I got to thinking some of us get so used to doing stuff we do not even think about it anymore. It is almost automatic. This can be dangerous if we are in the process of picking up the tractor and trailer to head down the road. So often, we just take a quick glance at the tires and lights then head on out. Somehow, we then manage to act surprised when something happens that would not have happened had we done a REAL pre-trip.
I have found a detailed pre-trip is essential for a safe and pleasant trip (not counting traffic and the million other things). Am I guilty of taking off down the road without doing one? Yep sure am. No excuses – just the facts, ma'am, as that guy on some TV show used to say a few years back.
I have been doing pre-trips for close to twenty years now so I do have just a tad of experience and knowledge about them. I hope the following helps you out some.
We will start as we approach the vehicle. We are looking for a leaning tractor which could indicate a flat tire or bad suspension, leaks which could indicate a big problem, depending on which one it is. Some are really bad like oil, power steering fluid or radiator fluid.
We start at the bottom and go up. We check out the license plate (up to date?), Bumper, grill (free of debris), headlights, marker lights, and fender mirrors. All of these need to be secure, not cracked or broken. All the lights and mirrors need to be clean and have a rubber seal around them. Marker lights and signals need to be amber colored.
Next we will open the hood of the tractor. We need to check a lot of stuff here-about everything. Check the oil and make sure it is where it is supposed to be; make sure the fill tube is secure, not cracked, broken, bent and does not leak. Is the turbo attached firmly and not leaking. Everything under the hood needs to be checked to make sure it is not cracked, broken, bent etc. Belts and wires can not be frayed, taped or corroded. One acronym that is sometimes used is BBCCCTC-meaning burnt, broke, cut, cracked, frayed, taped or corroded. (The one for the tires is ABC-maning abrasions, bruises and cuts.) We continue checking the alternator, its wires and belts, the water pump, radiator and the hoses, the antifreeze levels, fan shroud, blades and the belt and finally the tractor frame.
We now go to the other side of the tractor and check all the stuff over there like the power steering reservoir, air compressor and lines, the starter, the steering wheel shaft, gear box, and Pittman arm, drag link, steering knuckle and tie rods. We will also check the suspension, spring hangers, springs, u-bolts and saddle and the shocks.
If that sounds like a lot, it is, but it can save lots of problems later. If you find the problem now, you just might not be sitting on the side of the road later with the 4 ways flashing and your triangles out. In the winter with no engine is not the time to wish you had done a better pre-trip. It does take time and some practice to get in the habit of spending a few minutes doing this so you can save a lot of time later.
I will continue this in another article but I think you get the idea, Check everything!