10 Heavy Truck Diagnostics Terms You Should Know
There are hundreds of millions of drivers around the world, and all of them have vehicles that need maintenance from time to time. But there are far less mechanics than there are drivers, so unfortunately, the majority of drivers have a high likelihood of encountering a problem at some point that they can’t identify or explain.
“It wiggles, you know? Really fast, when I go fast.”
“There’s kind of a, I don’t know, chongakongakonk sound. Is that bad?”
“It feels like the tires are loud, and when I try to turn, there’s a…a shriek?”
While all of those may describe legitimately terrible trouble under your truck’s hood, they don’t really give a mechanic much more than a vague idea of what the problem might be. And that’s bad news for you, because if the technician fixing your heavy truck has to spend a couple of hours finding out what’s really going on – especially if your sound effects and explanation were the cause of the misunderstanding – your costs for labour are going to get much higher.
Here are some of the top ten truck diagnostics terms that mechanics and technicians use all the time. Remember them for the next time you feel something off while you’re driving – it could save you serious headache!
1. Backfire: Often heard about in pop culture (and much less common nowadays than they used to be), a backfire is a gunshot-like sound that comes from the engine or tailpipe. They are caused by unburnt fuel in the exhaust system igniting and rapidly combusting, and are known to cause a loss of power and motion. See a video clip of an engine backfire here.
2. Bottoming: This refers to excessive noise or harsh vibrations that are often felt through the steering wheel or passenger area, often when going over bumps. First place to look for the problem? The shock absorbers and other parts of the shock system, which help mitigate road imperfections while driving.
3. Bucking: Does your engine hesitate or “lurch”, as the transmission slips while trying to change gears? Then you’re familiar with bucking. The most likely cause is in the fuel line, as the engine isn’t getting the fuel that it needs to maintain power.
4. Dieseling: If you turn off your engine, but the truck continues to burn fuel and run for a moment afterwards, that is known as dieseling – because it’s due to an air-fuel mixture combusting in the cylinder without a spark, like in a diesel engine. It can signify timing issues, temperature moderation problems, or any of several other similar factors.
5. Hesitation: When you accelerate and feel a sudden loss of power, that’s hesitation. It can be traced back to low fuel pressure, slowed ignition timing, poor quality fuel, low voltages/weak sparks…the list goes on.
6. Knocking: Also called “detonation”, this is a rapid rattling noise that can be heard upon acceleration, and is often caused by fuel burning unevenly instead of in one smooth, continuous action.
7. Misfire: A category of hesitation, these happen when fuel in one or more of the engine’s cylinders fails to ignite properly and interrupts the flow of power.
8. Shimmy: A pronounced side-to-side motion that transmits from the tires through the steering wheel. While the details can change for each case, the main culprit behind it all is an imbalance of some type – in the tires, in the treads, in the brake rotors, etc. When they are not symmetrical, the mismatch is very noticeable.
9. Sluggish: If you’ve ever floored the gas and the car barely made its way down the road, or felt very jumpy while accelerating, you’ve encountered a sluggish engine. It means it’s just not delivering the horsepower that it should be, based on your power input.
10. Surge: Like the opposite of a hesitation, a surge is a sudden (usually upward) change in a vehicle’s engine speed. Like a lot of these problems, inconsistent fuel delivery and pressure is usually to blame.
Remember these terms for the next time you’re bringing your vehicle in for our money-saving preventative maintenance or repair, and it will help the mechanic pinpoint the problem faster – getting you back on the road more quickly, and making sure the root cause is fixed.
Why Does My Truck Need Brake Checks Every Year Now?
If you’ve been driving a truck or other heavy vehicles for a long time, you may remember a time when inspections weren’t quite as strict or stringent as they are now. One of the big shifts that happened recently regards the upkeep of brake systems, with new standards requiring a schedule of maintenance at least once a year. There are a few reasons for this, but today we’re just going to talk about two of them.
