Maintenance Tips For The Serious Owner-Operator

Learning how to properly maintain your semi can be the difference between running a successful business and falling flat.

A truck driver with a broken-down rig is equivalent to an Olympic runner with a broken ankle. Having a reliable truck is vital to a successful career as an owner-operator and that is why regular maintenance is so important. Read on to learn more about properly caring for your rig so that you get the most out of your investment.


Save for Maintenance and Repair Costs:

Even though your truck will come with a warranty, always follow the 15% Truck Maintenance Rule! You should always be saving 15% of your gross income for upkeep and repair costs. All too often drivers are financially devastated by an unforeseen repair bill-don’t let that be you! Putting money aside regularly will lessen the anxiety you feel when something needs repaired. Also keep in mind that the truck will need to be replaced altogether someday. Put enough money aside to at least cover a down payment on a new one later on. Your future self will thank you.

A popular way of saving for maintenance costs is to set aside $0.15 every mile. For instance, if you ran your truck 12,000 miles in a month, then you would save $1,800.00 for general upkeep and repair costs. If your truck needs a repair one month, just subtract the cost of the repair from the total amount that you were to set aside for that month. A word of caution; don’t be stingy. If you have extra income then you should consider reinvesting that money back into your business. The most successful owner-operators use extra money to improve their business, not to raise their cost of living. Click HERE to check out some of our tips on money management for truckers.

If you are buying a used truck, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to save up a small nest egg for repairs and general maintenance before signing the paperwork. You never know what could go wrong in the beginning before you have had a chance to put money aside each month. Provide yourself with a safety-net in the event that something goes wrong out of the starting gate.

Learn a New Skill:

Nowadays people outsource everything rather than taking the time to learn how to solve problems for themselves. Dog needs a haircut? Pay a salon to do it rather than learn how to cut it yourself. Room needs painted? Hire a contractor to do the labor. Pants have a hole in them? Throw them out and buy new ones. Certainly, this way of thinking comes with a high price tag. Rather than outsource every service done to your rig, become the DIY guy/gal.

Above all, learning to do some of the work yourself will save your business a lot of money in the long run. Make it a personal goal to learn how to do basic repairs and general upkeep. Think about signing up for a vocational class in your free time and consider it an investment in your business. If you aren’t willing to take the time to learn about your truck, then perhaps working as a company driver is a better choice for you.

Stop spending good money to pay people to do basic work that you should learn how to do yourself!
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Preventative Maintenance:

Spare yourself the hassle of paying for unnecessary repairs by regularly maintaining your equipment. The first thing you should do after acquiring a new truck is to read through the maintenance manual. The manual should provide you with guidelines on the frequency that you should be checking the truck’s various components. Also remember that buying the cheapest of everything does not really save as much money as you think. Buy high quality parts, oil, and fuel and extend the life of your truck. You have to spend money to make money and that is why you have a maintenance fund that you add money to every month.

Don’t forget to lubricate your truck regularly. A lot of sources on the internet suggest lubricating your equipment every 12,000 miles or so. The grease serves as a protective layer against dirt and road debris. It is important that you find a grease that works best for your truck and stick with it. There are a ton of lubricants on the market and all of them contain different ingredients. Similarly, not all of these are compatible with each other so be weary of switching the type of lubricant you are using without doing some research first. Look through your manual to see if your truck has certain lubricant requirements. After you find the one that works, save the tube or take a quick picture of it so that you buy the right one in the future.

Check your lug nuts at least once a week to make sure that they are tight. Lug nuts keep your wheels secure and failing to check them could cause a major accident. Some drivers use lug nut shields to protect them from exposure to the elements and also to encourage other drivers on the road to maintain a safe distance from the side of the rig. Going further with the topic of tires, check your tire pressure whenever you have down-time.

An example of lug nut covers. Image:

Your oil should be changed every 25,000-50,000 miles. Learn to tell when the oil needs changed and pay close attention to warning signs such as lit oil sensors or sludgy oil on the dipstick.  As a result of the water, oil, and filters needing checked and changed often, this will be something that you will want to learn how to do yourself.

Check everything regularly throughout the work week rather than waiting to do it on your days off. Don’t lose out on those precious moments with your family by working on your truck unnecessarily on the days that you should be relaxing and recuperating.

Repair Shops:

Repair shops are only useful if you absolutely need them. Understand that many garages make their money by selling you products and services so don’t be taken advantage of. The more that you know about your truck, the less chance they will have to trick you into paying for something that you don’t actually need. A good rule of thumb is to only fix what is broken and to get an estimate prior to agreeing on a repair. Also make sure that you ask for a time estimate because money is time and the longer you sit, the more money that you lose. Always avoid courtesy inspections and save receipts. Most warranties have maintenance requirements which specify that you must prove that the truck has been properly maintained before they will consider your claim.

Don’t be a Maintenance Freak:

Don’t run your truck to a garage every week. You may think that this is a smart business practice but it isn’t. Do the basic maintenance yourself and only get broken things fixed. Stop sipping coffee in waiting rooms for hours bleeding out on unnecessary garage bills. In conclusion, maintenance freaks are gold mines to hungry garages so don’t be their easy meal ticket.


Quick Guide to Good Truck Maintenance:

Tools you will need:
  1. Chassis grease in cartridges
  2. 5-ton bottle jack
  3. Flashlight
  4. Air gauge
  5. Battery terminal cleaner
  6. Grease gun
  7. Wheel wrench
  8. Anti-freeze tester
  9. Tire depth gauge
  10. Cab jack handle
  11. Standard and metric wrench and socket set
  12. Screwdriver set
Check Daily:
  • Check for air leaks, oil leaks, rubbed lines, and lose bolts
  • Look over lights
  • Look over the truck and look for things that are out of the ordinary like fluid puddles under the truck
  • Kick the tires
  • Check engine oil (do not overfill!)
  • Inspect water level
Lubricate or Check weekly:
  • Steering drag link
  • Tie rod ends
  • Spindle bolts and bushing (jack up front wheel you are greasing)
  • Front spring pins and shackles
  • Rear spring pins and shackles
  • Brake slack adjusters
  • Brake cam arms
  • Drive shaft U-joints and slip joints
  • Clutch pedal linkage
  • Throttle linkage
  • Door latches and hinges
  • Power steering reservoir fluid levels
  • Transmission oil level
  • Front rear oil level
  • Rear rear oil level
  • Wheel bearing oil level
  • Belts
  • Recheck and tighten engine drain plug
  • Recheck and tighten transmission drain plug
  • Recheck and tighten differential drain plug
  • Clutch free play (should have at least one inch at top of pedal)
  • Tires-air gauge at 100 Ibs
  • Tighten wheels
  • Brake adjustment
  • Check coolant freeze level (-20 degrees) Check if you add water
Every 20,000 Miles:
  • Change engine oil and filters and the transmission filter
  • Change water conditioner element
  • Rotate steering tires
Every 50,000 Miles:
  • Change air cleaner filter
  • Replace windshield wiper blades
  • Engine oil analysis
  • Disconnect and clean battery terminals
Every 100,000 Miles:
  • Transmission grease
  • Differential grease


Go above and beyond and care for your truck properly since it is the lifeblood of your business. Take regular maintenance seriously and gain enough knowledge to save yourself money. The better a job you do at maintaining your truck, the longer it will work for you. If you have questions, want advice, or are looking to purchase your own truck, give us a call at (800) 377-3101. Take a look at our current inventory by clicking HERE.


Thanks for reading!

Truck Mart LLC


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