The Long Haul: 10 Tips to Help Your Truck Run Well Into Old AgeA truck is like most things in life: You get out what you put in. And for those who depend on their vehicle day-in and day-out to deliver results, a bit of care and maintenance goes a long way. While each make and model will have its own special needs (yes that means consulting the owner's manual) with these simple maintenance tips, your truck can continue running like it's fresh off the lot for years to come.
We compiled these things any man can do to help keep his truck running smoothly.
1. Never Miss an Oil ChangeThis one's easy, but no doubt one of the most important things you can do to ensure a long life for your truck (or any vehicle for that matter). Ford recommends you do this every 7,500 miles or six months (whichever comes first) for 2008 model year trucks and newer. For older, higher mileage trucks, always change your oil filter when you change your oil. Be sure to pick up the best oil for your needs. There are dozens of varieties of oil and a wide range of high mileage options tailored to increasing the life of older engines, so be sure to consult your owner's manual to ensure you pick the right viscosity-index for your truck. And then double check before you buy—having to visit the same auto shop twice in one day for a single item is both embarrassing and a waste of time.
2. Rotate Your TyresChanging your oil is a good time to check up on other types of routine maintenance too. Rotating your tyres each time you change your oil helps ensure an even wear—because tyres wear unevenly according to the drivetrain of your truck. "Tyre rotation is very important,"customers often think, 'Oh I just need to change the oil at the prescribed interval, but we recommend that you rotate your tyres every time you have your oil changed, so that your tyres are wearing evenly." While it depends on how you use your truck, the front tyres will typically see the most wear. Rotating them can not only extend the life of the tyres themselves, it can make for a smoother ride and reduce the burden on your truck's suspension that can come from unevenly worn tires. If there are any alignment issues you should be able to spot them when the tyres are rotated. Check your owner's manual for the recommended tyre rotation pattern.
3. Keep Your Tyres BalancedWhen getting your tyres rotated, it's also worth having them balanced. A tyre is balanced when the weight of the tyre is equally distributed around the axle. With each bump, pothole and off-road mission, your tyres get more and more out of balance. An unbalanced set of tyres can lead to vibrations on the road and cause increased wear on your suspension as well as uneven wear on your tyres. If you need to have a tyre replaced or patched, that's also a good time to get them balanced.
4. Alignment is Key
If around the time of your oil change, your truck is pulling to one side or the other it's probably time for a wheel alignment. Driving over rough roads at high speeds and aggressive driving can both increase the likelihood of misalignment. If your wheels are out of whack, you'll cause higher wear and tear on tyres, generally get worse fuel mileage, and experience poor handling on the road. Getting your wheels aligned pays off big in the long run. Vehicle pulling can also happen when your tyres are unevenly inflated or you've got your truck bed weighed down heavily on one side. Inflate all of your tyres to the designated pressure and keep your load evenly secured and spread across your bed to reduce pull.
5. Check Your Lights
It's easy to get complacent, so that you're only thinking about maintenance around oil changes, but monthly checks on a few basic components are worth the minimal time investment they require. That way, if there are any issues with your vehicle, they'll be on your radar before they become bigger problems. For instance, check that all of your interior and exterior lights are working properly. A dim light can indicate an electrical problem, while a burned out light can be dangerous and lead to a hefty fine. And while you're at it, ensure your glove box is stocked with spare fuses—few things are as embarrassing as calling a tow truck when all you really need is a replacement fuse.
6. Make Sure Fluid Levels are Up
Next, check out your essential fluid levels. The most important one to check is the engine oil. Just make sure it's cool first, in order to get an accurate reading. Also, check the oil itself. If it's dirty or smells like gasoline, it's time for a change. Next, engine coolant. Truck engines make a lot of heat; this is what keeps them from overheating. Check the levels by popping the cap (generally identifiable by a warning and matching illustration indicating you should never open when engine is hot). Refill as needed with the coolant specified in your owner's manual. Finally, check out your windshield washer fluid. It's a good idea to keep an extra jug of the blue stuff somewhere onboard, especially in winter, when salt and sand are on the road.
7. Give Your Engine a Breath of Fresh Air
In order to function at it's best, engines need clean air. Over time, air filters become clogged with dust, debris, and chemical contaminants. Swap in a fresh engine air filter every 20,000 to 40,000 km or even more often if you're frequently driving on dirt roads. A clean air filter will not only help your engine last longer, it can optimize your engine's efficiency and acceleration.
8. Know Your Driving ConditionsRoutine maintenance and checklists can only get your truck so far down the road. One of the most important aspects of long term care is keeping in mind what kind of wear and tear you're putting on your truck. Whether you're carrying heavy loads, driving off road, or making multiple short trips daily, the way you use your truck will determine the exact type of maintenance you'll need. Some driving conditions require special maintenance, such as if you're in a high idle situation or dusty conditions, the vehicle can't sense that, so it changes the scheduled maintenance. Talk to your local mechanic about the best ways to care for your truck given the roads you're driving on each day.
9. Stop in for an InspectionIf there's one thing that can help keep your truck going longest, it's knowing when to bring an expert in. Most automakers offer specified checks at dealerships. Everything from your batteries to spark plugs to brake pads is analyzed for issues. Technicians should spot potential problem areas early, based on wear, helping keep you safe and your truck running longer.
10. Read UpEverything you need to know about keeping your truck running well is in the owner's manual. From cleaning, to optimal fluids, to maintenance checklists — it's all in the book. Too many times customers only refer to the owner's manual when they have a question about how something might work, but there is a lot of good information with regards to fuel, oil, and how they should maintain their vehicles
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