The first reason is straightforward, and plays a role more often than you would think: it’s simply a matter of quality. If you walk into a parts section of an automotive store, you’re going to find many more options than you ever thought, for almost any part on a vehicle that can be replaced – brakes included. And while competition for your hard earned dollars is good, you may find a wide range of prices waiting – and, unless you have a lot of money to burn, you’re likely to lean towards something on the cheaper side. While these cheaper brake pads/shoes will work, they may not work as well as something more expensive, because they are often produced or manufactured for as cheaply as possible – which may be here at home, or may be far overseas. This means quality control may not be effective, the component parts may be tainted or sub-par to begin with, or they may just get damaged during a long trip across an ocean. Our advice? Buy the cheapest brake pads at your own risk, because you’re likely to be paying again if they fail early.
The second reason that brakes have to be checked every year now is that the latest criteria of inspections for the Commercial Vehicle Inspection Program (CVIP) has changed. Inspections of years past included a cam rotation, lining thickness measurements, and push rod traveling, from which we could pinpoint the drum wear, even though we usually visually inspected the brakes through the hole in the backing plate. We only pulled drums if physical damage or the measurements indicated that we had to check for a defect in the wheel.
Now, though, CVIP standards say we must pull the brakes every year on various makes and models of equipment, in order to verify things like pad/shoe condition, drum wear, heat dissipation, and cracking to within one inch of the drum lip. As you can imagine, this causes us to replace many more brake parts, because the visual inspection is much more thorough.
As with any of these new regulations, it can be tough to stay on top of it all when you’ve got everything else in your job to worry about. That’s why it makes sense to leave it to the pros – especially the ones whose specialty is preventative maintenance and who are dedicated to keeping your rig running, operational, and compliant before the major problems appear. West Tech Mobile is that shop – and we look forward to helping you get the most out of your heavy equipment, trucks, and other heavy-duty vehicles in Calgary!
10 Tips For Dealing With Mechanics
Have you ever wondered what you can do to make your mechanic’s day better? Or how you can be the best customer they’ve had all month? The truth is, a lot of people have some bad habits when it comes to their mechanics, and while these habits certainly won’t affect the quality of the work performed, they will take a toll on the person doing it. If you want to be a favourite client, here are ten helpful tips to remember the next time you roll into a garage.
We hope these help you the next time you’re anxious about how long your repairs will take or how much they’ll cost. Remember, we’re all trying to do the best we can, so with a bit of patience and understanding, we’ll have your vehicle back to you as soon as possible – in even better shape than you expected!
Why Do Semi Trucks Use Air Brakes?
It’s a sound you hear all over any major city and on highways everywhere: the unmistakeable hiss of air coming off of a big rig as it rolls to a stop next to you. But have you ever wondered: why do semi trucks use air brakes? Why can’t they use hydraulic brakes like smaller cars?
It all comes down to reliability and availability of resources. In general, the heavier the vehicle, the more likely it is to use air brakes. Hydraulic fluid for small car brake lines needs to be filled at a shop and maintained manually, while air is everywhere, ready to be used in any truck braking system. But that’s just one reason why they’re common in the industry.
First let’s go over how air brakes work. A compressor fills storage tanks to the regulated pressure, set by a device known as a governor. A valve makes sure that air only goes one way through the line, so even if the compressor leaks, the air tanks will not. From there, the air is fed through the brake lines and differences in pressure (created by hitting the brake pedal) are used to move a series of rods, cams, and brake components as needed while driving.
In addition, in a hydraulic system, if there is a leak in the brake line, the entire system will fail since it cannot replenish the pressure needed to activate the brakes and slow the wheels. If you’re in a fully loaded truck or other heavy-duty equipment, it would simply be too dangerous to use hydraulics, since their default setting does not slow the vehicle at all. They are cumbersome, too – above a GVWR of about 26,000 lbs, the necessary equipment become too heavy, inefficient, and hot during operation to be useful.
