CURTAINSIDE TRAILER BLOG

Cleaning the undercarriage of curtain trailers to remove salt and winter road grime

[fa icon="calendar"] Nov 2, 2016 9:00:00 AM / by Pete Johnson

billtruckwash1.jpg

Photo by S&W Pressure Wash Inc.

 

Wear and tear incurred by a curtain side trailer  or a curtain van, on the road, are more than a matter of moving parts versus high mileage. Exposure to elements is another major factor. Out on the road, a trailer gets substantial contact with abrasives, corrosives and other substances that accumulate on the underside. After just two years on the road, trailers that were neglected—particularly in respect to undercarriage maintenance—may already show visible evidence of corrosion.

The average big rig covers over 100,000 miles annually and upkeep of the trailer alone averages more than $1500 per year. Some of these routine maintenance expenses are unavoidable. Others can be reduced by preventive care like keeping the trailer undercarriage clean. Washing the underside of the trailer is not a peripheral issue that can be considered optional. It should take equal priority with other critical maintenance fundamentals, including servicing the engine.

What Happens When Washing Doesn’t?

Substances that promote corrosion and damage to a trailer can be as simple as natural mud and water. A thick coating of sticky mud keeps undercarriage materials wetter longer. This increased duration of moisture exposure increases potential for rust or corrosion. Among the most notorious suspects, however, are de-icing substances utilized to keep winter roads clear of ice and snow. Traditional rock salt liquefies and coats the undercarriage of trailers, reacting with the metallic structure as well as electrical wiring and components including brakes and airlines. Common “mild” steel is vulnerable to road salts which react with the material and accelerate oxidation—better known as rust. But aluminum heavily utilized in trailer construction isn’t totally immune to corrosion, either, and may pit and crack when the protective oxide coating breaks down due to acidic salt. Stainless steel is the least susceptible to corrosion, but its high cost makes anything other than certain critical fittings and accessories unfeasible for common commercial trailer use.

Increased use of liquid de-icers such as magnesium chloride and calcium chloride that are sprayed on the roadway instead of distributed dry like rock salt pose even greater corrosion potential for trailers. These liquids are formulated to be more water-soluble than rock salt and on the road produce an extremely fine mist that penetrates tiny structural nooks and crannies on the trailer undercarriage, triggering covert corrosion.

 

When To Wash

Many fleet maintenance managers and trailer manufacturers recommend a routine washing of the trailer every 45 days, regardless of weather or road conditions. However, after extended exposure to rain and muddy conditions—and especially snow and ice where road de-icer chemicals would be used—washing the undercarrriage of the trailer should be done ASAP, rather than waiting for the regular 45-day wash.

 

How To Wash

Use of high-pressure washers, while seemingly a benefit to blast away accumulated mud and debris, requires some caveats. First, many produce water velocity strong enough to literally strip away protective coatings applied to various parts of the under-carriage to neutralize the corrosive effects of salts, oil and other road grime. Secondly, the high-pressure stream may force water into wiring connectors and other tiny components that silently rust and corrode over time. High-pressure cleaners should be utilized by individuals with the expertise to know which parts of the under-carriage to target and which specific areas/components to avoid.

Recommended washing procedure for most of the under-carriage is the use of low-pressure warm water. After the underside is thoroughly soaked, use a mild detergent and brush to remove areas of accumulated mud or dirt, then rinse with clear warm water. Evidence of spot corrosion should be immediately treated by cleaning the corroded material and re-sealing with an anti-corrosive coating.

Wear and tear incurred by a curtain side trailer on the road are more than a matter of moving parts versus high mileage. Exposure to elements is another major factor. Out on the road, a trailer gets substantial contact with abrasives, corrosives and other substances that accumulate on the underside. After just two years on the road, trailers that were neglected—particularly in respect to undercarriage maintenance—may already show visible evidence of corrosion.

The average big rig covers over 100,000 miles annually and upkeep of the trailer alone averages more than $1500 per year. Some of these routine maintenance expenses are unavoidable. Others can be reduced by preventive care like keeping the trailer undercarriage clean. Washing the underside of the trailer is not a peripheral issue that can be considered optional. It should take equal priority with other critical maintenance fundamentals, including servicing the engine.

 

Here are a few companies that offer different cleaning options to look into. Roland Curtains Inc. does not recommend or endorse any of these companies, but only sharing them as different ways to to clean your trucks or fleet.

  

 

Other articles related to curtain trailers and fleet maintainance you may enjoy!

 

 

 

Learn the benefits of adding curtain side trailers to your fleet - download your free white paper!

Topics: Remove Salt and Winter Road Grime, Cleaning the Undercarriage

Pete Johnson

Written by Pete Johnson

Vice President, General Manager & Co-founder of Roland Curtains Inc. Pete was the first US employee for Roland International opening the US manufacturing business while creating sales in North, Central, and South America.

New Call-to-action

Get a copy of our White Paper by subscribing to our blog!

Lists by Topic

see all

Posts by Topic

see all

Recent Posts

Follow Us

", css: '', target: '#hs_form_target_wizard_module_112713027465967568866345165542117966786_1', formData: { cssClass: 'hs-form stacked' } });