If you work with heavy-duty trucks, whether as a fleet manager or commercial diesel tech, you know regular service and maintenance of big rigs is essential. But what does that mean? What components are involved in providing top-notch care for these large vehicles?

As a Master Distributor of Autel’s commercial diagnostic tools, Triad Diagnostic Solutions wants to share some expertise with you to help make sure you get a long life out of any truck you drive or maintain. Here’s a quick primer on key needs when it comes to taking care of your heavy-duty truck.

The Importance of Heavy-Duty Truck Maintenance

Maintaining heavy-duty trucks is important for their owners, operators, and the environment. Preventive maintenance of these large trucks helps keep them running with maximum efficiency, reduces downtime and repairs due to neglected problems, and prevents hazardous emissions from entering the atmosphere.

Properly maintained trucks also help promote a safer environment for other drivers by ensuring that brakes and tires function optimally. Additionally, routine maintenance increases fuel economy, helping reduce fleet costs and harmful emissions.

black box truck pickup up orders

Common Service Needs of Heavy-duty Trucks

Heavy-duty trucks, especially commercial vehicles and box trucks used in truck services, require service regularly to ensure they continue running efficiently and safely. Regular service helps maintain the lifespan of HDTs and prevents unexpected breakdowns. Below are some of the common service needs of heavy-duty trucks:

Diagnostic Health Checks

Diagnostic health checks are one of the most important and most overlooked processes in maintaining heavy-duty trucks. The legacy of multiple OEM software applications with the related time needed to perform a full vehicle diagnostic health check have limited the ability of shops to implement this as a standard protocol for the vehicle intake or preventative maintenance process.

Fortunately, there are aftermarket software applications available that can quickly perform total vehicle diagnostic routines that check the vehicle specification information, operational data and the existence of diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) for all major components and peripheral electronic controllers with a single connection to the diagnostic port in minutes. Many of these aftermarket applications also create a diagnostic health report that can be stored on the diagnostic platform or exported to a fleet or dealer management system. Some even have cloud based storage systems like Cojali’s Jaltest Garage Resource Program (GRP) that can be accessed by techs, shop managers and organizational managers. The GRP system can also link multiple diagnostic platforms for a single operation so all licenses can be accessed organizationally with individual folders by license and VIN look up search capability.

The Tires

Tire rotation and TPMS checks are common preventative maintenance checks for heavy-duty trucks. For example, regular rotating of the tires helps ensure even wear, leading to better fuel economy, reducing stoppage time due to needing new tires, and providing a smoother ride quality.

In addition to tire rotation, it’s important to ensure that any worn or damaged parts of the tire system, such as lug nuts, brakes, and tire pressure sensors, are regularly inspected and serviced. Having the right air pressure in your tires can increase your vehicle’s longevity and keep you safe on the road, especially when driving heavier loads.

The Fluids

To keep it running smoothly and efficiently, regular maintenance is essential to check and replenish all the fluids that keep many of its parts lubricated and cool. The key fluids in a heavy-duty truck are oil, brake fluid, antifreeze, transmission fluid, and power steering fluid.

Each of these fluids has an integral role in efficiently ensuring the engine’s performance is at peak levels. Overlooking any of them can harm the engine’s ability to perform its best. Adequate servicing can help extend the life expectancy of your heavy-duty truck by keeping all the machinery running optimally.

Electrical System and Wiring

There are various heavy-duty truck parts, but electrical systems and wiring, in particular, must be managed with great care and skill due to the added burden of carrying passengers and cargo and navigating large amounts of terrain. A professional service provider can thoroughly inspect and handle any necessary repairs related to the electrical system or wiring of heavy-duty trucks. This includes troubleshooting bad connections, replacing alternators, starters, batteries, wiring harnesses, and other services dealing with these complex components.


Due to their size and weight, these trucks require frequent brake inspections and maintenance services to ensure proper functioning. In particular, brake friction material wear is an important factor in evaluating brake performance. Too much wear can lead to longer stopping distances and more energy required to bring the truck to a stop.

During servicing, all brake system components are evaluated, including lines, hoses, calipers, rotors, drums, and pads. Additionally, because dust buildup can accumulate over time and cause accelerated pad wear, technicians also work to clean elements to extend their life span, so they don’t need a replacement any sooner than necessary.

Signs that Your Truck Needs Service Attention Right Away

Understanding the signs that indicate a truck needs service attention is key to keeping our roads safe and reducing downtime. Knowing when your truck needs service can also save money in preventative maintenance costs and help increase productivity while on the job. Let’s go over some of the warning signs that should be addressed right away by trained professionals.

truck driver fixing tire

Engine Overheating

The most worrying sign is that your truck’s engine runs at temperatures higher than normal. Watch for steam and smoke coming from under the hood of your truck, as this could indicate that coolant or other fluids have leaked out. Excessive vibration during acceleration or deceleration can also indicate trouble with your truck’s engine.

A distinct burning smell near overheating engines can signify melting plastic or rubber components. At the same time, repetitive clicking sounds can suggest a weak belt system that cannot keep the engine running properly.

Starter Failure

If you turn the key in your truck’s ignition and there is no sound or any sign of the starter engaging, this is a surefire sign that it needs service attention immediately. Various reasons, such as faulty wiring, worn-out parts, or a simple power shortage, can cause starter failure. Failing to address the issue immediately may cause your vehicle to stall in the middle of traffic and cause more serious road damage.

Brake Issues

Signs that you need brake service immediately include loud squeaks or grinding noises when applying the brakes, difficulty stopping all of a sudden, feeling pulsations in your steering wheel while approaching a stop, or even noticing the brake warning light on the dashboard. Spending time with a trusted service center can help ensure your vehicle is safe to drive and meets current safety regulations.

U-Joint Failure

The most obvious sign that your truck needs immediate service attention is if you hear loud clunking or squeaking noises underneath the vehicle when driving or turning. Also, if you feel vibrations while driving and these are more intense when braking, this usually means that one or both of the U-joints in your truck have failed. As U-joints help transfer power from the transmission to the drive shafts, it’s absolutely necessary to get them looked at immediately if they appear suspect.

Wheel Bearings and Tires

Wheel bearings can become loose due to regular wear and tear, making it difficult to steer the vehicle, producing a grating noise, or even causing vibrations when driving at higher speeds. This requires truck alignment services. Paying attention to your tires is also important; an uneven wear pattern on the sidewalls of your tires, a decrease in tire pressure, or any other visual or audio cues can indicate a problem before you hit the road again.

Prevent Heavy-Duty Truck Problems Before They Happen

Regular service of heavy-duty trucks is essential to maintain their performance and safety over time. Making sure service needs are met will help keep your commercial trucks running without any issues for years to come.

If you have further questions regarding the diagnostics of your commercial trucks and off-highway equipment, don’t hesitate to contact Triad Diagnostic Solutions today!

Unsplash+ In collaboration with Wesley Tingey
Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash
Unsplash+ In collaboration with Wesley Tingey