If you’re like most pickup truck owners, you likely enjoy putting it to the test to see how far you can push it. Maybe you and the boys like taking your ‘bad boys’ out and driving them through muddy paddles to see who has the best one, or love showing the capabilities of your latest truck lift kit. To ensure you get the best service out of your truck for years, here are 13 tasks to include in your pickup truck maintenance checklist.
1. Personalize Your Truck Care
You wouldn’t advise a long-distance runner to compete in a race wearing soccer cleats or request a football linebacker to swap his shoulder pads for a warm cardigan. Such gear conflicts with each athlete’s competitive objectives. In the same way, you must ensure your pickup truck maintenance checklist includes everything it needs to accomplish the daily adventures you put it through, whether that’s checking your truck hitch because you often tow your RV or regular tire rotations because you’re frequently driving on dirt roads.
For instance, if you regularly load up sharp or heavy objects on the truck bed, a strong tailgate liner will offer an added layer of protection. Alternatively, heavy-duty floor mats can free your truck’s floor from dirt, mud, and coffee spills if you reside in a region that experiences extreme weather events. If in doubt, refer to your owner’s manual and manufacturer’s recommendations. A little research will give you all the info you need on your truck’s care specifics, including max towing capacity, proper fluid levels, and more!
2. Treat Diesel Engines Differently
Compared to a truck with a gas-powered engine, a pickup truck with a diesel engine typically needs more frequent fuel filter replacements; think every 15,000 miles rather than every 30,000 miles. The reduced timeframe is usually due to variations in the engine’s design and the fuel it runs on. Fuel filters are responsible for maintaining a smooth flow of fuel in the engine, and clogged ones can cause major engine issues that require urgent diesel truck repair.
The differences between diesel and gas engines don’t end at the pump. You’ll need a special motor oil for a diesel truck. Diesel engines need oil and gas with anti-wear additives because they absorb more carbon than gas engines.
3. Use High Mileage Motor Oil
The more time your pickup truck spends on the road, the more important truck maintenance becomes. When your truck’s odometer reaches 75,000 miles, choosing high-mileage motor oil can improve its performance. You may wonder why the emphasis on high mileage oil.
Unlike conventional oil, high mileage motor oil contains additives and conditioning agents that help improve fuel efficiency, dissolve engine sludge, and prevent leaks. Additionally, the unique qualities of high-mileage oil offer greater lubrication for older trucks’ parts and pieces, allowing them to maintain an acceptable level of performance.
4. Pick the Right Tires
Choosing the right tires for your truck is key to preventing damage and excessive wear to its shocks, bearings, and wheel assembly. Whether it’s a minivan or a pickup truck, a reliable set of tires will lower the likelihood of getting into accidents. Choose a tire designed for the specific terrain and climate you typically drive in.
For instance, an all-terrain tire like the Firestone Destination A/T LTR is an excellent fit if you often drive on freeways and muddy back trails. However, if you regularly take your pickup truck on off-road excursions, look into premium max traction tires such as the Firestone Destination M/T2. After getting the right tires, include maintenance tasks such as routine pressure checks, wheel alignments, car wheel repair, and tire rotations in your pickup truck maintenance checklist to keep them rolling smoothly.
5. Inspect the Radiator
Your car’s radiator is responsible for transferring heat from the engine to the exterior environment and facilitates the intake of cold, clean air, which helps prevent engine overheating. Diesel engines produce a lot of heat when operating, and a damaged radiator may limit heat transmission, leading to overheating. Too much heat may cause irreversible motor failure.
As part of your pickup truck maintenance checklist, ensure the cooling components are in optimal working order. Coolant maintenance includes coolant testing, radiator cleaning, and in some cases, radiator replacement. A comprehensive coolant test includes checking the freezing point of the coolant as well as the durability of the chemical components that protect your engine and enable sufficient cooling. After testing, add or replace the coolant and treat the system with additives.
6. Check the Exhaust System
Your truck’s exhaust system is key to keeping it in optimal health. These systems are only becoming more sophisticated, with diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) AND diesel particulate filters (DPF) systems being designed to meet EPA emissions regulations. Monitor your DPF regeneration, which takes place when particles inside the filter heat up and reach the point of combustion, at which point they’re converted to CO2 and ash.
Regeneration may manifest in three unique ways; forced, active, or passive. If it occurs regularly, have a service professional inspect your truck to identify the root cause. You should also routinely clean your DPF filter to get rid of any ash generated by the DPF regeneration. Finally, ensure the DEFV tank is always full because running out can result in the engine failing to start.
7. Inspect the Storage and Fuel Tank
You must keep your fuel tank dry and contaminant-free to keep your engine running smoothly. If you’re not taking your car to your local truck mechanic, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for moisture management treatment to prevent water buildup in the fuel. Moisture in the fuel tank can lead to significant engine issues, so keeping it free of water will ensure you can keep the wheels turning for longer.
8. Replace Filters Regularly
Your car’s fluids should always be clean, and the filters play a key role in preventative maintenance. If your truck uses diesel as fuel, part of your pickup truck maintenance checklist is that you should replace the filters regularly to ensure your engine has a steady supply of clean fuel. If your fuel filters are dirty, fuel flow to your engine may be slowed or stopped completely.