So why do semi trucks use air brakes instead? These systems are designed so their “inactive” setting is closed, meaning that if all the pressure were to suddenly drop anywhere below 45 psi, the brakes would kick in automatically. They utilize very strong springs behind pistons that extend out and hold all of the drive wheels in place, unless and until an air pressure of about 65 psi pushes the pistons back into its driving position. This emergency system is mandatory in semi trucks and other tractor-type vehicles, for obvious reasons – overall, they are safer, and their stopping power is much greater. These emergency brakes are activated by a simple switch on the dash, immediately bleeding the pressure out and letting the springs take over, bringing the truck to a halt. Beyond that, one truck can control multiple trailers, where the driver can activate regular brakes for all the trailers at once – and if the tractor separates from the rest, all the emergency parking brakes close automatically.
When performing maintenance on a hydraulic system, if the lines are opened, the whole thing must be flushed out and the affected line replaced in order to ensure there is no air left anywhere (because the bubbles would react differently than the fluid inside, causing unexpected shifts in pressure). In contrast, with air brakes, you only have to replace a leaking or faulty line – saving a lot of time and labour in the process. You may even encounter dual air brake systems, where each axle has a different set of lines and storage tanks (though they are controlled by one pedal), further reducing the need to go through the entire system during repairs.
Are there any downsides to using air brakes? One, which can be avoided with proper maintenance and use of air dryers and drain valves, is a buildup of water vapour in the lines, which can cause trouble if it freezes during winter driving. The brakes can also take a little longer to slow down big trucks, since they don’t transfer braking power as efficiently. And another thing to consider is that air brakes can only be operated by drivers with a Class 1 license (or a Q endorsement on other classes), requiring extra training, education, and financial investment in order to become qualified. But none of those are truly downsides when compared to the vast improvements on safety and reliability of air brake systems in semi trucks and other commercial vehicles, and the fact that even in a worst-case scenario, they are designed to quite literally spring into action.
So the next time you hear the telltale hiss of air brakes from a truck behind you on the road, you can breathe more easily knowing that they were built with safety in mind – and that places like West Tech Mobile are here in the shop making sure they work just as they were meant to!
Calgary Food Trucks Service
Over the last few years, a new craze has popped up in cities all over North America – the food truck. Once just a hallmark of places like New York and Los Angeles, the food truck phenomenon has now spread to every corner of the continent, including right here in Calgary.
Food trucks are the ultimate win for a sole proprietor that loves the business: portable, efficient, and on a small scale, they can quickly be moved to a new location as needed. But what happens when the “truck” part of the business starts to show more than the “food” side?
After all, a food truck still needs to be maintained and fixed every so often – perhaps even more so, since they’re running equipment like fridges, freezers, and stoves. And if your truck shows up to an event smelling like burning oil, leaking coolant, or shrieking with bad brakes, that will create an association with every customer – not for good food, but for low quality of care. That’s extremely detrimental to any solo business!
The solution to this is to keep up on your truck’s preventative maintenance – if you wait until you notice the problem, then chances are that potential customers have noticed it too, and steered clear. There’s no law about food trucks requiring commercial inspections (for now), but ignoring what’s under the hood won’t do you any favours in the long run. At least twice a year, bring your vehicle to West Tech’s shop (or we can come to you), and get all the fluids, belts, brakes, and other systems checked, so that you can take care of any problems before they get big enough to scare away sales. On top of the increased marketability, you’ll also have the better peace of mind, knowing that you – and your supplies in the back – are safe during transport to local hot spots.
The best times to do this maintenance are the spring and fall, when business isn’t overwhelming yet, and you won’t feel rushed through the process. This way, you won’t lose any money by bringing your truck in, and you know you’ll be ready for the summer slam of event-hopping that comprises the majority of income for most food truck operators. And afterward, as things slow down again in the autumn, any problems that may have started to form during the rush can be identified and fixed before they cause a headache during the next busy season.
While it’s a different business model from many others, food trucks are still a business – and as with any major personal investment in one, it’s best to ensure it operates safely, efficiently, and to the quality that its client base expects. Don’t be stuck in the shop during a big festival or busy long weekend crowd because you forgot to top up your coolant, or replace your brake pads. A little preparation, and preventative maintenance, goes a long way toward keeping your truck where it belongs, out where the action is. And then you can focus on doing what you do best – creating great food for the people who want to support you!
