Applications and Innovations
Better Roads Staff
Service intervals are not ‘one size fits all’ routines
Today’s fleet and service managers have a lot of responsibility riding on their shoulders, as they balance productivity with costs of operation. Vehicles and equipment in the shop for repairs are expected, but they hurt the bottom line.
That’s why preventive maintenance is so critical to controlling operational costs. The big question, however, is how often should the pickups in your fleet be serviced? Do you follow the vehicle owner’s manual or set up your own system?
The answers are not cut and dry. What works for one company or agency may not be right for another.
For example, do you know which battery to connect to when you jump-start a 6.7L Power Stroke, what coolant is required for the Hybrid Silverado/Sierra’s control module, or which eight of the Ram 4.7’s 16 spark plugs are changed more frequently?
Vehicle owner’s manuals and supplements may not be the most exciting prose, but they do provide valuable service information – including definitions of “severe service” and listed maintenance schedules.
Most new pickup service intervals specify a limit between oil changes of 3,000 miles in severe service and up to 8,000 with easy use. The typical fleet pickup usually falls into the severe-service category.
But most also have built-in oil minders that use drivetrain sensors and determine the interval for you; a “change oil” message on the dash display pops up reminding the driver an oil/filter change should be completed within 500 miles.
Bear in mind these electronic minders don’t sample the oil. They monitor heat, oil level and a lot of other parameters to determine what percentage of oil life remains before letting you know it’s time for a service.
Also, they may not track engine run time, and a truck that sits idling for long periods of time may need fresh oil even if the minder doesn’t say so. Relying on the minder is a poor excuse for not pulling the dipstick while refueling.
Extending oil drain cycles beyond 8,000 miles, even with synthetics and oil sampling, isn’t a good idea, either. No one we consulted makes that recommendation for newer diesels (anything built after Jan. 1, 2007) because of the effects of emission control and changes to the required oil specification.
Synthetic oils may still be used to maximize the extreme lubrication protection in cold and heat, but running them longer jeopardizes the engine warranty.
Regular oil analysis is still the best way to determine when the oil and filters need to be changed in individual pickups. Consult with your oil analysis lab on how to set up a baseline for each vehicle, the analysis frequency and how to read the results.
Those results will tell you when the next oil service is needed, and keep you aware of wear issues that may be brewing inside the engine.
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