How to Prevent Common Semi-Truck Breakdowns

As a commercial truck driver,  breakdowns are inevitable and typically result in delays and downtime. Breakdowns cost over-the-road truck drivers time and money due to waiting on maintenance, truck repair, or a tow truck, and the repair costs.

When drivers break down, they can face extreme weather conditions, other drivers, and many other accident hazards. Issues typically come up unannounced, but when these issues do arise, you should be well-informed about these causes and know how to prevent them. By avoiding these setbacks, owner-operators can stay on the road and put money back into their pocket.

Common Reasons for Semi-Truck Breakdowns

Most pre-trip inspections and preventative maintenance will prevent a breakdown from happening; however, that is not always the case. Some issues occur unexpectedly. Here are frequent causes of breakdowns:

  • Age: A big rig suffers a lot of wear and tear over the years with thousands of miles driven. Some older model trucks are likelier to break down because of their age and high mileage.
  • Alternator or Battery: If the lights are flickering while idling or if the engine is getting harder to turn over, this could mean the alternator or battery is failing.
  • Brakes: Brake systems are complicated and can have many reasons for failing; however, the most common is because of air leaks, internal water contamination, or external corrosion.
  • Clutch Cable: Clutch cables can corrode over time and eventually break. When a clutch cable breaks, difficulties shifting and slipping gears can arise while driving. A mechanic will need to replace or repair the cable to prevent more damage from occurring.
  • Electrical: Typically, when an electrical problem is present, it could mean a dead battery, or it is a problem within the wiring system.
  • Truck Engines: Older diesel trucks are likely to suffer engine problems if proper vehicle maintenance is not maintained and performed correctly. Newer semi-trucks are known to be eco-friendly and built to last longer than older truck models.
  • Radiator: If your truck is having trouble cooling down, this could indicate an issue with the radiator. When the radiator is not cooling the engine, it can cause damage to other components within the engine.
  • Refrigerated Trailers: Refrigerated trailers, also known as Reefer Units, are essential when shipping products and goods that need to be in a temperature-controlled freight trailer. This means repairs are required as soon as possible to protect the goods from being damaged. During transit, it is essential to monitor any cab signals that show the trailer is not working correctly.
  • Oil Leakage or Burning: When the oil is leaking, this typically means the engine is not getting enough oil and can cause friction, causing a breakdown. If the oil is leaking into the engine, the oil burns and damages engine components. You may see smoke coming out from under the hood.
  • Tires: Wear and tear on the tires are expected. A truck driver may ignore tires during their pre-inspection checks. Most common tire issues are from under-inflation or the thread on the tires is too low.

Preventing Semi-Truck Breakdowns

To avoid breakdowns on the side of the road, ensure your pre-inspection checks are complete and keep your truck parts up-to-date on maintenance requirements. Pre-trip inspections are required every time you get back on the road. If you find a violation or something wrong with your truck, have a diesel mechanic check it out. You can expect to extend the life of your semi-truck and prevent breakdowns when you are aware of the potential causes of a breakdown.