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Truck Maintenance 101: Keeping your vehicle in tip-top shape

One of the most important things to know when purchasing a Class 8 vehicle is that the initial price is just a fraction of the total cost of ownership. Repairs and maintenance are a major expense of doing business for any fleet. According to Fullbay, a database of heavy duty repair shop software, even the best-built trucks on the market will experience issues at some point. 

In order to keep your vehicle in the best shape, you need to stay on top of repairs. This means being financially equipped to pay for the inevitable incidents such as worn-out brakes and/or tires, and failing engines. According to a study on carriers’ equipment-related costs,  American Transport Research Institute (ATRI) found that repair and maintenance costs per mile have increased by more than 60 percent to 16.7 cents per mile between 2008 and 2017.

Fullbay Software broke down the top 10 maintenance and repair costs in order of largest to smallest percentage as follows:

  1. Tires and related parts (ie. liners, valves and tubes) – 43 percent
  2. Preventive maintenance – 12 percent
  3. Brakes and related systems – 9 percent
  4. Disposable parts – 8 percent
  5. Exhaust structure – 6 percent
  6. Fuel system – 6 percent
  7. Lighting – 5 percent
  8. Cranking or starting system – 5 percent
  9. Power plant – 3 percent
  10. Motor and engine – 3 percent

Although each number looks relatively small, the costs add up. “It’s not a matter of which maintenance and repair problems will occur but when,” reported Fullbay. Regular maintenance, as stated by, adds up to roughly $15,000 each year and could cost even more if the driver is not proactive about repairs. 

It is incredibly important to be saving money for consistent repairs or maintenance. It’s not a matter of if your vehicle will need a repair, but when

Jeff Rogers, director of maintenance for the east region for Ryder System, Inc. (NYSE: R), stated that the number one maintenance mistake a driver or operator can make is ignoring the check engine or exhaust lights. There are hundreds of sensors on today’s vehicles, according to Rogers, and they each provide a specific function. “Many breakdowns can be avoided by simply paying attention to your truck and the warning lights. It’s as simple as that,” said Rogers. 

Tires and brakes are the most common wear items on Class 8 vehicles, according to Rogers. Because of this, Roger’s first piece of advice for anyone operating a heavy-duty vehicle is to carry a calibrated tire pressure gauge in the vehicle. 

“Kicking a tire with your foot is no way to tell if it’s low on air or not. Just buy yourself a calibrated tire pressure gauge. I promise it’s worth it,” recommended Rogers. 

One incredibly important piece that is often overlooked when it comes to maintenance, according to Rogers, is the diesel particulate filter (DPF). This device removes particulate matter or soot, to prevent its release into the atmosphere. 

Rogers explained that although a filter can take a year or two to fill, once it gets plugged, the truck will simply no longer run. As the most commonly overlooked or procrastinated maintenance check, Rogers said that it is essential that the filter is checked at least once a year, because this is “a big issue today with trucks.”

Some maintenance experts recommend keeping shorter life cycles for heavy-duty trucks, according to Fullbay. It is estimated that buying or leasing a new truck every three years could save over $17,000 in maintenance costs as compared to buying or leasing a new truck after five years or more. A white paper from Fleet Advantage stated that the longer you keep your truck, the more it will cost you in maintenance and repairs. 

Although maintenance for a heavy-duty vehicle comes with a high price tag, most experts recommend participating in a preventive maintenance program. Many maintenance companies, like Ryder, provide a scheduling system for monthly, seasonal and annual safety and maintenance inspections.

“Everyone wants their fleet to be the safest fleet in the country and the only way to do that is by keeping their vehicles in tip-top shape by staying on top of maintenance,” said Rogers.