When cold weather approaches, the best thing you can do is to prepare for whatever lies ahead. From strong winds, black ice and heavy snowfall to road hazards and limited visibility, you may find yourself operating in various frozen regions across the country. No matter your level of experience, you need to be prepared. Driving in harsh winter conditions can be a challenge for even the most skilled drivers.
When you're winterizing your semi-truck, follow these top five safety tips and tricks to stay safe on the road. We'll guide you in understanding how to operate your rig through severe weather, giving you the best practices for winterizing your semi. Bud and Tony’s Truck Parts can help you save time and money, providing a comfortable drive in some of the most daunting conditions.
The Difference of Driving in the Winter
Semi-truck winter driving is leagues more difficult than working in standard and safe weather environments. Winter conditions can change by the minute — you can start the day on a crisp, clear morning, and by early afternoon, a snowstorm and icy roads could hit. Operating in adverse weather is tricky and can increase your stress levels by putting you on high alert.
Before firing up the ignition, you'll want to clear off your semi-truck. Clean off the snow and ice from the vehicle’s windshield, windows, roof, hood, license plate and taillights so that you remain visible on the road. You’ll also want to complete a 360-degree check to inspect the tires, fluid, lights, wipers and every other visible component. Always bring the necessary tools and equipment — especially salt or sand — to give your tires more traction in slick situations.
Once you’re ready, turn on the defroster to heat the windshield. You can even install heated mirrors and heated headlights for immediate defrosting to improve your visibility when a snowstorm arrives. Confirm that you have at least a half-tank of gas at all times. One of the most crucial pieces of advice we can give you is to know your limits. Be aware of how much your rig can handle — and if you feel unsafe, don’t risk it.
Follow our top five safety tips on driving safely in the winter and cold weather.
1. Drive Slower and Put Extra Space Between Yourself and Other Drivers
Your semi-truck will have less traction driving in the snow, ice or wet conditions instead of a dry road. To compensate for the little adhesion, drive slower than usual to amplify your reaction time. Increasing the distance between you and other vehicles can also make a massive difference. Having more space means you have more time to make gentle changes when you're turning or shifting lanes.
By increasing the following distance by about 10 extra seconds in conditions that require caution, you can operate your rig out of an emergency situation without an incident. The stopping distance on the ice at 0 degrees Fahrenheit is double the amount. you need to stop at 32 degrees Fahrenheit — which is even more difficult for rigs weighing several thousand pounds
2. Be More Cautious When You're Moving up and Down Mountains
Mountains and hills can have more severe weather that changes faster than it does on the roads below. If you can, avoid going up a mountain. If you’re unable to change your route, prepare for gusts of wind and look for hard snow or melting areas. Snow tires with the addition of tire chains may come in handy. As you’re trekking up the mountainside, obey the signs and stay alert for changing conditions by relying on your radio.
3. Watch for Black Ice
Black ice is infamous for causing unexpected slick patches on the road. It’s a thick layer of ice that drivers can’t see, and it appears on roads when temperatures reach the freezing point. The ice can deceive you into thinking it’s a puddle of water, and it hides well under shaded areas.
Fortunately, you can avoid the black ice culprit by looking for indications such as ice buildup on the corners of the truck’s windshield and mirror arms. The roads will also appear wet, but the signs will have ice. You can also tell black ice lies ahead if water spraying from tires ahead of you stops at random.
4. Brake and Accelerate Gradually
One of the worst things you can do in icy environments is to slam on your semi’s brakes. Wet and slippery roads can cause your tires to skid and slide when you hit the brakes too hard. Avoid making abrupt stops. If you need to make a quick stop, pump the brakes lightly to reduce the chances of locking up the tires.
5. Move Around Obstacles
Instead of braking, avoid road collisions, obstacles and other threats by driving around them. If you have enough space with a safe distance between you and other cars, remember that it will take less distance to change lanes than it would for the truck to make a sudden stop. Gently decelerate and make soft steering motions as opposed to swift braking that can cause you to lose control.
Make sure to grasp your wheel with confidence, and don’t be too lax. You’ll want to hold on with a steady hand in case you need to make impulsive movements. Other conditions, like high winds, road divots and ice, can cause the truck’s wheel to sway. When the weather is rough, you'll need to perform precise and smooth actions.
Safe and cautious driving is imperative to your safety and that of others around you. In some situations, you may start to skid despite taking extra care. Press the clutch in right away and look at your left mirror. Counter-steer to ensure that the cab is in front of the trailer.
Why It's Important to Prepare
Preparation will save your truck from experiencing delays, accidents and damage. When you look ahead at what you need, you can make sure your vehicle and yourself are prepared to face the elements for extended periods. Because winter weather is unpredictable, your trip can take double or triple the average time. Preparing now can save your life in the future and help you avoid massive repairs. Planned and regular maintenance can keep you running throughout the season and can also make a difference in your comfort.
Even if you don’t live in a state that gets a lot of snow or ice, you have the potential to travel somewhere that does. One way to get ahead of the game is to download weather apps, listen to the radio and check various websites. You’ll want to know the weather conditions from yesterday to help you understand the current road situation. Keep up to date with information about your present situation and what the forecast is over the next few days.
If you know the roads are about to get worse as you’re driving, pull over to a safe location until the bad weather clears. Take the right steps to ensure that your cargo — and more importantly, you — arrive at the destination.
Ways to Winterize Your Semi-Truck
As you prepare your truck for winter, remember 10 ways you can winterize before any cold-weather journey. You can make it even easier on yourself by partnering with a retailer like Bud and Tony’s Truck Parts. We have everything you need in one stop. No matter how severe the climate, complete inspections before each trip and during rest stops.
