Big City Living: 3 Keys to Truck Maintenance for Urban Drivers

Trucks are America’s most popular vehicle, and not just in the country. In fact, they're quickly becoming a vehicle of choice in cities, too. Texas alone hosts three cities that top national searches for truck ownership: Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.

In Kentucky, the Ford plant in Louisville helps make the F-150 the most popular vehicle in the state. Even in Chicago, where local regulations forbid pickup trucks on boulevards, their sales increased 6 percent in recent years. This reflects a national trend which is seeing the roomy pickup truck becoming the preferred vehicle for women and families, with family-friendly trucks now accounting for nearly half of Ram sales.

Of course, pickups are popular with city drivers, because they’re just as useful and versatile in urban areas as they are in the country. But driving a truck requires some special maintenance needs, especially when you’re in the city where traffic stops are more frequent, increasing wear and tear on your vehicle. Here are three keys to taking care of your truck in the city.

1. Check Your Tires

Tire maintenance is fundamental for the performance and safety of any vehicle — and trucks are no exception. The first step is knowing how to pick the right tires for your truck. Generally, truck tires come in a variety of options, including all-season, all-terrain and mud-terrain varieties.

All-season tires, which come with most trucks, are designed for on-road performance, while all-terrain-tires are balanced for both on-road and off-road use; meantime, mud-terrain tires are geared toward off-road use. In the city, you’ll generally want to stick to all-season tires, unless you plan on doing plenty of off-road driving. However, if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow in winter, you may want to keep a set of all-terrain tires handy.

It’s also important to check your tire pressure and tread once a month when your tires are cool. To check your treads, all you'll need is a quarter or penny. Insert a quarter upside-down into your tire tread, and if some of Washington’s head is covered, you have at least 4/32" of tread remaining, which means you’re in the clear.

Likewise, if you insert a penny upside-down in your tire treads and the top of Lincoln’s head or the Lincoln Memorial is covered, you have at least 2/32” left, which is the legal minimum and a sign you may want to replace your tires soon. Any tires that don't meet this threshold should be replaced immediately. Tires should also be rotated on a schedule recommended by your manufacturer, which is typically every six months.

2. Inspect Your Fluids

Inspecting your fluids on a regular basis is another key to good truck maintenance. For example, engine oil should be checked once a month with your engine cool and changed when your manufacturer recommends. If you have a diesel engine, you’ll want to pay special attention to oil color, with a hue of black indicating it’s time to change your oil.

Be aware that driving in dusty or rough conditions may require more frequent oil changes. Trucks also have one to three differential oil units, depending on which type of drivetrain you have, some of which may need their own types of oil. These should be checked and changed on the schedule recommended by your manufacturer, usually every 30,000 to 50,000 miles.

Additionally, transmission and power steering fluid should be checked on a monthly basis.
Transmission fluid normally needs to be changed every 50,000 to 100,000 miles, depending on your type of transmission or if you notice the fluid looks brown or smells burnt. Steering fluid often doesn’t need to be replaced, but your owner’s manual will give you specific instructions based on your model.

Other important fluids to check regularly are brake, coolant and windshield washer fluid. Brake fluid should normally be checked when you change your oil and changed every two years or when it looks brown. Meantime, your coolant levels should be checked at the beginning of summer and winter and refilled every two to three years, while windshield wiper fluid can be checked every six months and filled whenever levels appear low.

3. Keep Your Hardware Maintained

Trucks also have a number of hardware components, including your spark plugs, air filter,
suspension, steering and brakes, that require regular maintenance. Other parts and hardware can be checked when you go in for a tune-up on the schedule recommended by your manufacturer or if you notice a change in your car’s performance. Also, it’s a good idea to check your suspension system before and after hauling heavy loads or driving long distances.

City driving may require you to pay special attention to a couple of maintenance items. When driving in the city, you’ll obviously have to brake more often than you would on the highway, so you may find your brake pads wearing out faster than normal. Thus, taking it easy on your brakes will help extend the life of your pads.

It’s also recommended you check your tire beds whenever you get your tires rotated. Additionally, because your car doesn’t get as hot as it would on the highway, the water in your exhaust system won’t evaporate as fast, so your exhaust system may rust periodically. That’s why checking your whole frame for rust once a year is advisable.

Enjoying Life in the Big City

Maintaining a truck in the city is similar to taking care of other vehicles, but there are a few special considerations. All-season tires are best for most city drivers, though all-terrain may be useful in heavy snow, and tire pressure and tread depth should be checked monthly.

Oil, transmission and power steering fluid should also be checked monthly, while other fluids can be checked periodically. Key hardware components like spark plugs should also be checked regularly, and it’s a good idea to pay special attention to your brakes and exhaust system due to the wear and tear of city driving.

Following these guidelines will help you keep your truck in good shape so you can enjoy life in the big city.