Benefits of Mobile Truck Service
In the modern age of tight deadlines and the necessary efficiency, it isn’t always easy to take time out of your schedule to keep up with the maintenance on your heavy equipment. Aside from being needed on the job site, they can also be inconvenient or simply too large to move. As a result, if they get pushed too hard for too long, they may stop working altogether and break down on the site, or become unsafe to operate on highways or city streets. It could be costly to tow, or to spend weeks waiting for repairs that cost valuable productivity. What can be done to prevent this?
Don’t worry! We’ve thought of the answer already. And it’s West Tech Mobile’s mobile truck service.
If your first thought is that the term only means “roadside assistance”, you’re only partway there. Our Calgary-based mobile truck service is so much more – in fact, it’s a way of bringing a shop directly to you, wherever you need it.
If your machinery, trucks, or other heavy equipment needs preventative maintenance, checkups, or repairs – or if it breaks down on site beyond your ability to fix – you no longer have to figure out the logistics of getting it to a shop and wasting time and staff in the process. Forget about the safety risks of navigating highways or narrow city roads, and simply give West Tech a call.
Not only will this save you time and money (and a lot of headaches), but when we come out to you, it means that we have a direct link to your employees and operators who know the equipment the best. We can communicate instantly about any problems and solutions, and have the right information on hand to get the job done properly as soon as possible. And the best part? Once the unit is fixed, it’s ready to go right away. There’s no waiting around for someone to drive it back to the site and get it back in place.
And, of course, we can also use these mobile units for roadside assistance, too. We can do the same kinds of repairs, on the spot, while you sit in our warm truck and wait.
You may be thinking that we have some small vans or trucks, and that we can’t make it to your remote worksite in the field. We wanted to make sure that we could, so we use a fleet of 4x4 vehicles that can cross even the most unforgiving terrain. They are all equipped with cranes, air compressors, welders, generators, and much more, to ensure that even just one of our techs can lift, reach, and repair heavy equipment all on their own. All of our field computers have portable internet sticks so we can use our software to give you the same quality of service you’d find in the shop. After all, that’s really what these trucks are – portable warehouses and mobile shops that make your life easier.
So the next time you’re in need of some tune-ups, preventative maintenance, on-site repairs, or other work on your units, trucks, or equipment, remember that West Tech Mobile brings a whole shop right to you. You won’t find a better mobile truck service in Calgary, or anywhere else in Alberta!
Avoiding Department Of Transportation Fines With Our Spring Special!
It looks like warm weather has finally returned, and as the old saying goes, that means it’s time for our second-longest Canadian season: construction! Trucks, rollers, pavers, cranes, and all kinds of other vehicles will be out in force in the coming months, working hard and doing what they do best.
But many of those vehicles have been sitting idle for several months, as the cold weather really blasted Calgary this year. That means all the hoses, pipes, and connections could have suffered damage over that time, and even the quality of the fluids inside the tanks and reservoirs could be reduced. And having a vehicle with multiple issues isn’t the kind of spring start you likely envisioned.
While you may think it’s not a big deal, and that you can get everything checked out down the road or as it flares up to give you trouble, here’s the thing. The Department of Transportation also knows all of this, and they’re ready to go on a spring roadside safety blitz, with checkstops popping up all over. And if there’s one piece of advice we can offer, it’s this: don’t start your season with hefty fines and lost time because you didn’t properly prep your heavy equipment, machinery, or trucks to be safe on the road!
Because of the nature of their work, safety standards can be very strict around this kind of equipment, and the DOT doesn’t take chances. Even small issues – like a functioning headlight that has a crack or hole in it – can be enough to shut you down due to the possibility of causing an accident later on, and some of these are so minor that you wouldn’t necessarily catch them on a simple walkaround.
It may sound like we’re exaggerating or fearmongering, but we simply want our clients to be able to do their jobs and get home safe to their families at the end of every day. That’s why West Tech Mobile has set up a Spring Special deal (details listed below), just for people like you – an all-in-one package designed to go over your vehicle’s systems and parts and ensure that it’s all in good shape for the season ahead. Tire pressure, lights, leaks from hoses, electrical connections…we’ll make sure you’re road-ready and have nothing to fear from a sudden checkstop on the highway.
