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Top Causes for Winter Vehicle Breakdowns

Keeping vehicles running throughout harsh winter conditions can prove stressful without the proper know-how.

When temperatures drop precipitously, diesel fuel can gel, an engine’s moving parts can seize and even a vehicle’s tires can suffer. This article should help you to prevent a few of these kinds of catastrophes from occurring by explaining their exact causes in detail.

Battery Failure

Cold weather can prove especially taxing for your vehicle’s battery. Freezing temperatures affect your battery’s charging capacity, causing it to hold anywhere from 20 to 50 percent less of a charge depending on the chill’s intensity.1

Batteries caught in cold weather face more than mere charging challenges though; your engine’s oil is likely to have thickened from the cold as well. This leads to your battery being forced to supply large amounts of power for extended periods of time to crank your vehicle up.

Both of the above effects add up to some serious strain for your vehicle’s battery—even if it is new.

Frozen Air Tanks

Big diesel tractor trailers equipped with an integrated air brake system can have a particularly hard time in freezing weather. Wherever water accumulates in the vehicle’s system, it can freeze and cause the trailer’s brakes to lock up in response.

Combating this problem comes down to consistently draining the system. The tanks should be drained for extended periods of time and repeatedly while the vehicle remains in cold weather.

Infrequent Diesel Particulate Filter Regeneration

Winter weather affects diesel trucks significantly by changing the performance of the fuel they run on. Without special additives, diesel can gel inside of your vehicle’s engine and completely immobilize it.  However, when fuel refineries treat diesel to prevent fuel gelling, a new issue is often introduced—less mileage per gallon.

The above results in your truck producing more soot than usual to compensate for the additives’ low mileage yields. Such soot needs to be burned away by the truck’s diesel particulate filter through a process known as regeneration, which consumes fuel as well.

Unfortunately, trucks that are not being used for long trips do not always have a chance to complete a regeneration cycle properly. The regeneration process should be allowed to complete if active regeneration has begun. Turning the vehicle off prevents it from self-cleaning and is likely to make the next regeneration process less effective.

Cars driving on snowy city road

A Torn Alternator Belt

Alternator belts are made of rubber which can stiffen, crack and ultimately tear under stress in extremely cold weather. If you hear squealing from your engine that dies down after it has warmed up, then the alternator belt is the most likely culprit and may need a closer inspection to make sure it is in safe working condition. Warming your vehicle for a while before use can help soften its alternator belt, potentially preventing major damage from occurring out on the road.

The above list of major car problems that can occur in winter includes a few issues that are nasty to fix without having a skilled diesel truck mechanic on hand.

If you are looking for a fleet maintenance partner with the skills and expertise needed to service heavy-duty diesel vehicles in NC and GA, get in touch with us here at East Coast Diesel LLC.



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