Bottom Line
With winter coming up, are you and your truck ready to roll?
It was a long hot summer with record high temperatures in much of the U.S. While the cooler temperatures are welcome, it means winter will soon blanket the nation with cold weather. Depending on where you travel, being prepared can often make the difference between becoming stranded in a life-threatening situation or making it to where you're going safely.

By Jeff Barker, Land Line contributor

Maintain your flow
Untreated No. 2 ultra-low-sulfur diesel, ULSD, can start gelling up at 15 degrees when the truck’s engine has been shut off for a while and there’s no hot return fuel flowing from the engine back into the fuel tanks.

With that in mind it’s wise to put a good-quality fuel additive (I use and recommend FPPF Polar Power myself) into the tanks at 20 degrees.

When temperatures drop to around minus 10 degrees, it’s advisable to start using No. 1 ULSD fuel mixed with No. 2 ULSD at a 50 percent ratio and keep the truck’s engine running at high idle (around 800 to 1,000 rpms) while parked.

Most fuel retailers in the north sell “pre-blended” fuel to combat gelling. But before winter sets in, put together a list of fuel stops that sell No. 1 ULSD in the areas you travel. Never assume they will have it just because they sold it last winter. Some fuel stops that used to carry No. 1 ULSD fuel have quit offering it.

If you can, buy a case of fuel additive at a truck parts supplier as it’s often less expensive in bulk compared to by the bottle in a truck stop. Store it in a frame-mounted side box so fumes from a leaking bottle stored under the bunk can’t get into the truck’s HVAC system and make you ill.

Air system prep
Moisture in air systems can wreak havoc when temperatures drop below freezing. Keep air tanks free of moisture by draining them daily and replacing the air dryer assembly at least once every two years.

Pour a few ounces of air line antifreeze into the red emergency brake hose gladhand port on your tractor before connecting it to the trailer gladhand. That reduces the possibility of having frozen air lines or valves.

Trailer tandems air lines
If you’re pulling a trailer with sliding tandems, take a rubber tarp strap and secure the air lines going to the tandem assembly that are hanging down from the frame. In snow and ice, those dangling air lines can accumulate ice and, if weighted down enough, tear away. The thought of trailer tandems locking up due to a sudden loss of air pressure is not something any of us want to think about.

Lighting system concerns
Many of us have discovered the advantages of LED lights. They’re not exactly the hot ticket in winter conditions, though, because they don’t emit enough heat to melt away snow and ice accumulation. If your lights have a ledge or anything snow and ice could accumulate on, put the LED lights into hibernation and replace with incandescent lights until spring arrives. Remember to use dielectric grease on the light connectors.

Wipers and washer fluid
Switch over to a good winter windshield washer fluid that is capable of melting ice and has a lower freeze point. I have had great luck with Prestone De-Icer windshield washer fluid. Replace those summer wiper blades with winter blades that have a rubber covering over the wiper frame. There are also truck wiper blades out there manufactured by EverBlades and several others that I’ve used with good results.

Preparing yourself
Many of us are prepared to do our jobs in normal working conditions. But when unforeseen circumstances like a breakdown or road closure takes place, your life may be on the line within a matter of minutes if you aren’t prepared.

Pay close attention to state DOT websites, the CB and road warning signs to monitor road conditions ahead. If a road is closed ahead and there’s no safe, practical detour, then start looking for a place to park, preferably a truck stop or motel with truck parking that has a truck repair facility nearby.

Also, when you are aware that road conditions are bad ahead, make it a point to top off on fuel before going into those areas. If area roads are bad or even impassable, then chances are strong that fuel tankers are not going to be able to maintain fuel supplies at the truck stops they are servicing, not to mention those places may have lost electricity to run those fuel pumps.

Here’s a list of survival items you should keep with you.

  • Laptop computer with an air card and/or a smartphone capable of accessing the Internet (for monitoring weather and road conditions);
  • Two flashlights with spare batteries;
  • Candles and either matches or a lighter;
  • Nonperishable food and beverages;
  • Heavy winter blankets and clothing, including an insulated hat to help retain more body heat; and
  • A working CB radio. LL