 

Spark plugs:

60,000-100,000 miles. Trucks usually have one spark plug per cylinder, but some have two per cylinder.  

Brakes:

30,000-70,000 miles for pickup trucks and 20,000-55,000 miles for semis. The range reflects the quality of the brake pad and how the truck is driven. On semis, it also depends on what kind of brakes are on the truck. Drum brakes last 20,000-25,000 miles and disc brakes last 45,000-55,0000. Although disc brakes last longer, they also cost more to replace. Another factor affecting semis is their application. Drivers of garbage trucks apply the brakes hundreds of times per day, whereas long-haul drivers may only apply the brakes a few dozen times in a day. 

With the above information combined with driving schedules, you can plan maintenance for your trucks to prevent part failure. Also, by planning your maintenance in advance, and regularly monitoring your notes, you gain the benefit of seeing when parts need to be ordered and always being able to order them on time. 

Preventative maintenance plan case study

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the maximum allowable driving hours for a trucker is 11 hours, followed by 10 hours of rest. The total permissible working hours per week are 60, with a weekend rest of 34 hours following. 

How many miles a truck driver drives in one day depends on speed limits and road conditions.

If a driver achieves 50 miles per hour for 10 driving hours, that would equal 500 miles driven per day. That would equal 2,500 miles per week, about 10,000 miles per month, and about 120,000 miles per year.

Let’s say you are a long-haul truck driver who owns one new semi truck (no mileage) and you drive the amount in the above paragraph. 

Take a spreadsheet and write out the name of the truck—Volvo VFX, for example—in the first column, and then below it, write out the name of each component (and fluid) you’re monitoring. 

The next column should be the mileage at which each component has last been replaced. For this example, that column would be blank, because the new truck hasn’t been serviced yet. 

The third column should be the date at which each component has last been replaced.

Make the fourth column the approximate mileage when that component should be replaced. For example, water separators need to be changed out every 20,000 miles. If the water separator was last changed at 176,000 miles, then the fourth column should read 196,000 miles. 

Volvo VFXLast Serviced MileageLast Serviced DateExpected Mileage before Service
Engine OilN/AN/A5,000-10,000
Air FilterN/AN/A30,000-60,000
Trans. FluidN/AN/A100,000-150,000
Spark PlugsN/AN/A60,000-100,000

Then just repeat the last three columns over and over again. This creates a truck maintenance history. 

If you have multiple trucks, do the same for each truck. 

In the above scenario where you drive 10,000 miles per month, you will have to perform some sort of maintenance on your new truck almost every month. Basically, any time the mileage put on a component nears its lifespan mileage, it needs to be changed out. And thankfully, these component replacements and other maintenance requirements can be planned.

A 12-month maintenance plan

Preventative maintenance begins with a plan.

Below is an example of a 12-month preventative maintenance plan. 

Month 1: Based on the above data, you know after driving one month (10,000 miles), you won’t have to change out any components. You could change the oil after 10,000 miles, but it’s probably not worth bringing the truck to the shop just for an early oil change. 

Month 2: After driving 20,000 miles, you will likely need to perform several services to your truck, including an oil change, changing out the water separator, and changing out the brake pads if you have drum brakes. 

Month 3: You probably won’t have to change out any components, but the differential oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, coolant, air filter and fuel filter are nearing their end of life, so they should be examined. If you use your brakes a lot, it may be worthwhile to change the brake fluid now. 

Month 4: Perform an oil change and water separator replacement. You will have to perform both of these services to your truck every other month. If your truck has drum brakes, they will also need to be changed out every month. Don’t forget to change your fuel filter. Change the brake fluid if that’s been unchanged last month. Continue monitoring differential oil, transmission fluid, coolant, and the air filter. Also, start monitoring power-steering fluid and air disc brakes (if the truck has air disc brakes).

Month 5: Change out the differential oil, power-steering fluid, coolant, and air filter. The transmission fluid and air disc brakes will probably need work too. 

Month 6: This month change out the oil, water separator, drum brakes, and start monitoring the spark plugs. 

Month 7: No service required this month except for the spark plugs potentially. Monitor the differential oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, coolant, air filter, and fuel filter. 

Month 8: Change out the oil, water separator, drum brakes, brake fluid, coolant, fuel filter, and maybe the spark plugs.

Month 9: In this month, definitely change out the spark plugs. Monitor the power-steering fluid, transmission fluid, and air filter.

Month 10: You’re back to changing the oil, water separator, drum brakes, power-steering fluid, transmission fluid, air filter, and disc brakes. 

Month 11: No service required this month.

Month 12: Change out the oil, water separator, drum brakes, brake fluid, coolant, and fuel filter.

By implementing a preventative maintenance plan, such as the above, you will decrease downtime and get more buck from your truck. 

And on the other hand, if you’re looking to save a buck while buying a truck, then you’ll be happy to know Municibid offers many quality trucks in addition to other automotives. Take a look today and see what you’d like to take out on the road!


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