Driving a truck in Australia presents a unique challenge that drivers in many other parts of the world do not face: extreme heat. Some parts of the country can reach temperatures of over 35°C in the summer months; heat this high can cause problems with your truck engine, increasing your chances of crashes and other accidents. If you'll be driving a medium rigid truck or another other type of large vehicle this summer, make sure you follow these 4 engine safety steps when you're on the road.
Check Your Levels
Before you head out, you'll need to check two main things: your engine oil levels and your engine cooling system levels. The engine oil, while not directly part of the cooling system, is still a coolant itself, so it's essential to make sure it's topped up to the correct level. The same goes for the actual coolant levels in your engine cooling system too. You may think you only need distilled water in your cooling system in the summer, but an equal amount of antifreeze is still an essential.
Don't Forget Antifreeze
Despite its name, antifreeze is necessary for more than just preventing freezing -- it also raises the boiling temperature of your coolant. If you used water without antifreeze, there's a chance that the water could boil inside the cooling system and cause your engine to fail. As added benefits, antifreeze will also help you identify leaks (thanks to its luminous colour) and prevent corrosion.
Reevaluate While Driving
Don't think you can check your cooling system once and forget about it for the rest of the day. As your engine naturally heats up while you drive, the temperatures of your oil and coolant will rise too. After topping everything up to the correct levels, you need to make sure none of your liquids are getting too hot over the course of the day. Keep an eye on the temperature gauges, and make sure you stop driving as soon as possible and call a truck mechanic if you see them getting too high.
Top Up Safely
If you need to top up coolant while driving, remember to stay safe while doing so. Some trucks have transparent or semi-transparent coolant containers that allow you to see the level of coolant in your system while the engine is still hot. These containers are usually not pressurised, so you can safely top them up without waiting for the engine to cool. If your truck doesn't have a container like this and your cooling system is pressurised, you'll need to be more careful about topping up your coolant. First, switch off your engine and wait for it to cool. If the radiator cap is cool enough to touch, then it's usually cool enough to be removed, but make sure you still wear gloves while removing it as a precaution. Slowly turn the cap to the first stop and wait for it to depressurise, then remove it fully and add more coolant. Make sure the cap is fully closed before resuming driving.
Don't forget that an overheated engine isn't the only hazard truckers face during the summer months. If you're unsure about how to check tire pressure, what to watch out for on the roads, how to control your speed in high heat or any other essential summer trucking knowledge, make sure you enrol in medium rigid truck training or a similar training program as soon as possible.