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Winterizing Your Truck: A Step-by-Step Plan

Updated: Feb 15

As the weather starts to cool off, and everyone is about to be consumed with pumpkin-spice flavored everything, owner-operators should have something else on their mind: Winterizing their truck. Actively taking steps to prepare your truck for winter is crucial for keeping your costs down, and staying safe in the cold winter months. Follow these guidelines and get your truck ready - winter is just around the corner!

Step One: Prepare an Emergency Kit

Getting stranded in adverse weather conditions is far more likely in the winter months. Make sure you have adequate survival supplies in your truck, including:

  • Extra blankets

  • First aid kit

  • Flashlight and extra batteries

  • Canned food and bottled water

  • Gloves

  • Scarves

  • Hats

  • Snow boots

  • Snow shovel

  • Flares

  • Radio

  • Extra coolant, washer fluid, engine oil

  • Extra fuel filter and fuel filter wrench

  • Tire chains

Step Two: Check The Battery

The best time to check the age and condition of your battery is just before winter settles in. Freezing temperatures drain battery life quickly. If the battery is close to the typical 48-72-month life cycle, then it’s best to replace it. If not, inspect the battery to make sure it is securely mounted and that all connections are tightened and clean. Perform a load test, and check on the alternator and starter as well. Inspect the electrical wiring for any damage or frays, and make sure there are no loose or exposed wires.

Truck in the winter

Step Three: Check the Fuel Filter and Water Separator

Check to be sure the fuel filter is in good condition, and replace it if necessary. To reduce the risk of damage to the engine, monitor the water separator on a daily basis. Water is a common contaminant in diesel fuel and can shorten an engine’s life. If a large amount of water has been collected, it should be drained. Most separators are not self-cleaning, so you’ll need to locate the separator, near the fuel filter, and turn the drain valve to empty the water. This is especially important during the winter months because condensation forms on the inside of a warm fuel tank as the outside temperature cools.

Step Four: Use Fuel Additives

Diesel fuel contains paraffin, a wax, which crystallizes at freezing temperatures. This causes water in the fuel to emulsify and the fuel becomes slushy and gel-like. The fuel cannot pass through the fuel filter and the problem only gets worse when temperatures continue to drop. This gelling of fuel can lead to rough vehicle operation and in some cases, engine failure. To avoid this, check the cetane rating of the fuel at the pump - the higher the better, and add anti-gel fuel additives at each fill up to enhance performance. Check your owner’s manual for specific additive guidelines and always follow mixing procedures exactly, or you risk damaging your fuel system.

Read more: Diesel Winterization.

Step Five: Inspect the Cooling System

Proper maintenance of the cooling system is a major part of winterizing. Anything that’s worn, damaged or cracked is only going to get worse as the tempera