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Performing Routine Maintenance as a Diesel Mechanic

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Diesel powered vehicles are standard in heavy use vehicles such as 18-wheelers, trains, buses, and farm equipment, but are also becoming more common in lighter trucks. Because today's diesel is much cleaner burning than the dirty fuel of the past, it is expected that more passenger vehicles will adopt diesel fuel in the near future and with it the demand for diesel technicians is expected to rise. Diesel has its drawbacks, but it delivers more bang for the buck producing more energy per gallon, enabling consumers to get about 30 percent more travel time than on a gallon of gas. With new emissions standards already in place, the next generation of passenger and work vehicles will pollute less and get more miles to the gallon. As the demand for these vehicles rises and the production of more diesel hybrids like diesel/electric and green diesel (engines that burn vegetable oil) goes up, the need for trained diesel will only continue to grow.

Diesel engines are becoming increasingly complex, and today's mechanic must have a wide range of knowledge about electronics and computer diagnostics. Microprocessors, for example, are now installed to regulate fuel timing, which increases engine efficiency. Emissions control systems, in place to comply with new emissions and pollution regulations require computer diagnostics and adjust engine functions

Properly performed routine maintenance delivers a lower cost per ton; a well-maintained vehicle is more fuel efficient, saving the company money and increasing the bottom line. Mechanics, especially those working for companies that maintain fleet vehicles in-house spend a lot of time performing preventive maintenance. Maintenance is done on a mileage or service hours based schedule, following a checklist that includes inspecting heavy-wear parts such as brake systems, steering mechanisms, and wheel bearings.

Common maintenance tasks:

  • Fluids are vital to the health and efficiency of the engine. Samples should be recorded from fluids in the entire system, and analysis should be recorded and tracked. This will help to identify issues before they become failures or lead to costly repairs.
  • Filters should be inspected and replaced as necessary. A dirty filter drastically reduces engine efficiency.
  • Inspect and rotate tires, and maintain proper tire pressure. Paired tires should be at the same level of wear in order to insure they perform equally. Tires, wheels, and stem caps should be inspected for leaks, damage, and wear. Rear tire rock ejectors should be inspected for free movement.
  • Aligning the front and back end regularly reduces tire wear and improves both performance and driver comfort. Reducing fatigue for the driver results in fewer accidents and improved concentration.
  • Struts (suspension cylinders) are charged with nitrogen and oil. Pressure should be checked at defined intervals to increase tire life and improve handling and driver comfort. Improperly charged struts can even result in accelerated component wear and reduced frame life.
  • Engine, roll-over protection system, and tank mounting brackets and welds should be inspected for damage or loose bolts.
  • Fuel tank should be inspected for drain water and sediment.
  • The radiator should be inspected for fan blockage, debris between the radiator and grill, and leaks.
  • Inspect all hoses for cracks, wear and leaks.
  • Inspect and replace belts if they show signs of tension, wear, or cracks.
  • Windshield should be clean and free of cracks and chips.
  • Inside and outside should be thoroughly inspected for any buildup of debris or grit, and for proper operation of hinges, hydraulics, seat belts, moisture, broken glass, and leaks.

Following inspection, mechanics repair, adjust, or replace parts that do not meet company standards. A novice diesel mechanic can expect to start out with routine tasks and progress to more complicated work with experience.

Schools Offering Diesel Courses:

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