Construction trucks take quite a beating, so there’s no time better than the present to have a look around
Winter is the time most contractors bring their big equipment into the shop for inspections, repairs and preventive maintenance. It’s also a good time to inspect your pickup trucks–in particular everything under the floorboards.
If your truck never leaves the pavement, you don’t need us to tell you what to check as it’s in the owner’s manual. But if you rumble off road, there are a number of inspection points unique to construction trucks that need to be checked out.
We asked Donnie Roebuck, president of Roebuck Construction Services (an earthmoving and sitework contractor in central Florida) and Kelly Davis, vice president of Tuff County (an aftermarket suspension manufacturer) to tell us what they recommend when it comes to the inspection and maintenance of these components.
One thing they both agree on is that these components need to be inspected more than just once a year. In fact every time you change engine oil (every 3,000 to 5,000 miles) you should inspect the following and take corrective action if necessary:
Just because they’re metal doesn’t mean they can’t get bent. And a kinked brake line will slow the delivery of brake fluid causing poor brake action. If left unrepaired it will cause uneven pad wear and warped rotors.
Mud, sand and gravel get into these and need to be cleaned out on a regular basis.
Steering knuckles, joints and stabilizers are going to take a beating off road and may become loose, bent or misaligned. Clean, inspect and tighten or replace as necessary.
When these become shot you risk bottoming out suspension components. If you drive off road even just part of the time shocks should be replaced at least every 50,000 miles. Davis recommends upgrading the stock shocks with a gas-charged models for better performance and longevity.
Check the mounting brackets, bolts and bushings to make sure they’re secure.
Replace tires that have cuts in the tread or bulges in the sidewalls. A heavy truck loaded with gear doesn’t do well when a tire blows out at 70mph. Rotate and balance them at every oil change to maximize tread life. Check air pressures daily when the mercury goes below freezing.
Look for bent rims, hairline cracks and corrosion. Out-of-balance tires kill tread life. Grind a rim on a rock or curb or even just hit something hard enough and your tire weights will likely go flying.
These are pretty hard to damage but look closely at your U-bolts. Some square U-bolts will develop cracks in the corners, Davis says. And while round U-bolts don’t have that problem you want to check the threaded ends to make sure they’re tight and torqued to spec. Scrape the mud off the spring blocks so you can check for cracks in the leafs.
Clean off and inspect the transfer case and driveshafts going both ways for dents or damage. Look for any signs of oil leaks. Grease if needed. If you don’t use your 4WD on a regular basis it’s a good idea to engage it about once a month to keep internals lubricated. Driving slowly on pavement for a few minutes in low- and high-range is all that’s needed.
Inspect anything that moves or connects. Tie rods, bushings, drag links, Pittman arms, sway bars, etc. Check the connections to make sure nothing has worked loose and inspect for cracks or bent pieces. Roebuck recommends getting a prybar and forcing some leverage between components to make sure they’re secure.
Inspect the frame rails, crossmembers, fuel tank, skid plates, oil pan, differential covers. Loose now means a problem later.
Make sure tailgate and tool box latches, door hinges, and related components are properly lubed to prevent ice from freezing these in place. A shot of graphite or low-viscosity silicone lubricant will keep door and toolbox locks from freezing up.
Pay close attention to hitch mounts and mounting points. Check for any sign of cracks or bending. Make sure all bolts are torqued to spec, including the pintle hitch bolts and tow ball.
Spool out the wire rope and inspect the drum and the lock attaching cable to drum. Replace the cable if it’s kinked or shows signs of fraying. Check all the electrical connections, clean and coat them with dielectric grease.
A pro’s approach
Roebuck has outside mechanics do most of the servicing on his pickups and he instructs them to do the inspections whenever one is on the lift for an oil change. Same thing with his tire guy – if tires are being serviced, the brakes and suspension get a close look.
He also says the best way to clean a truck prior to inspection or servicing is to drive it up onto a transport trailer. That way the chassis is up off the ground three or four feet making it easier to both clean and inspect without having to lie on the ground.
Roebuck also recommends talking with your drivers. Before a truck goes into the shop ask them if they’ve seen or heard anything unusual.
“I’m not going to get rid of every squeak in a truck with 150,000 miles on it. But if something doesn’t feel right, get it looked at before somebody get’s injured,” Roebuck says.