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The Importance of Vehicle Inspections – Part II

In our last installment of The Importance of Vehicle Inspections, we introduced you to why vehicle inspections are so important. Remember, it’s not just about getting good CSA scores, it really is a matter of safety.

Since we have covered the types of inspections and how to inspect certain aspects of the vehicle, it’s time to dive back in to what we haven’t covered. So without further ado, let’s get right into inspecting your vehicle’s braking system.

The Brake System

The first thing to look at when you are inspecting your vehicle’s brake systems is the air pressure. You should not hear any leaks or notice any observable loss of air pressure on your air pressure gauge.

Additionally, air pressure should not leak more than 3 pounds-per-minute with the engine off. Also check for defective gauges and low air warning devices. Not only is it a matter of safety, but according to the section 393.51 of the FMCSRs, all trucks must be equipped with a fully functional warning device.

Brake drums should be inspected for any signs of visible cracks. Shoes or pads should be inspected for proper thickness, oil, grease, or wear. Also ensure that the brake chambers are securely mounted. Over the course of normal operation, slack adjusters could lose parts or need additional adjustment, so check them as well.

Brake lines also need to be properly secured. If you see signs of hardening, swelling or excessive wear, you may have a problem. If they are bent or folded over, you may wind up with air flow restriction problems.

Make sure you bleed your air reservoir daily to check for excessive moisture. It must also be securely attached to the vehicle.

Finally, air lines to the trailer (if attached) shouldn’t be tangled or restricted in any way. They should always be correctly attached and supported. Always ensure they are not rubbing on either the frame or the catwalk.

The Steering System

Steering system defects can include a number of components, from missing nuts, bolts, or cotter pins, to bent tie rods, drag links or pitman arms. Do a thorough visual inspection of these components to ensure there is no excessive wear or damage.

Steering systems also utilize hoses, pumps and fluid. Keep an eye out for leaks at all times and always ensure your power steering fluid is at the recommended level.

Finally, watch for any excessive looseness or “play” as you steer. If your steering wheel shows any play of 10 degrees or more, not only will you find it hard to steer, but it also could be indicative of other problems.

The Frame

The frame is the foundation for your vehicle. In one way or another, it is directly connected to all the other parts of the vehicle. As such, your vehicle’s frame must always be in good repair.

While the frame is usually the last part of the vehicle to suffer failure – mainly due to its rugged design – like any other mechanical piece, it is subject to potential fault. Make sure your vehicle’s frame isn’t cracked, loose, sagging or broken in any places. Also ensure the bolts securing the body of the vehicle to the frame are not themselves loose or missing.

The Suspension System

The suspension system is vitally important because it supports both the vehicle and its load. It also serves to keep all the axles in place. For truckers transporting fragile cargo, suspension in proper working order can be the sole determinant of whether or not the load gets to the receiver in one piece.

Not only can a faulty suspension system allow sudden shifts in cargo, it can also impact the steering and stability of the vehicle, which can lead to any number of breakdown or accident scenarios.

When you are inspecting your suspension system, check for damage with your spring hangers, torque rods, U-bolts, and leaf springs. If any of these components show signs of damage or excessive wear, you could have a potential problem on your hands.

Also check your air bags, air bag mounts, shock absorbers and frame members. Although these are all complex components, it should be easy to visually spot cracks, looseness or damage.

Well, we hope you’ve enjoyed Part II of our series. Join us next time for Part III, when we dig deeper into exhaust systems, coupling systems, emergency equipment and cargo.

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