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Preventative Maintenance For Trucking Components: Clutch and Engine

Welcome back to our ongoing look at commercial motor vehicle preventative maintenance. In our last look at this crucial aspect of the job, we took a hard look at two of the most important parts of your vehicle, the brakes and the tires.

Today, we are going to take a look at two more vital components: the clutch and engine. Always remember that preventative maintenance can mean the difference between CSA violations or accidents and a flawless record. So let’s start with that vital control component of your truck.

Your Clutch

The fact is, good driving practices can help extend the life of your clutch. The clutch is designed to compensate for the difference in rotation between the engine as it runs and when the vehicle is stopped.

Imagine that when you engage your vehicle’s clutch, you are putting over 35 tons of equipment and cargo into motion. To keep the clutch operating well, you must spec it properly and keep it well-maintained. And while a clutch can’t last forever, you can certainly increase its operating time.

Not only will experience behind the wheel help you avoid clutch problems, but keeping a keen eye and immediately reporting problems also goes a long way. Since the clutch is a complex piece of equipment, you want to be as detailed as possible when you report clutch problems to fleet management.

Here are some common clutch problems you may encounter:

  • If you hear unusual noise during the course of clutch operation, it means you either have been riding or slipping it, or it could just be poorly lubricated.
  • If the clutch is slipping or there is a lot of clutch pedal free play, that could be a sign of worn facings.
  • If you are experiencing clutch drag, you could be looking at a couple of problems, either poor adjustment or a seriously warped disc.
  • If you don’t have about 1 – 2 inches of free play at the top of the clutch pedal, it may need to be adjusted.

We recently talked about how overloading your vehicle can have a detrimental effect on your tires, but did you know it can negatively impact your clutch, as well? If the clutch you are running with hasn’t been spec’d for the job, you could cause clutch burnout, which often results in extensive damage.

To increase the life of your clutch, follow these simple guidelines:

  • Start out in the right gear.
  • Engage the clutch properly.
  • Don’t let the clutch ride or slip.
  • Don’t skip gears.
  • Don’t shift up before the vehicle has reached adequate speed.

Make sure to follow these guidelines and you should see a long life for your vehicle’s clutch.

Your Engine

There are more than a few good ways to ensure you get the most out of your engine. When pondering your engine’s life, think progressive shifting and good observational skills.

Progressive shifting is the practice of shifting when you have accelerated up to the governor. You only accelerate enough to bring the RPMs up to peak torque, then shift. Your engine experiences max pulling power under peak torque. In lower gear ranges, you don’t need to accelerate up to the governor before you shift.

Progressive shifting offers a major advantage in that it both reduces equipment wear and saves on fuel. Nor does it take any longer to bring the vehicle up to speed.

Good observation skills are next, and are just that. One of the most obvious signs of engine trouble is oil consumption. If you are getting less than 200 miles per quart, something is likely wrong. You may also experience a loss of power, increased fuel consumption and reduced compression.

In large truck engines, oil is generally measured by the gallon, rather than by the quart. If your engine is running correctly, you should be using as little as one gallon of oil for every 12,000 – 15,000 miles. Always remember to report or address engine problems the moment you uncover them.

When it comes to preventative maintenance, make sure to account for your most vital truck components, which includes the clutch and engine. After all, the last thing you want is to break down on the side of the road because you weren’t inspecting your vehicle properly.

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