Keeping Your Cool With Preventative Cooling System Maintenance

When it comes to keeping a heavy-duty truck cool, it needs all the cooling help it can get. In addition to the heavy-duty components that offer extra cooling capacity, preventative maintenance also plays an important role in keeping your big rig rolling. Without it, you're bound to be stuck at a standstill. The following offers a few pointers for keeping your truck's cooling system in top shape.

Airflow is King

Behind the majestic face of the average big rig hides a massive radiator, along with a collection of oil coolers, charge air coolers and other components that need airflow. Speaking of which, that huge grille is specifically designed to bring in as much air as possible, so it's a good idea to keep it clean and free of debris.

Next up is the cooling fan, which also plays an important role in providing adequate airflow. On many trucks, the cooling fan is actuated by an air-powered clutch. If the clutch does not have the proper air pressure needed to properly engage the clutch's friction disc, the fan blades won't spin at the correct speed to produce adequate airflow. When performing preventative cooling system maintenance, you should always test the cooling fan to ensure proper operation.

You should also visually inspect the radiator itself, but not just to spot leaks. The small aluminum fins that help dissipate engine heat are easy to bend and damage, which in turn prevents air from flowing between the fins.

Six Points for Prevention

When it comes to preventative maintenance, you should always follow your truck manufacturer's recommended service schedule. However, here are a few other prevention points to keep in mind while performing your scheduled maintenance and upkeep:

  • Don't use tap water to top off your truck's radiator, as it can introduce calcium and other hard deposits into the cooling system. Instead, use distilled water to prevent scale and corrosion from taking hold. You can also use supplemental cooling additives to further control acidity and scaling.
  • Use a 50/50 mix of engine coolant and water. Using too much coolant could lead to gelling under certain conditions.
  • Power washing your truck's radiator and auxiliary coolers on a regular basis can help prevent dust and debris coatings from overheating your truck, especially if you operate your truck in dusty and humid environments.
  • Inspect all of your hoses and clamps for any signs of leakage or damage. Also be aware that coolant hoses can lose their seal against outlets due to temperature-related expansion and contraction. The problem can be taken care of with constant torque hose clamps or specialized hoses with metal tubing and o-ring fittings.
  • Know when to flush your truck's engine coolant. Corrosive acids and gasses can lead to a coolant breakdown as it ages. Most manufacturers recommend a coolant flush every year or every other year. Vehicles used for severe service may require more frequent flushes.
  • Always check the thermostat for proper operation. Failure to close or open at the correct times could lead to overheating and a variety of other engine problems.

Radiator Upgrades

In addition to preventative maintenance, you should also consider upgrading some of your cooling components for better performance. For instance, a radiator upgrade can help your truck dissipate engine heat quicker under hot operating conditions.

An upgraded radiator may feature dimpled brass tubes that not only offer more surface area for dissipating heat, but they're also stronger than their aluminum counterparts. Some manufacturers may also use copper fins, which dissipate heat quicker than comparable aluminum fins. Such upgrades may cost more initially, but they tend to pay for themselves over the long run. If you are interested in purchasing a new radiator, visit to see what one retailer has to offer.