As we head into the winter months and are in the midst of the busiest travel weekend of the year, all industry stakeholders are keeping a keen eye on the weather. The National Weather Service site notes that in the Northwest, heavy rain and mountain snow will be a hazard through the holiday weekend, and it may impact holiday travel. Meanwhile, a cold front moving through the eastern U.S. will bring rain to the Ohio Valley, mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Thanksgiving. Also, portions of the Great Lakes could see a few inches of snow.

national weather Fcast map 2016-11-23

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.

National Weather Forecast and Winter Checklist for Trucks was last modified: by