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Safety & Maintenance

November 19, 2021


It’s Getting Cold Out There! Have You Done Your Winter Maintenance?

By Willie Reeves, PacLease Maintenance Manager & Tosha Missel, PacLease Marketing Specialist

It’s not unusual for professional truck drivers to experience a range of weather on their routes. It is especially common when running routes through multiple states or provinces. With extreme weather occurrences across North America, it is imperative your drivers are prepared for all types of driving conditions. Planning ahead is essential and making sure your fleet is prepared for winter in regions with severe conditions is a top priority.

Develop a strategy to prep your fleets for extreme weather patterns. Preventive maintenance is important to keep your fleet running in top condition through the cold. Keep the following in mind as you prepare your fleet for winter:

Filters: Inspect and invest in a new fuel filter. Contaminated filters will clog and trap fuel which can quickly put a vehicle out of service.

Water Separators: Check water separators and check gauges daily to ensure that you do not have a WIF (water-in-fuel) light and drain any water build-up immediately.

Fuel Tanks and Diesel Pump Nozzles: Clean your fuel tank caps of all liquids, dirt and dust to help prevent contamination in the bottom of the tanks from clogging your fuel filters or reaching the engine. Clean-off diesel pump nozzles before inserting in your fuel tanks.

Fuel Caps: Ensure your fuel caps are secure and fit without any looseness. Fuel cap secureness prevents loss of fuel pressure in the tanks and prevents debris from entering fuel tanks.

Vents: Check vents to ensure water cannot enter and that they are free from debris and clean to prevent contamination.

Tire Pressure: Check tire pressure before every trip (while the tires are cold) to confirm proper inflation. Cold weather naturally causes tire pressure to drop, which can increase rolling resistance and negatively impact your fuel efficiency. Check tread depth to ensure you have the proper amount of traction in snowy, rainy and harsh climates. Ensure you have the satisfactory adequate tires that will provide the traction your vehicle needs in the different climates.

Tire Chains: Make sure your fleet is equipped with chains. Chains should be inspected to make sure they are good to go if and when they are needed.

Electrical Systems: Make sure all electrical systems are fully operational. For the safety of yourself and other drives, it is imperative your trucks are visible, and all lights are fully operating on your truck and trailer. In addition, make sure your hazard lights are functioning in case a situation arises where you need them.

Battery Check: Check your batteries to confirm there is no corrosion, leakage or damage. Have them inspected for proper voltage. Batteries can lose up to 35% of their power in 32 degrees Fahrenheit and as much as 60% at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Block Heaters: Plug in block heaters or keep vehicles inside and protected from the elements if you plan to park vehicles overnight in extremely cold climates below 15 degrees Fahrenheit or -9.5 Celsius. The diesel won’t be solidly frozen, but it will not be in liquid form. You now have to rely on heating options like block heaters and glow plugs which not all diesel vehicles have. This is something to also consider when spec’ing your vehicle.

Windshield Wipers: Replace windshield wipers to allow for optimal moisture removal from your windshield and to clear snow to help with enhancing visibility. Make sure you have winter windshield wiper fluid and top it off if needed.

Know Your Freezing Points

Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) – starts crystalizing at 12 degrees Fahrenheit or -11 degrees Celsius. Continued operation of the unit will keep the DEF from freezing. Another option to protect your DEF is an insulated tote blanket that can help prevent freezing. If your DEF freezes due to extreme cold, there are ways you can accelerate thawing. The less frozen your DEF is the faster it will thaw, so driving with a half or quarter-tank of DEF in cold weather will accelerate thawing. Consult your owner’s manual to determine if it is safe to operate while the DEF is frozen. Do not add any kind of antifreeze to your DEF; it may cause costly after-treatment system repairs.

Diesel begins to gel at 34 degrees Fahrenheit, and in 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit it can block off filters, fuel lines, and fuel rails. Ice, hail and heavy snow can cause potential damage to your engine if too much gets in through the grill. Make start-ups easy by winterizing your front grills to help keep the engine warm during extreme cold, preventing diesel fuel from gelling. When adding a winter grill cover remember there still needs to be proper air flow to your engine. If you have to stop for your mandated break, make sure the nose of your vehicle is parked away from the wind. Check you winter grill cover to make sure it is secure, so it does not blow around.


Extreme weather, such as major flooding, has caused abnormal operational issues in regions that typically do not see it. Pre-trip planning should include checking any possible storm conditions.

Avoid flooded roads, as water in the brakes can cause brake failure. Not all exhaust systems are mounted vertically. Some are mounted under the cab or horizontally and flood water can cause damage. Water damage can also wreak havoc on electrical systems, DEF sensors, etc., in addition to cosmetic damage to your cab.

Increase uptime by following an aggressive preventive maintenance plan specific to winter weather. Having a good maintenance schedule allows you to be proactive and keep your fleet on the road.

Find out more about Full Service Leasing and PacLease Maintenance Programs.

To learn why Tire Management is important to your bottom line, read our blog post: Tires, Tires, Tires!

Ask about PacLease Truck Rental and Leasing options by contacting an Expert.

Find a Kenworth or Peterbilt location near you, visit PacLease Locations.

For more great blogs visit PacLease Blogs.

Tags: Maintenance | Fleet Management

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