Common Causes of 18-Wheeler Breakdowns And How to Prevent Them

  • Common Causes of 18-Wheeler Breakdowns And How to Prevent Them

    Common Causes of 18-Wheeler Breakdowns And How to Prevent Them

    In more than half of 18-wheeler breakdowns, the issue involves the tires. However, other problem areas that could cause trouble include the electrical system, brakes, and refrigerated trailers.

    1. Tires

    The tires are the only part of the truck that have contact with the road, which means they’re responsible for keeping the truck moving forward. When the tires deflate or become punctured, the entire truck will be immovable. The three reasons 18-wheeler tires fail include underinflation, low tread depth, and misaligned axles.

    To prevent problems with the tires, be sure to:

    • Perform a pre-trip inspection
    • Inflate to the proper PSI level
    • Wash the tires and wheels
    • Regularly rotate the tires
    • Drive safely

    2. Electrical system

    The electrical system is composed of the starter motor, battery, and alternator. Problems with any of these components include corroded battery connections, dim or flickering lights, dead battery, strong or unusual odors, and clicking sounds when trying to start the engine. 

    3. Brakes

    Nearly one in three 18-wheeler accidents involve issues with the brakes. The semi disc and drum brakes are consistently exposed to heat, pressure, and friction, increasing wear and tear. For this reason, maintenance is critical. 

    Problems with the brakes may be caused by air leaks, external corrosion and wear, and internal water contamination that causes the air lines to freeze in the winter months. 

    4. Refrigerated trailers

    Also called reefer units, refrigerated trailers are used to ship temperature-controlled freight. Problems with this type of trailer need to be resolved quickly to prevent damaging the freight. Drivers need to closely monitor the trailer for signs of an issue and pay attention to in-cab signals indicating a problem with the unit.

    To avoid or prevent truck breakdowns, drivers need to:

    • Conduct pre-trip, en-route, and post-trip inspections
    • Implement a regular preventative maintenance (PM) program
    • Analyze maintenance data to inform future fleet maintenance decisions

    A vehicle inspection should evaluate the following components:

    • Parking brake
    • Tires
    • Steering mechanism
    • Service brakes including trailer brake connections
    • Lighting devices and reflectors
    • Horn
    • Coupling devices
    • Windshield wipers
    • Rear vision mirrors
    • Wheels and rims
    • Emergency equipment

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