Don't hit the road without...
Don't hit the road without knowing your tow vehicle and trailer are secure.
Racers understand that winning is preceded by preparation. The old saying, "In order to finish First, first you must finish" has been the anthem of every person who talks about pre-race preparation and the importance of doing all the right things in the shop. It is fact that races are won in the shop long before they are won at the track.
We need to amend that axiom to state, "In order to finish First, first you have to get the racecar from the shop to the track." If the tow vehicle breaks down, no amount of pre-race maintenance is going to help. You can't win races standing on the side of the road next to the racecar trailer with the tow vehicle smoking.
Walk through the pits at any racetrack across the country and you will find that more racers than not utilize a diesel-powered truck to tow their racecar and all of the stuff to and from the track. The advantages of diesel power over a gasoline-powered truck are many, and the torque and pulling power are unmatched by their gasoline burning cousins. Not to mention that the fuel economy can be quite good-an important fact when you consider the cost of fuel.
In addition, the diesel engine seems to last several hundred thousand miles with great regularity. But long life does not mean that maintenance is not important. In fact, if you have ever had to pay the engine repair bill on a diesel you will be in for a real eye-opening experience.
Most heavy duty trucks have...
Most heavy duty trucks have two batteries. Make sure they are in good condition. This includes making sure the posts, terminals and the cables are free from corrosion. If the batteries are not sealed, make sure they are full of water.
No matter if you are running a diesel engine or a gasoline engine, making sure that your tow vehicle is in peak condition prior to pulling to the track will pay huge dividends. Maintenance is more than just changing oil and filters. We offer you a front-to-rear process for checking the whole tow vehicle and a checklist to make sure you don't miss anything. This process is something you can do at home without any tools. This is a visual process to make sure that everything is in order. Observation is your first line of defense.
Editor's Note /// The team at Mercie J Auto Care in Mesa, Arizona, lent its time and expertise to help us with this inspection.
|TOWING CHECKLIST |
|Battery Connections || |
|Hold Down ||Fluid |
|Engine Oil ||Transmission Fluid |
|Brake Fluid ||Windshield Wiper Fluid |
|Trans Fluid Color ||Coolant |
Inlet Flex JointsFan Belt Condition and Tension
|Hose Connections: |
|Top ||Bottom |
| Engine || |
Heater HosesVent and Vacuum Lines
|Headlights ||Taillights ||Flashers |
| Turn Signals: |
|RF ||LF ||RR ||LR |
|Universal Joints: ||Front End, Left |
|Front End, Right ||Rear FT |
|Intermediate ||Rear |
|Sway Bar Mounts: |
|Front ||Rear |
|RF ||LF ||RR ||LR |
Steering Gear Tie RodsDrag Link
|Tire Sidewalls:: |
|RF ||LF ||RR ||LR |
|Tire Tread: |
|RF ||LF ||RR ||LR |
Transfer Case LeakageTransmission Leakage
Rearend LeakageMounting Hardware
Hitch TightElectrical Connections for Trailer
Make sure the windshield wipers...
Make sure the windshield wipers are in good condition and the fluid reservoir is full of the correct fluid. Water works fine, but the blue fluid seems to do a much better job of cleaning the window when it is covered with bugs and road grime.
The level and condition of...
The level and condition of the radiator coolant needs to be checked. Contrary to popular opinion, the coolant does not last forever. If the coolant changes color from green to rust red, it needs to be changed. This is an easy check.
The diesel engines in today's...
The diesel engines in today's heavy haulers are turbocharged and it's important to keep track of all the flex fittings on the intake side of the turbo. It's hot under the hood and these couplers can cause some real grief. Inspect them and make sure the fastening hardware is torqued to the factory specifications.
Make sure the engine's oil...
Make sure the engine's oil and transmission fluid are both at the correct level. Pay special attention to the color of the transmission fluid. If it turns from red to brown, there is trouble brewing. The transmission is a highly-loaded part of the drivetrain. Don't skimp here. This transmission fluid is just starting to darken, a sure sign that the transmission may need some attention in the very near future.
The serpentine belt is a very...
The serpentine belt is a very important item. There is only one belt and if it goes bad, so does the engine. This is a big belt and, as stated earlier, the under-hood temperatures are quite high. Replace this bad boy if you see any cracks or tears in the belt. It would not hurt to carry a spare.
Check the brake fluid level...
Check the brake fluid level and check the fittings for signs of leakage. Brake fluid does not last forever. If you haul a heavy trailer you have the potential to overheat the brakes and scorch the fluid. This is something you need to check out on a regular basis.
The connections at the radiator...
The connections at the radiator need to be dry and free from any signs of leakage. Notice that there may be some weeping around the edge of the hose. Keep a close eye on the hoses and the connections. Use care to not over-torque the clamp as the radiator tank is plastic and does not bend, but breaks.
Check all of the universal...
Check all of the universal joints in the drivetrain. If you have a FWD you need to check the universals in the front as well. Look for any signs of leakage or torn rubber seals. If you see any signs of seal damage you will need to do a more thorough inspection, including a teardown.
This is not the factory hose...
This is not the factory hose mount. In a pinch this may work, but be sure to replace this type of repair as soon as possible.
Most of the newer vehicles...
Most of the newer vehicles have a filter indicator that will tell you when the filter is dirty. It does not take long to remove the top of the airbox and check the filter. There are many aftermarket filter systems that will give your truck more power and do a better job of filtering the air. K&N, FRAM and Amsoil all make filter kits for the modern heavy truck.
The shocks at all four corners...
The shocks at all four corners need to be inspected for damage or signs of leakage. You will notice that there is some fluid on the bottom of the boot on this shock. That may necessitate removal of the shock boot to check the shaft seal of the shock. The brake line also needs to be inspected for any signs damage or leakage.
Make sure the steering gear...
Make sure the steering gear is tight and well lubricated. Look for any signs of abuse or torn rubber boots. It does not hurt to give the tie rods a good tug to see if you can feel any slack in any of the rod ends.
Check the trailer's electrical...
Check the trailer's electrical connection for any signs of damage or corrosion. We did notice that the license plate light had fallen out of its socket. No reason to give the police any reason to pull you over. We fixed the light with a simple push and a poke.
It is always a good idea to...
It is always a good idea to make sure the hitch you are using is rated for the weight of the trailer you are pulling. Just because it is working does not mean you have the correct hitch.
The tires need to be checked...
The tires need to be checked on the tread surface and on both the inner and outer sidewalls. This tire has had some contact with a curb. Tire inspection is a very important process, so take your time here and look closely.
While it is unusual for the...
While it is unusual for the hardware securing the hitch to the frame to loosen, you can't be too safe. A visual inspection is a good thing and takes almost no time to accomplish.