Applications and Innovations
Better Roads Staff
Periodic and recorded service is the simplest, most cost-effective way to keep your truck running reliably, maintain the warranty coverage and preserve resale value. And regular cleaning makes life easier on drivers and identifies problems earlier.
With no-maintenance electronics playing an ever-larger role in the operation of late-model pickups, most routine service boils down to lubricants, filters, brakes and tires.
A decent service log, backed up daily, is the easiest way to ensure your truck gets attention when needed. This can be as detailed as fleet maintenance software, a good relationship with your dealer’s service department, a laptop spreadsheet or notebook, and a file cabinet.
Date, odometer miles, work performed, receipts with part numbers and a notation on the calendar approximating the next time service is due is the minimum; your accountant or mechanic may recommend more. And if you’re forgetful or lazy, you need an effective reminder system.
Engine oil doesn’t really wear out. The additive package added to the base oil stocks (detergents, anti-foaming agents, etc.) wears out, and contaminants get in the oil.
In newer diesels with diesel particulate filters (DPF) extra fuel is occasionally injected to “regenerate” the DPF and since it’s done after the combustion event, some fuel inevitably washes down the cylinder walls and dilutes the oil no matter what kind of oil it is. (The 2011 Duramax has a ninth injector in the exhaust system that helps alleviate this issue.)
That fuel dilution is a primary reason you can’t extend the change interval on new diesels: True, you could do frequent analysis for fuel dilution, but the time and money spent on the synthetics and analysis would buy a conventional oil change anyway, so you’re not saving anything.
Unless you’re improperly using the truck outside its design parameters – or in extreme climates – do a cost/benefit analysis before choosing a synthetic engine oil in any new pickup.
Also note that in the long run — this is why you document — pushing a service interval to the recommended oil change may not pay off overall.
One large fleet manager we spoke to in Los Angeles found the 6,000- or 7,500-mile intervals in the book were fine for engine oil. But those miles were too far for the physical inspection that accompanies routine service, so any savings in oil service were more than offset by brake and other repairs not caught sooner.
While manuals are thorough, service managers and pickup owners should never pass up a chance to ensure the cooling stack is clean and lug nuts torqued on all the wheels – including those on the trailer.
What to Use
Your manufacturer specifies fluids, and most oils have an American Petroleum Institute identifier with the classification and viscosity (e.g., API CJ-4 5W-40).
Synthetic lubes are approved, although many experts we consulted advised such lubes should not be used (unless factory-filled) for the first 5,000-10,000 miles to ensure proper piston ring seating.
Synthetic lubricants are especially beneficial in severe climates. For example, the 2011 Ram diesel manual dictates 5W-40 synthetic oil for operation at zero degrees F or lower.
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