It’s time to clean your cab’s winter residues
By Paul Abelson
For years, I’ve been advising truck operators to summerize their trucks by paying attention to the engine, chassis and running gear. But I never wrote about the inside of the cab. Allow me to right that wrong.
Winter takes a toll on the inside of the cab. Extreme cold embrittles plastic and elastomer parts, making them more subject to shock damage. This is not a condition with newer trucks made with more stable polymers. Older plastics are more likely to have plasticizers — chemicals that keep plastics pliable — evaporate, primarily in summer when interiors heat to more than 135 degrees. The film that forms on the inside of the windshield is the result of plasticizers depositing on the glass. They, of course, should be cleaned when they affect vision.
The plasticizers also need to be replaced, which is part of what conditioners like 3M Leather and Vinyl Cleaner, Autoglym Vinyl and Rubber Cleaner or Armor All do. As you wipe them on, conditioners are absorbed into the polymer, softening them and preventing further deterioration. The conditioners also provide a barrier to ultraviolet light, another enemy of the plastics.
Vinyl seats can be conditioned, too. Wipe off any residue from the seat surfaces, and give them time to absorb the conditioner. If your seats are leather, use conditioners like Zymol, Mother’s, Lexol and others to replenish the oils that keep the leather from drying out and cracking.
Examine all weather-stripping around doors and windows twice a year, when winterizing and summerizing. You’ll stay more comfortable and your heater or air conditioner will have to work less if heat does not escape in winter or enter the cab in summer.
Heating (yes, even in summer), air conditioning, defrosting and demisting the inside of the windshield are necessary functions, dependent on air flow over heat exchangers in the cab. If they are corroded, damaged or clogged by debris, heat exchangers will not operate efficiently. Over the winter, we drag small pieces of leaves and twigs, paper, mud and dirt into the cab. Some of it gets kicked around and winds up in the heater/air conditioner ducts. If they are damp, mud and debris cake on them. Eventually, air flow over the heat exchangers is reduced. Debris can even bend the fins, permanently reducing air flow.
The best way to remove this debris is in the opposite direction from which it entered. A good, strong shop vacuum cleaner that can handle dirt and mud, either wet or dry, is the best tool. If there is baked-on dirt, spray water on the exchanger and let it soak in. Brush it out using a soft toothbrush and vacuum out the residue. After cleaning, turn the heater, then the air conditioner on with the fan on high. Check for function (hot or cold air) and air flow. Then run the fan on low and make sure there is still adequate air flow. If not, inspect the fan. It may be binding and in need of replacement. Sometimes it has enough power to move air at high speed, but it may bind up with less power available.
Finally, check the floor. Lift the carpet or floor mat and check the condition of the surface and corners. Pay attention to junctions with other components, such as seat mountings. We bring salt and snow removal chemicals into the cab on our shoes. These are the same corrosive chemicals that attack the outside of our trucks. As the snow and slush melts, it seeps into the carpet and flows under floor mats. It corrodes unprotected areas. If you find corrosion, remove it with emery cloth, then prime and paint. If there are any structural problems, repair them.
Your dwelling needs regular upkeep. So does your home away from home. Take care of it, and it will give you many years of excellent service.