With this kind of preventative maintenance, it’s much easier to pay once and have peace of mind than to be stuck footing a tow bill and a day of lost productivity, or to have something go wrong when you’re far away from home, out in the oilfield of northern Alberta, or outside any of the major cities and towns. It’s always better to catch and fix little problems, before they become big headaches.
Call West Tech Mobile in the industrial area of southeast Calgary today to find out more about our Spring Special – it doesn't take much time and you’ll be very glad you did!
Spring Special Includes...
Cooling system performance test, checking all fins, checking coolant strength, a/c performance test (hookup manifold gauge kit, check static pressures, etc), check vent temperatures, check cycle times on your compressors, check condition of drive belts, a visual inspection of condenser and fins, checking fan hub operation, pressure washing dirt and bugs found in fins, check the blower fan for functioning, check for any winter damages.
When purchasing this bundle receive an incredible 25% OFF!
This is only on until the first day of summer so be sure to...
DEFs and California Truck Regulations
There’s a misconception that being a trucker is easy – that you just get comfy and drive around in the sunshine, with your favourite music playing and the wide open road ahead. And while it has moments like that, it’s still a job. A job that’s done in all conditions, rain or shine, with long stretches away from home and your family. A job with rules, laws, safety protocols, and plenty of paperwork that follows you everywhere you go.
Government regulation of the trucking industry varies across provinces and states, with some being stricter than others on things like maintenance, scheduling, and emission standards. California is well known for being among the strictest places in North America when it comes to these laws, and has been for many years.
Starting in 2008, the California government began mandating that trucks had to systematically upgrade their engines and equipment, and install new tech in order to increase aerodynamics and lessen friction – at the truckers’ own cost, naturally. While such modifications may end up saving money in the long run, and are not a bad idea in theory, it is a lot of money to invest up front into a fleet of vehicles all at once. From 2012 to 2020, all trucks have to periodically swap out older parts for newer ones that would meet the ever-higher standards from the government.
One of the biggest changes, though, was the mandatory installation of diesel particulate filters. These after-market filters scrub out some particulates from the exhaust vents of the engine, keeping the worst of the soot pollutants out of the air – but they can be very expensive (into the thousands of dollars), unmodifiable (once it’s on, it cannot legally be removed or tampered with), and if not properly maintained can hamper the performance of your vehicle. Again, this is not a bad policy per se – but just this step, retrofitting a fleet with these devices, can rack up six-figure price tags.
Which brings us to the main point: starting next year, any truck built before 2010 that does not have an upgraded engine – yes, the whole engine – will be denied registration in California. And not only that, as technology changes over time, this consistent upgrade will be an ongoing process that doesn’t stop, costing truck owners time, money, and stress every year for the foreseeable future.
We’re not against environmental regulations here at West Tech Mobile, but we are against a system that unduly punishes the hardworking truck drivers and equipment operators that make our economy run. Just when it seems like they’re catching up to the “way things are”, that way changes and they have to shell out again to avoid costly fines and penalties.
The onus should be on the governing body to do the research into this technology they’re introducing, and making sure that it’s long-lasting enough to make the transitions and installations worth the effort. Beyond that, it seems unfair to pin the entire cost on the industry – since their whole business model depends on being able to drive their trucks, and they have literally no choice but to pay up or go out of business. Framed that way, it doesn’t seem like a very helpful move, does it?
So you know what West Tech thinks – but what do you think? Are regulatory bodies like the ones in California overstepping their bounds and costing truck drivers thousands in unnecessary costs? Or is all of this a step in the right direction for the industry, with no alternative way to subsidize the rising prices of being a trucker? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
On-site Truck And Equipment Inspections
The trucks, tractor-trailers and other heavy equipment with which we work have the potential to cause some major damage if they malfunction while moving – and that’s why there’s a rigorous set of inspections that need to be followed and kept current for them. But not all inspections are born equal, and today we’re going to talk about some of the different types, especially the Commercial Vehicle Inspection Program (CVIP), and where they can be performed.
