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Anyone who drives a semi-truck throughout the year already knows that the different seasons will have significantly different impacts on your operation: driving conditions, fuel efficiency, engine performance, tire pressure, and much more. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or new to the road, it’s worth going over some of these impacts, some mitigation tactics, and tips on preparing for the variable conditions you may encounter in your travels across North America.
It’s important to remember, too, that LubeZone is here to help you with all of your service center needs, from oil changes to tire pressure checks and a long list of preventative maintenance. With convenient locations across the country, we’re here to keep you on the road with safety and efficiency.
Read on to learn about long haul truckers’ survival guide and the impacts that the different seasons can have on your truck, and how to adapt to these changes.
Effects Of Temperature On Engine And Tires
Your tires are absolutely critical when it comes to safely driving because they are your connection to the road, and give you traction, help your fuel efficiency, and make for a smooth ride when properly inflated. However, variable temperatures will have an impact on your tire pressure because higher temperatures cause air to expand, therefore increasing tire pressure, while colder temperatures will cause air to contract and will, therefore, lower your air pressure.
Summer Tire and Engine Issues
In the summer, when the air in your tires expands, the increased pressure can lead to a lot of different problems:
- Susceptibility to punctures and pinches from potholes or debris
- Uneven wear patterns down the center of the tread
- Reduced traction and grip
- Bumpy, bouncy, uneven ride
- Decreased stopping power
- Higher chance of blowouts
Higher temps will also mean that your engine has different requirements to run optimally, and if you aren’t running the right oil and coolant, you may notice major changes to your fuel efficiency. Luckily, your engine is “smarter” than your tires when it comes to managing its own internal temperature and operating capacity, but it needs your help. Some summer engine issues include:
- Increased oil usage to avoid wear on engine parts
- Strain on your air conditioner
- Added drain on your batteries
- Excessive coolant evaporation
To make sure you are doing your best to avoid these issues, make sure that you are doing routine maintenance checks both on the road and with a service center like LubeZone.
Winter Tire and Engine Issues
In the winter, the cold air can cause your tires to be underinflated, which can cause problems like:
- Rapid wear from hardened rubber compound
- Increased road noise and vibrations
- Decreased handling and stopping power
- Increased rate of wear
If you are going to be driving in winter conditions, it’s a good idea to swap out your summer tires for winter tires that come with cold-resistant rubber compounds, added grip, and other features that will help keep you safe and efficient.
Your engine will also face some potential issues in the winter:
- Cold start engine difficulties like a dead battery, broken alternator, or frozen starter
- Thickening engine oil that reduces operating efficiency
- Problems with battery life
- Hydraulic fluid issues
- Corrosion and rust from road salt and melting snow
To avoid these issues, make sure that you are checking for signs of winter-related problems with routine checks, and bring your rig into LubeZone for a comprehensive preventative maintenance service to keep things running in top shape all year round.
Seasonal Fuel Efficiency Variations
You’ll notice a bit of a difference in your fuel efficiency if you are driving somewhere with distinct seasons for a few different reasons:
Engines operate best around 180-210º F. When it is hotter or colder than this, your engine may not use fuel as efficiently. In the winter especially, fuel efficiency can take a hit because of how much more energy it takes to get it warm.
You may swap your warm-weather tires for all-weather or winter tires, which will increase drag and, in turn, decrease your fuel efficiency. Cold weather can also lower your tire pressure, another factor that will reduce fuel efficiency.
Your truck’s air conditioning can be a lifesaver in the height of summer or the depth of winter, but it will use additional energy which will translate to reduced fuel efficiency.
In winter conditions, you may be driving below the speed limit, spinning tires, or engaging in more stop-and-go driving, all of which will directly impact your fuel efficiency. This can also be true in difficult summer weather like rainstorms, but the improved efficiency because of the warmer weather may mean that it all breaks even in warmer temps.
Preparing For Seasonal Road Conditions
The seasons can slip by, one into the other, so it’s important that you are diligent in making some preparations for the transitions through the shoulder seasons and into summer or winter.
Here is a list of seasonal tips to help you get ready:
- Tires: After winter, you may need to rotate or replace tires that are worn to get ready for wet, rainy roads.
- Wipers and Fluids: Wipers can get damaged by icy conditions. Replace them as necessary, and make sure your wipers and fluids are topped off.
- Brakes: Stop by LubeZone to have your brakes inspected
- Oil: Get your oil changed because winter conditions can cause oil to degrade and thicken.
- A/C: Make sure your AC is in tip-top shape to keep your cabin comfortable on those hot summer days.
- Battery: Heat can cause your battery to corrode or otherwise degrade. Have it checked to make sure it will keep performing as necessary.
- Coolant: Make sure your coolant is at a sufficient level to avoid overheating during long days on the road
- Oil: Consider changing to a thicker oil if you are in a very hot climate. LubeZone can help you select the right oil for the conditions you plan to drive in the most
- Lights: Make sure your lighting system is in working order as the days get shorter and you rely on your lights more often.
- Prepare for wet roads: make sure that your tires are in great shape and that you are ready for wet, slick roads covered in rain and leaves.
- Full Maintenance: This is a good time of the year to bring your rig in for a full maintenance overhaul. LubeZone has you covered.
- Oil: If you switched to a thicker, summer oil, you might want to get into LubeZone to change your oil again for something appropriate for cooler days as we near winter.
- Tires: If necessary, it’s time to install your winter tires to improve traction in adverse weather conditions.
- Antifreeze: Make sure your engine has enough antifreeze to keep it from freezing in low temperatures.
- Check your winter kit: Make sure you have a kit packed, including things like blankets, a flashlight, extra batteries, food, and water, as well as snow and ice removal tools.
- Exhaust: You might be running your truck all night while resting, so make sure you check your exhaust system for leaks. Carbon monoxide can be deadly if it gets into your cabin.
- Oil: Time for another oil change to make sure that you have the right viscosity and that your oil is in excellent condition to help mitigate the impacts to your fuel efficiency in cold weather.
Winter Driving Tips
As a trucker, you already know that driving in the winter comes with a whole slew of challenges. Here are a few tips that can keep things safer on your cold-weather travels:
- Pack a winter survival kit that includes warm blankets, food, water, and a first-aid kit. You might also want to add hand, foot, and body warmers to be prepared for anything.
- Drive slow on icy or snowy roads so you can keep full control over your truck and have more time to react to unexpected situations.
- Clear the snow and ice off your truck before getting onto the road. This can ensure that your visibility is great, and also make sure that ice or snow doesn’t go flying into someone else on the road, causing a crash behind you.
- Know when to use chains on your tires. If you aren’t sure of how to use chains, it’s a good idea that you learn about safe installation and operation before you need them.
- Stay well rested to avoid fatigue during long winter drives. The sun sets much earlier in the winter, especially the further north you go, and the combination of a bad night’s sleep and a long, dark drive can lead to a dangerous situation.
Summer Driving Tips
Here are a few summer driving tips:
- Stay hydrated to make sure your brain and body are at their best. On a very hot day, even the sun glaring through the window can cause you to dehydrate faster than you’d expect.
- Check your tires to avoid blowouts. The high temperatures can increase your tire pressure, so keep an eye on visible damage and make sure they are inflated properly.
- Keep tabs on your cooling system to make sure that your engine and other components are able to maintain their safe working temperatures. Your radiator is a hero in the summer, so keep it in working condition.
- Wear polarized sunglasses to keep the sun’s glare out of your eyes. This way, you can keep your eyes on the road and not miss unexpected obstacles that may come up while you’re fighting through solar glare.