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Blogging the Road Ahead

National Cold Weather Forecast and Winter Checklist for Trucks


Winter seems to be in full swing around most of North America this week. The National Weather Service site notes that the cold high pressure system currently over the Central Plains will move eastward; temperatures associated with the cold air mass will be 20 to near 40 degrees below average from east of the Rockies to the Mississippi Valley.  There will be lake effect snow over the Great Lakes and into parts of the Northern/Central Appalachians by week’s end and this same system will bring a wave of low pressure along the Southeast Coast that will move northeastward. Additionally, there will be rain over parts of the Western/Central Gulf Coast through this afternoon. Meanwhile, a weakening front is moving into the West Coast this morning that will bring moisture and will overrun the cold air over the Northwest.  The system will produce snow over parts of the interior Northwest/Great Basin that will expand into the Northern/Central Rockies Thursday evening into Friday evening.  Pockets of rain/freezing rain will also develop over parts of the  Washington/Oregon Cascades.  Rain will develop over parts of California into Coastal Pacific Northwest through Friday.  Rain will also develop over parts of the Southwest/Southern Rockies by the end of Friday.

Image c/o National Weather Service

Image c/o National Weather Service

So, with all this cold weather talk, it’s a good time to review the winter checklist for trucks. Ideally, this checklist should be done by late October, prior to the start of the winter season. But, if you haven’t completed yours yet, later is better than never. Here’s the key areas to check:

Coolant system:

  • Check antifreeze for adequate cold weather protection level (-30F).
  • Check coolant treatment additive/water filter.
  • Check all heater and water hoses for wear, cracks, softening or hardening, and tighten any loose clamps.
  • Pressure test the system at 15 PSI after turning on the heater control  valves (best result obtained when testing a cold engine).
  • Pressure test radiator cap at minimum 5 PSI.

Cab Heating Systems:

  • Clean out heater filters and check for any heater core blocks.
  • Check heater motor and controls.

Air Systems:

  • Service air dryer per manufacturers specifications. The filter cartridge on the air dryer should be changed every one to three years.
  • Check air dryer heater operations. When cold, a 4-5amp draw is considered normal.

Batteries and electrical systems:

  • Disconnect battery systems and load test each battery.
  • Check all connections and clean and/or tighten unit.
  • Check condition of alternator belt; test the charging system.

Starting Aids:

  • Check condition of the block heater with an ohm meter. 10 to 15 ohm element resistance is normal for a 1000 to 1500 watt heater.
  • Inspect the fuel heater and maintain as per manufacturer’s service recommendations.
  • Check fuel water separator. Always drain during the winter when the temperature is above freezing and change the filter per the separator’s recommendations and before the winter months.
  • Drain the water from the fuel tank sumps before the air temperature drops below freezing.


  • Check operation of windshield washers and ensure that the wipers blades are not worn. Check windshield washer reservoir for proper type and amount of solution.
  • Clean and grease all electrical connections to the headlights, tail lights, light, cord, lift gate and receptacle. Charge the receptacle and clearance lights, and make sure to only use approved electric grease.
  • Check for excessive fan free play with engine shut off and clutch released.
  • Check 5th wheel assemblies, ensure sliders move freely and clean off excessive dirt and grease build up.
  • Check all oil levels and any signs of water contamination.
  • Lubricate all door hinges, latches and locks.

Final Check Items:

  • With the engine at its normal operating temperature, check the idle speed temperature; the air flowing from heater ducts should be between 90 and 130 degrees.
  • Road test truck by checking for leaks (coolant, oil and air).

The basic list above will get you and your truck ready for winter. On top of these items, drivers should also ensure that all chains are in excellent condition, carry an extra gallon of antifreeze, and keep a truck appropriate ice scraper handy.

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