Engine performance may suffer from reduced fuel flow, and clogged filters will cause your engine to operate poorly or even fail to start. Oil filters keep your oil clean by removing contaminants that can lead to the need for truck engine repairs. Replace your oil filters with each motor oil change.
A clean air filter lets your engine breathe clean air. Be sure to replace these filters regularly, with the frequency depending on the environment you typically drive in. A filthy, clogged air filter will restrict airflow to your engine and negatively affect its performance.
9. Keep an Eye Out for Your Fluids
If it wasn’t for the engine oil, your truck wouldn’t be able to continue racking up miles, and it would ‘die’ a premature death. Engine oil lubricates your engine’s moving parts. However, over time it becomes corrosive and contaminated, so you must replace it frequently. Failure to do so will negatively impact your engine’s performance and estimated lifespan.
Another important fluid to keep an eye on is the engine coolant. Ensure your coolant is always topped up and chemically balanced to prevent coolant freezing and engine overheating and keep your cylinder liners free of engine-damaging electrolysis. Poor coolant maintenance can trigger the development of holes in your cylinder liners, causing coolant to seep into the cylinders.
Don’t forget to check the window washer fluid. When driving your truck on a snowy or wet road, your windshield will likely get some filth on it, and during the hot summer months, bugs may rapidly muck up your windshield. Ensure your windshield fluid reservoir is always full to avoid the safety risk of dirty windshields. A clean windshield will also make spotting the need for windshield replacement services easier.
While they can last a long time, ask your auto mechanic to check the brake and power steering fluids when taking your truck in for an oil change. Both heat and moisture can degrade the quality of these fluids; if either absorbs moisture or becomes very hot for a lengthy period, it’s best to replace them. Heat degrades the quality of the fluid, while water causes rust.
Most trucks have between one and three differentials, all of which need regular inspection and maintenance. You’ll only have one differential to have on your pickup truck maintenance checklist if you have a front- or rear-wheel drive. If your truck is a four- or all-wheel drive, you’ll likely have three differentials to check, the rear, front, and center differential inside the transfer case. Although it’s not always the case, the front and rear differentials may use the same gear oil. The transfer case typically doesn’t use the same oil as the front and rear differentials.
10. Monitor the Coolant System
A significant number of premature engine failures arise from poor maintenance of the coolant arrangement, so make sure you understand different coolant types and follow the manufacturer’s requirements. Doing this will ensure the antifreeze maintains an acceptable engine temperature and prevent rust from developing on the cooling system. Always keep the coolant arrangement clean, which involves replacing corroded or damaged components.
Be sure to use the right kind and quantity of fluid. You must also be mindful of the balance. To maintain engine heat, coolant must be precisely diluted, often in a 50/50 coolant-water mixture.
11. Keep Your Truck and Engine Clean
One of the primary reasons for the premature retirement of trucks is body corrosion. The rust develops due to salt and other chemicals and pollutants. If you often drive on roads full of snow and ice, your truck is more likely to experience corrosion.
Whether driving across town or the countryside, dust, dirt, and soot will make your truck look unkempt. A clean truck allows you or a repair technician to identify the need for truck repair services early on before issues develop into more serious ones. For instance, you can easily spot recent oil leaks, broken hoses, or coolant leaks on a clean truck. Additionally, dirty engine parts like the intercoolers and radiators will negatively affect your engine’s performance.
Therefore, put in place measure measures to keep everything clean. Washing and cleaning your truck every ten days is a great place to start, but the intervals will depend on how you use it and the conditions you often drive it in. Routinely washing your truck at home or taking it to a local car wash will prevent contaminants from consuming the primer, paint, clear coat, and bare metal.
12. Brake Service
One of the most important things to include in your pickup truck maintenance checklist is brake service. A significant number of road accidents occur as a result of brake failure. To reduce your likelihood of getting into accidents, have your truck’s brakes routinely checked for the need for auto brake repairs by a professional. Additionally, since travel distance depends on driving habits, check and perform maintenance on your brakes with your truck oil changes.
You should also schedule routine brake replacement because their components wear faster than other vehicle parts. The brake shoe, a part of the pads, is usually the first indicator of the need for replacements. When replacing your truck’s brake pads, have your auto mechanic install new brake springs, pins, and bushings.
13. Spark Plugs
Replacing the spark plugs is another important task to include in your pickup truck maintenance checklist. While most trucks have one spark plug per cylinder, certain engines (like Ram’s 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi) feature two. When changing these components, inspect them to get an idea of the condition of the inside of the engine. If you notice oil on the spark plug, you may have an oil leak. If the plug is extremely clean, a head gasket leak may be letting coolant into the cylinder.
Whether you’ve owned a pickup truck for several years or just bought a new one, a comprehensive pickup truck maintenance checklist is key to maintaining it in peak condition. It’ll allow you to spot issues early on before they develop into bigger ones that’ll put a dent in your wallet. To keep your ‘bad boy’ running for years, use this read as a guide when putting together your pickup truck maintenance checklist.