By Tom Kyrk
A veteran truck driver with Stevens Transport for well over a decade, Tom Kyrk has found himself stuck in more than a few weather-related situations over the years. As a member of the RoadPro Family of Brands driver council, Kryk tries to share some of the many lessons he’s learned from piloting big rigs for a living, frequently blogging about cooking and healthy on-the-go living. In this guest column, he provides advice on prepping a truck for winter operation.
It’s that time of year when a trucker can find him or herself stuck in a snowstorm tomorrow, for this is one of the few occupations where you can be driving along in 80-degree weather one day and end up plowing through a blizzard the very next.
That’s why having your truck prepared for winter can make the difference between being comfortable while sitting out the storm or miserable. That’s also why a few common-sense precautions can make driving in bad weather a bit safer.
One of the most important winter preparedness tips is to know the weather and road conditions ahead of you. You can do this with smart phone apps – such as WeatherBug or Weather Underground – or via websites, such as safetravelusa.com that provide state road reports.
Believe it or not, a CB or “citizen’s band” radio is still pretty useful for checking on road conditions and accidents.
The best advice, though, if you know the roads ahead are going to get nasty, is to stop early to make sure you get a parking spot at a safe and comfortable location.
Here are a few other things you can do to your truck to get ready for winter:
- Install fresh wiper blades. I prefer blades that have the rubberized boot to help prevent snow and ice buildup. I have also found the beam style blades work best. Pro-tip: DON’T BUY CHEAP BLADES!!! Nothing is worse than having to replace a blade that fell apart in bad weather.
- Use MotorKote.Put some MotorKote onto a cloth and rub over your door seals and anything that opens or closes to prevent them from freezing shut in the winter. Be sure to let air dry before closing. You can also put a few drops in locks to prevent freezing. Coat your wiper blades with a thin coat and let dry for a few hours then wipe off excess. This will prevent snow and ice from sticking to the blades.
- Carry WD-40 or similar spray lubricant.This can defrost frozen locks. I have seen drivers who could not get their padlocks off due to ice buildup fix the problem with a few shots of WD-40.
- Lubricate your fifth wheel.Spray lithium grease or silicone to lubricate your fifth wheel when it is too cold for traditional fifth wheel grease to spread easily.
- Always have spare fluids on hand.Check your fluids and tire pressure before heading out. It is always a good idea to carry spare fluids and an air hose. Elevation and temperature changes can affect fluid levels and air pressures. Carrying spares and an air hose can mean the difference between getting back on the road and beating a storm or getting stuck in it waiting for road service.
- Prevent your fuel from freezing.When the temperatures drop below freezing treat your fuel to prevent gelling or ice build-up in filters and fuel lines. Products such as those found in the FPPF line, Power Service, or Howes, are great options to prevent being shut down road side due to gelling or water in your fuel.
- Make an emergency kit.Use a duffel bag or backpack (BlackCanyon Outfitters has some good options) and make an emergency kit with items such as a flashlight, battery bank, charging cords, snacks, food, bottles of water, medicine and important documents.
No matter how prepared you try to be, you will be caught someplace without something that you want or need.
Many of the items that can be found at travel centers will bail you out in a pinch:
- Work or winter gloves .
- Coats and/or jackets. Many travel centers carry them this time of year and often at competitive prices compared to many major stores.
- A way to heat water and food on the truck, such as a 12-Volt Lunch Box Stove.
- Oil, coolants, spray lithium grease or silicone and additives.
- Zip ties.
- Spare headlights.
- Wiper blades.
- Duct tape.
- WD-40 or MotorKote spray.
- Snacks, non-perishable food, and gallons of water.
- Battery bank for charging cellphones, such as the Tough Tested solar charger.
- Jumper cables.
Whether this is your first winter on the road or you’re a seasoned winter driver, it never hurts to listen to conversations at the truck stops and learn what other drivers carry in their trucks. You may get a few good ideas or learn something new.
I also suggest carrying more food and water than you think you need. If you get stranded on the road you might have the opportunity to help other stranded travelers. That’s why carrying extra is always a good thing.