We are all aware of the damage salt does to vehicles. Corrosion is mother nature’s response to the salt we use on our roads to keep us safe from the snow and ice. While doing its job by melting snow and ice, this salty water mixture turns into a fine mist and manages to work its way to the smallest hard to reach areas. Proactively keeping your rig clean helps combat corrosion but not much attention goes to the refrigeration units and APU’s mounted in the path of this corrosive salt spray.
As we near spring, there is a lingering effect the winter can have on our on-road equipment. We all know the effect that salt has on our vehicles. In this post, we are going to talk about what we can do to combat the lasting effects of salt on our refrigeration units and APUs.
Refrigerated trailer units are the hard workers of the cold chain. They are sophisticated pieces of equipment designed to cool down to -20 degrees and heat to 90 degrees. They do not get a break, even during the cold winter months.
Newer refrigerated units have technology that rivals today’s on-highway vehicles, and they are subject to the same harsh elements, from 110 degrees out in Phoenix to -40 degrees in Minnesota. And they do not catch a break when it comes to corrosion. Luckily, there are a few things you can do that help keep that unit in great shape for years to come.
Simply rinsing down your unit from time to time will go a long way in preventing corrosion. Start at the top and rinse the condenser with a gentle spray of water. Keep away from pressure washers or high-powered water streams which can easily damage the aluminum fins on the condenser. Keep rinsing down the salt and grime, across the engine and through the belly pan. Do not forget about the frame rails where unseen salt and grime can hide for years.
Next, check your connections near the starter. These connections tend to hold water so pay special attention to them. After rinsing the unit, and once everything is dry, apply a little dab of dielectric grease to these connections to help prevent any water intrusion in the future.
Finally, do not forget about your fuel tank. Fuel tanks are especially susceptible to corrosion near the tank straps. Rinse the area around the straps and inspect the tank for any signs of corrosion. If you do see something that may be an issue, get it taken care of. Every year, we have several trailers brought to us with leaks in the fuel tank. Things get messy quickly. It is better to err on the side of caution than to have to make an emergency stop.
The way APU units are mounted, they are subject to the harshest conditions on the road. Mounted near the road, APUs are inundated with the salty spray from treated roads. Just like the trailer units, however, there are simple things that you can do to help prevent any issues down the road.
APUs’ also have many electronics on board. While much has been done to protect the APU against its environment, there are still opportunities for issues to appear. Being aware of these potential issues will go a long way to maintaining your APU for years to come.
Again, one of the simplest and beneficial things you can do, is simply to rinse off the APU with fresh water. All the components on the APU power unit can handle a gentle stream of water, so as long as you are not blasting the unit with a pressure washer, you will be ok. Go ahead and remove the diamond plate covers and give the engine and enclosure a good rinse. Just be careful with the grey plastic APU Control Module at the top left of the unit near the frame rail.
Over the years, product improvements have helped combat issues with corrosion. One of the most notorious culprits is the APU enclosure. While advances have been implemented over the years in paint technology to help the enclosure stand up to corrosive road grime and salt, you can extend the life of the enclosure by inspecting the enclosure on a regular basis. Look for any chips or scratches in the paint. If you find any, clean up the area, and touch up the spot with either a touch up pen or a bit of spray paint. That will help the paint protect your APU and keep your unit looking great.