Making sure your truck keeps running is key to avoiding downtime in your business. Here are 8 common reasons for breakdowns – and what you can do to prevent them.
It’s fair to say that it’s almost impossible to avoid all kinds of truck downtime, thanks to natural wear and tear. But there’s also a lot of preventive maintenance that you can do to reduce the risk of breakdowns.
“A general basic recommendation for increasing uptime is to perform regular inspections. Daily checks mean that drivers can act before any problem becomes something bigger or even a major issue. A lot of issues can also be avoided by attending your scheduled truck service”, says Bert Johansson, Operational Development Manager at Volvo Trucks.
Of course, some breakdowns are more common than others.
1. MAINTAIN THE BATTERY
The most common reason for a truck breakdown is battery malfunction. A modern truck is highly dependent on functions and systems that need battery energy. If overused, these might cause the battery to run flat. Well-charged and clean batteries together with a well-maintained battery box and electrical connections are crucial when it comes to avoiding breakdowns. To avoid malfunction, keep the batteries clean and charged, and make sure that the electrical connections in the battery box are clean and free from corrosion by using anti-corrosion spray.
2. AVOID LOCKED OR WORN-OUT BRAKES
Brakes get exposed to a lot of wear and tear and locked or stuck brakes are very common issues that require roadside assistance. Reasons for this sort of breakdown can include cracked discs, worn disc pads and/or calipers getting stuck. All of these can be avoided by regular preventive maintenance checks. Ensure you follow the scheduled service intervals.
3. MAKE SURE THAT THE STARTER MOTOR HAS CLEAN ELECTRICAL CONNECTIONS
In position number three we find starter motor problems, which can cause the engine to malfunction. This is very often due to loose or bad electrical connections, caused – in this case – by corrosion. To avoid this, check the starter motor connections, and if necessary clean and lubricate them with anti-corrosion spray.
4. CHECK YOUR TIRES DAILY
In fourth place we find different types of damage to the tires: for example, tire blowouts. By checking your tires daily, you can avoid a lot of issues. Look for unusual wear and damage to tire threads and sidewalls.
5. LOOK FOR OIL LEAKS
Oil leaks can also frequently cause unnecessary standstills, with leaks most frequently coming from hoses and pipes. Leaks can be found in both the power steering and engine oil systems, and generally occur through normal use and degradation. By looking for oil leaks underneath the vehicle, you can avoid a breakdown before it happens.
6. AVOID CLUTCH-RELATED ISSUES
In 6th place for breakdown causes we find clutch-related issues. These can be caused by several reasons, like worn-out clutch discs or leaking pneumatic hoses. They can be detected during service, so to avoid them make sure that you attend your scheduled service appointments. If the gearbox is used incorrectly in manual mode, driver training is recommended to make sure that the gearbox and clutch are both used correctly.
7. CHANGE FILTERS IN TIME
If filters (for example, fuel filters and water separators) are not replaced according to your service schedule, they risk becoming clogged – which can lead to very expensive standstills. To maintain the engine and preserve its expected lifetime, it’s crucial that engine oil filters are replaced at service intervals. Make sure that you have a regular dialogue with your service workshop – and, if needed, update your service interval and plan your workshop visits in time to fit in with your operation.
8. CHECK THE AIR BELLOWS FOR CRACKS AND DAMAGES
Almost all trucks today are equipped with air suspension using rubber bellows. As they age, so-called “ozone cracks” can cause damage to the bellows which can then lead to a sudden air leakage, resulting in a breakdown. To avoid this, you need to make sure that your air bellows are in good shape – meaning that you should keep them as clean as possible. This can be done during regular preventive maintenance checks.
The key to cut costs for downtime is to be aware of and optimize the planned maintenance, so that you get less unplanned stops and breakdowns.
Some of the preventative maintenance tips mentioned here might seem self-explanatory or straightforward. But breakdowns can have severe consequences for a truck business and result in significant costs. The average breakdown cost for these types of issues can range from 2,000 to 5,000 EUR* depending on the location and circumstances. No matter how well trucks are built, they will always need maintenance and repair, and all of the common causes for breakdowns that are mentioned here are based on real-life examples*.
As Bert Johansson puts it: “There’s a difference between planned downtime and unplanned downtime, even from a cost perspective. The key to cut costs for downtime is to be aware of and optimize the planned maintenance, so that you get less unplanned stops and breakdowns”.
Contact your nearest Volvo Trucks workshop for further advice and for an updated service schedule.
* Facts and statistics from Volvo roadside assistance service (2023).