Handling Extreme Driving Conditions – Part I

Let’s face it, not every trip is going to be smooth sailing with sunny skies and dry weather. There are many instances in which you might find yourself dealing with an extreme driving condition.

Extreme driving conditions require a higher level of awareness and preparation. Both you and your vehicle must be in fine form. There are challenges to driving a tractor-trailer in extreme weather conditions.

What You Need to Know

Adverse weather conditions demand increased attention, whether it be snow, ice, rain, fog or otherwise. During the winter months especially, conditions can change quickly. Being prepared for such times demands attention in a number of areas.

  • Coolant: Always make sure your coolant system is full and that your antifreeze concentration is even. A low coolant level can negatively impact your engine’s performance, as well as the operation of your defroster or heater.
  • Defrosting/Heating Equipment: Ensure your defrosters and heaters are working. Operating this equipment isn’t always easy, so don’t go in blind. Also do a once over on the mirrors for the heaters and fuel tanks.
  • Wipers/Washers: Are your blades in good condition? Make sure your wiper blades press hard enough against the windshield to get it clean in one swpe. Also make sure your washer reservoir is full and that there’s an appropriate amount of fluid – especially to prevent freezing.

Beyond the equipment necessary for visibility, there may be situations in which you are required to use special devices to get through adverse conditions.

Tire Chains

Per state or local law, you may have to put tire chains on your vehicle at one time or another. Always make sure you are prepared for the possibility by carrying the appropriate size and number of chains, including their cross-links. Make sure there are no broken hooks or bent or broken side chains.

When installing tire chains, remember that they are constructed to grip the tire around the sides and provide traction across the full spread of the tread. Installed properly, they provide decent uphill traction in snowy or icy conditions. On trailer wheels they improve the downward braking traction.

Tire chains are most effective in heavy snow. While they do provide some traction in light or dry snow conditions, they are mostly ineffective on glare ice. When you are installing the chains, make sure they are snug, but not too tight.

Regularly check the chains to ensure there is not excessive creep or movement. You need make sure they don’t slap against the trailer or catch on the suspension or fuel tank.

Engine Starting Problems

Engine starting problems represent one of the most common reasons for roadside breakdowns. The colder it is, the harder it is for any type of engine to start .

If your engine won’t start with the use of starting aids – which we will get into in a later part – check your fuel and electrical systems. Watch your exhaust stack as you crank the engine. If you don’t see vapor or smoke, your engine may not be getting enough fuel. Double check your tank and fuel lines for blockage.

Never crank your engine for more than 15 seconds. If you find your engine is getting enough fuel, but still isn’t restarting, check the electrical system. Verify there’s no corrosion on the battery terminal and verify there are no loose connections. If you see cracks or moisture in or on the cables, take immediate action.

If your vehicle is equipped with an air starter, make sure it has proper air supply. If there is no air, you will need to supply it from a compressor or another truck. For specific procedures check the vehicle’s manual.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s look into extreme weather preparation. Join us next week when we delve deeper into making sure your ready for whatever mother nature throws at you!