By Chris Tyson
[Mr. Tyson is the Fleet Manager at R&S General Contractors and a personal friend of the MACS staff.]
Technicians working on heavy-duty trucks might find that the cabin air filters need replacement at relatively frequent intervals, especially when compared with passenger cars and light trucks. Considering the harsh environment our equipment sometimes operates in, this should not be a surprise. At R&S General Contractors, our fleet includes six Class 8 trucks, four of which are tri-axle dump trucks. Once the weather gets hot and humid, like it’s already been this year in Pennsylvania, the drivers start using their A/C more often, and there have already been complaints about the A/C not working like it should.
We’ve found the cabin air filters on our International 7600 cabs seem to clog with dust and dirt quite easily. In fact, depending on the work the trucks are doing that week, the drivers might have to clean out their cabin air filters weekly or even daily to improve airflow from the vents. Our trucks are used mostly in concrete and paving work, but we also do construction site work, so there’s a real mix of conditions we operate in. For example, we may be working on a commercial road or parking lot one week, so the dump trucks will be in a somewhat cleaner environment for part of the time, but also in a dusty environment when they run to a quarry for gravel or asphalt. When working at an excavation site, our trucks are off-road in very dirty and dusty conditions, and then they go to a reclamation facility which is also dusty and dirty.
At first, we noticed the cabin filter issue on just one of our trucks, a 2005 International 7600. But then we found it occurs just as often with our 2007 model. That makes sense because they are both pretty much the same truck with basically the same air handling system. Still, once we noticed cabin air filer issues with these two trucks, we decided to examine the filters in our other trucks that have them.
We don’t see the problem quite as often on our Mack trucks, even though they are used the same way. Maybe that’s because the Mack filters are not only a different size and shape but also constructed of a very different material. The filters in the International trucks are pleated paper, while the Mack filters look like a single sheet of random-strand fiberglass-like material, similar to what you see in a whole-house HVAC air filter. These filters are not nearly as fine, and this made me think about how much dust and dirt gets through them into the Mack cabs. While we like not having to change the filters as often, we’d like to keep the air in our cabs as clean as possible, for the health of our operators and also to help keep our trucks clean.
At first we thought the frequent clogging might occur only on International’s OEM filters, but the aftermarket filters we purchased clog just as fast. So now it’s part of the driver’s daily maintenance procedures to inspect the cabin air filter. At the end of the day when they stop at the wash house to clean the outside of the truck, they also take the cabin air filter out and blow it off with air. As you might imagine, we can only clean an air filter so many times before it needs to be replaced, but it’s worth the expense to keep the cab clean and the driver cool on these hot summer days.
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When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.
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