Let’s start with preventative maintenance. Don’t be fooled – while we believe this is just as necessary as any mandatory inspections, it doesn’t officially count as one. These “in-between” inspections can be done either on-site or in our shop, and will help you get the most efficiency, life, and safety out of your engine and other components. They are not, however, meant to replace the strict procedures of official inspections at regular intervals.
Quarterly inspections, PDIs (pre-delivery inspections), and PPIs (pre-purchase inspections) are next up, and each of those can be done easily on the job site, minimizing lost time and productivity. It’s a good setup, because it means less stress about manoeuvring equipment around when you’ve already got a busy schedule, and having West Tech Mobile come to you is a perfect solution. We can also do repair inspections out of the shop – on the road, on a job site, etc. We’ll assess the situation and help make sure everything is safely working as it should.
This isn’t just limited to trucks, either. We can do these inspections on cranes, manlifts, jackstands, heavy machinery, and so on, all on-site and without further interfering with your logistics. This is possible because we have a professional engineer in our staff, experienced with everything including basic inspections, annual certifications, checkups, and structural magnetic particle inspections.
It’s important to know, though, that we (and everyone) cannot legally do CVIP inspections outside of a licensed facility, with a licensed inspector. While there are several reasons for this, the main one is that a lot of the necessary tools to do the full process cannot be moved from the facility. Since there are such stringent rules about CVIPs, it’s not something you want to rush, anyway – it’s the kind of thing you’ll want to plan ahead for so that it’s done well and done correctly.
If you’re overdue for any of these inspections (or if you simply want to make sure everything in your vehicle is functioning as it should), give West Tech Mobile a call today. If it’s possible, we’ll come to you, and if you have to come in to our shop, you’ll find that you’re leaving your equipment in very capable hands. We look forward to helping you get the most out of every bit of mileage.
How You Can Keep Your Cab Temperature Livable Without Idling Your Truck.
In recent years, a new trend of anti-idling laws has cropped up in many places around the world, and Alberta could be next in line. These laws are meant to reduce waste and emissions from vehicles that are idling for long periods of time – affecting everything from long-haul trucks at rest stops to the huge cargo ships waiting in a port. The laws are for a good reason, but they often fail to account for the reason why the vehicles are idling in the first place: the weather outside can be extreme, and it’s often quite literally unsafe to be in a vehicle without heating or cooling for several hours.
In the winter, temperatures down to -40º C can only be kept at bay by running a heater in the cab. And in the summer months, when outside temperatures can reach +40º C or higher, a truck’s interior can heat up 10-15 degrees beyond that in just an hour – an absolutely fatal temperature for anyone inside. The conventional way of cooling the cab of a truck is usually with the truck running and using the diesel and electrical system of the truck. Getting the cold air off of the truck systems is a more complex process and requires a compressor to compress your refrigerant; so what is the solution to this considering idling laws are against running trucks in this fashion? That’s where Autoclima comes in.
Designed to be a workaround for anti-idling laws, Autoclima is a battery-powered technology that uses your daytime driving to charge itself and allows you to run air conditioning without having to start your engine. With up to 8 hours of battery life, it’s the perfect way to save fuel while keeping your cab at the perfect climate, and it won’t drain your engine’s battery either. Whether you’re at a lonely rest stop along the Coquihalla highway, or pulled over at a busy gas station outside of a major southern city, you can be sure you’re following any regional anti-idling laws while also staying comfortable – at any time, and in any season.
The Autoclima units can even be adapted to units that were built without A/C – such as older vehicles or big heavy equipment like trackhoes or tractors. It’s simple and quick, and will keep drivers happy during long hot days spent on the road or in the field. And since they run off batteries instead of fuel, your fuel costs will go down since engines will no longer need to idle to keep you sitting comfortably in hot weather conditions.
If you want the freedom and potential that Autoclima provides, look no further than West Tech Mobile! We can install and set up everything for you, keeping you in line with the law so you are saving engine hours and diesel fuel while silently using the free cold air on the days and nights you need it. We’re located in southeast Calgary, near 52 St and Peigan Trail, and from there we can do service all across southern Alberta with our fleet of mobile service vehicles. Contact us today to find out more!