How To Maintain Commercial Semi-Truck Engines

There’s no denying that we wouldn’t get very far without commercial semi-trucks. With thousands of trucks on America’s highways at any time, it’s impossible to overstate their value. Truck drivers log millions of combined miles to stock our stores, deliver our food, and bring materials and other vital equipment to manufacturing plants where the cycle begins again.

Semi-trucks can last for a long time thanks to their diesel engines. There are many ways to maintain commercial semi-truck engines and ensure you get the most out of them. Taking the time to perform maintenance helps you get the most out of your vehicles and keeps the engine in great condition.

Oil Changes

No matter the type of vehicle you drive, oil changes are vital for keeping the engine in good condition. The oil lubricates all the moving parts, which is especially helpful for vehicles with diesel engines. When an engine’s oil is low or dirty, its parts can grind against one another and create friction that may cause damage. Change the oil in your commercial semi-truck engine every 10,000 to 15,000 miles or every six months—whichever comes first.

Whenever you do get an oil change, we suggest using a high-quality oil that meets your vehicle manufacturer's specifications. Using the wrong type of oil can result in less efficient lubrication, which can reduce the engine’s life. Some engines work better with synthetic oil, which can blend with regular oil, but this process offers no significant advantage for engine performance.

Fuel Filters

Fuel filters prevent dirt, dust, grime, dead bugs, and other contaminants from entering an engine’s fuel system. The more often you drive with clean fuel, the better things are for your vehicle. However, as you drive, obstructions get into the fuel filter. It will eventually require cleaning or replacements. You can usually log 20,000–30,000 miles before replacing a fuel filter. Consider replacing it sooner if you’ll be driving through an area with a lot of debris.

Your semi-truck won’t run very well without clean fuel, so maintaining a protective filter over your fuel system can keep things in good condition for thousands of miles. Fuel additives can clean your fuel as the engine runs. Adding a bottle of that to your tank a couple of times a year may prove beneficial in the long run.

Air Filters

Just as the fuel filter keeps dust and debris out of the fuel, the air filter helps keep similar irritants out of the engine. As obstructions like dirt and grime enter your engine, they can cause significant damage, which may greatly reduce the performance of your semi-truck. Always have a clean air filter at the ready since clogged filters can negatively impact your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, horsepower, and other performance aspects. While air filters can often go tens of thousands of miles without cleaning or replacements, you should inspect and adjust them whenever you check the fuel filters.

Clean the Engine

No matter the quality of the filters, your engine will naturally accumulate a lot of dirt and other debris from extended time on the road. One of the best ways to maintain a commercial semi-truck engine is to clean it regularly. Basic engine cleaning should be a priority of any pre or post-trip truck inspection. Regular engine cleanings can prevent hardened build-up around sensitive areas.

When cleaning your diesel engine, we recommend using a microfiber cloth with a water-soluble or citrus-based degreaser. Removing dust and grease can keep its parts in great condition for a long time and help you get more mileage out of your vehicle. We recommend performing a steam clean on your semi-truck engine a few times a year to loosen up and clear out particularly stubborn gunk.

Exhaust System

What comes out of your truck is just as important as what goes into it. Your semi-truck's exhaust system reduces noise, removes harmful pollutants from the vehicle, and safely disperses hot exhaust from your engine. These functions help your engine breathe and prevent it from overheating. You’ll want to check on the exhaust pipes and mufflers regularly to make sure they’re clean and free of any obstructions. With clean exhaust pipes, your engine has a clear and efficient path for gases to escape. This can keep your diesel engine from suffering any long-term damage.

Engine Control Unit

The Engine Control Unit (ECU) acts as the brain of most diesel engines. It is responsible for most electrical components instead of the moving rotary parts of an engine. The ECU helps to maintain useful features of your semi-truck engine, like the transmission or fuel injectors. Naturally, a faulty ECU or one that's operating slower than normal may lead to several elements in the engine not working as they should.

You can perform regular ECU diagnostic tests to see if everything is working at full capacity. Since the ECU controls so many aspects of the engine, catching these problems early can lead to quick fixes that save you a lot of time and money on costly engine repairs. Essentially, it is one of the most important aspects of semi-truck maintenance.

Regular Inspections

Above all else, performing regular engine inspections is vital for its performance and lifespan. You should bring your semi-truck to a professional mechanic for an inspection twice a year or every 50,000 miles. Inspections are great opportunities to confirm that all systems are in working order, that nothing is creating friction or grinding, and that the engine’s features are operating as intended. Inspections are also great for discovering the need to replace parts or if you're overdue for an oil change.

If you’re looking for new parts to maintain your semi-truck engine, ATL Diesel is here for you. No matter what make or model lies under the hood, ATL offers high-quality parts that adhere to the rigorous standards of the original manufacturers. When you need diesel engine parts, our online storefront allows you to input your engine’s serial number and find the right parts for your engine. If you have any additional questions, comments, or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us anytime. A member of our staff will be happy to assist you.

How To Maintain Commercial Semi-Truck Engines