1. Create a Safety Kit
While you should always have a safety kit prepared throughout the entire year, it’s vital to stock up during the winter because there’s a higher chance of needing it during adverse weather conditions. The kit should include tools, clothes, food and other equipment, such as:
- Blankets, gloves, hats, boots, winter jackets and rain gear
- Canned food, snacks and water
- CB radio
- First aid kit
- Flares, zip-ties, flashlight and duct tape
- Ice scraper and snow shovel
- LED lighting
- Portable charger
- Spare fluids like coolant, oil, washer fluid, grease, fuel and fuel additives
- Tire chains and tire chain pliers
- Tire pressure gauge and air pump
- WD-40 or another lubricant
If you need additional winter tools and supplies, remember that Bud and Tony’s Truck Parts has an extensive inventory to keep you safe and comfortable on the road — everything from our blankets to keep you warm to our CB radio sets that will allow you to communicate.
With a GPS, you can find your way through tough conditions. Other essentials include LED lighting and reflectors to help you see and be seen. When you add a tire pressure gauge to your kit, you can check each tire for the appropriate PSI.
2. Test the Battery
Your semi-truck will need extra power when it's trudging through the snow and starting up in the cold. Battery units can degrade fast when they're exposed to cold temperatures. Perform a load test to make sure it works well even when temperatures drop below a certain point. You’ll also want to check the starters and alternators. Investigate each component for corrosion and frays, and make sure the voltage is correct. Are there any loose or exposed wires?
One weak battery within the system can drain the rest, so make sure to tighten, clean and check each one. The life cycle of a battery lasts between three to five years. Replace the rig’s battery before the season starts so that you’re ready to go.
3. Examine the Cooling System
One of the worst things that can happen when you’re on the road is for your engine to overheat. Yes, an engine can still experience scorching temperatures during the winter because it’s working harder to get through snow and ice.
Make sure the cooling system works appropriately by checking closely for worn areas, cracks and damaged sections. Look over the radiator, hose clamps and hoses. Do the hoses have any bulges? Are the clamps secure? Conduct a coolant test and top levels of as necessary.
4. Inspect the Tires
In some situations, you may want to replace the marginal tires and switch to winter ones with better tread for increased traction. When you're inspecting the tires before each trip, make sure each has proper inflation at the correct PSI. Consult the experts or your truck manual to determine the correct winter inflation levels. Also, check for cracks or degradation in the rubber.
Along with your winterized tires, you can install chains for extra grip. You’ll want to determine which states require chains and that you have the correct size ready. Inspect them for damage, twists or worn links.
5. Include Fuel Additives
When temperatures begin to drop below freezing, diesel fuel can become slushy or gel-like. Unlike gasoline, diesel contains paraffin that can crystallize in cold conditions. As a result, the fuel can’t reach the fuel filter, causing your rig to have operation issues or engine failure. You can check the diesel by examining its cetane levels — the higher the levels, the better.
Check the owner’s manual to determine the type of additive the semi-truck requires and how to enhance the engine’s performance as opposed to causing damage. Fuel additives prevent ice buildup and help keep the diesel from turning to gel.
6. Install a Block Warmer
Diesel engines are more difficult to start in cold conditions compared to their gasoline counterparts because they need increased cylinder temperatures. When you invest in an engine block warmer, it can keep your semi’s engine warm when you aren’t driving, making for effortless startups.
7. Top off Your Antifreeze
Antifreeze prevents the overheating and the freezing of an engine. In your semi, you’ll want to flush out and replace the antifreeze as necessary and make sure it’s at the right level. Determine the freezing point of the antifreeze using a testing gauge.
8. Clear the Air Tanks
The first step in clearing the engine’s air tanks is to check the air dryer for proper function, inspecting it for leaks and corrosion. The air dryer expels air contaminants before they enter the brakes. It also stops water from icing over in the brake lines.
Any water within the air system can freeze, resulting in frozen air valves. It can also affect the air suspension and brakes. You can clean the air tanks by removing all the drain plugs and allowing the tanks to dry. Alternatively, you can invest in automatic drain valves that do it for you.
9. Check Your Fuel Filter
As regular maintenance for winter preparation, replace the fuel filter as needed. When the weather changes, condensation can form and collect in the fuel tanks. If this is the case in your vehicle, exchange the filters for new ones and carry extras when traveling.
Review the fuel and water separator as well. Drain the water and ensure that it’s in excellent condition — you don’t want the components to freeze. You never want the water to contaminate the diesel fuel because it can depreciate the engine’s life or destroy it completely.
10. Fit New Wiper Blades
The worst thing you can do is to buy cheap wipers that break at the first sign of snow or ice. Instead, install new wipers that will prevent ice and snow buildup. For example, did you know that heated wiper blades were a thing? They'll provide your semi windshield with unobstructed views.
Be sure to fill your truck’s windshield wiper fluid and switch to a cold-weather blend to help fight the frost.
Preparing for the cold weather by winterizing your semi-truck can help your operations run smoothly. When you’re ready for whatever the forecast brings to the roads, it will be nothing but timely deliveries and a comfortable ride.
Purchase Winter Solutions From Bud and Tony's Truck Parts
When truck drivers across the country begin to prepare for the winter season. Whether it’s your first time hauling in the snow or you’re an experienced professional, you should know that no one can skimp out on winterizing a big rig that’s exposed to the elements. Our diligent and reliable personnel are available to support you throughout the entire winterization process.
Bud and Tony’s Truck Parts deliver products that boost road safety to help protect drivers and their investments. Our one stop winter shop section will make your life on the road easier and more convenient, allowing you to remain steadfast in any condition. Contact us online for more information, and learn how our solutions can solve your winter problems.