When you're ready to go independent instead of working for a trucking company, buying a used semi is a great way to stretch your budget. However, choosing the wrong vehicle could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in repairs before you can get down to business as your own boss. Pick a great used truck the first time by taking care with these five inspection steps.
Empty the Air Tanks
Since emptying and checking the air tanks is a crucial step to prepare for even the shortest trips, don't forget to do it while inspecting a truck you might purchase. Signs of moisture and oil indicate damage or contamination in the air system. A problem with the compressor could leave the truck careening out of control or at least make it hard to operate, so don't accidentally invest in a vehicle that needs such a big repair before you can safely drive it. Make sure the truck is safely chocked and sitting on level ground before you start the check so that the vehicle doesn't roll while you've got the brakes disconnected.
Test the Engine
When you're preparing to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a great looking semi truck, it's worth waiting a few days and paying the fees for advanced engine testing. Running the truck you like best on a chassis dynometer test can reveal
- Hidden problems robbing horsepower from the engine, indicating age and a coming breakdown
- Heat management issues, resulting in severe overheating and the related damage
- Excessive emissions due to improper combustion or worn engine parts.
Of course, you'll need to coordinate with the seller to get the truck towed to the testing facility and back. Consider insurance for the test as well just in case it damages the vehicle.
Inspect the Frame
Take the time to look over the entire frame from top to bottom, with the help of a bright flash light for the underside. Keep an eye out for signs of damage and wear to the frame. If you notice widespread rust, bent and crinkled areas, cracking, or shiny spots, the strength of the structure is compromised. You don't want to discover a problem while towing a full loaded trailer.
Check the Records
Request as many maintenance logs, repair records, and other important paperwork for the truck in question from the seller. Collecting a portfolio of data on the truck helps you decide if there's enough life left in it to start your business. If you don't expect to be able to afford a replacement within a few years, you shouldn't pick a truck reaching the end of its lifespan. The sheer amount of mileage each truck can handle varies, so check against the public records for similar vehicles to find out if that 500,000 mile model can really keep going for another 200,000 or not.
Watch Out for Modifications
Finally, be careful when shopping for trucks featuring extensive modifications to the engine or frame. While upgrades to the cab or brakes are relatively common and work well in most cases, it's all too easy to make minor mistakes when modifying the rest of the truck and create hidden dangers. Unless the seller can provide detailed records on who performed the modifications and how they were handled, stick to trucks with stock engines and intact frames.
Stick with a reliable seller of used semi trucks instead of just finding the best deal being sold directly from a fellow trucker. Knowing who to contact when something goes wrong with your business vehicle makes it lot less stressful to invest in an older truck instead of buying a brand new model off the lot.
For more information on commercial trucks, contact a company like Arrow Truck Sales.