Tips for Getting the Most Out of Trailer Technologies
In recent years, the focus has been on making trailers that are smarter, safer and stronger. From telematics sensors and advanced lighting systems to innovative designs and construction materials, the trailer becomes a valuable asset to a fleet.
Maintaining this value also takes on a new level of importance. It is important that fleets have the proper inspection and preventive maintenance systems in place to ensure that these new “bells and whistles” continue to perform as the manufacturers intended.
Advanced lighting and wiring harnesses
When it comes to trailer lighting systems, water and corrosive materials are the main culprits for system failures. Technicians must take the necessary precautions to guard against intrusions into the system. Correct use of dielectric grease in plugs and pins is an important step.
Products like the Peterson Mfg Defender Harness and Light System are designed to protect electrical systems from corrosive materials like road salt. This modular system consists of four components: the Defender distribution module, the nose box, a variety of modular harness components that connect to the Defender module, and the Peterson LumenX LED lights.
“The special features of these components make servicing Defender equipped trailers like no other harness system,” said Jeff Geoffroy, Marketing Director at Peterson Mfg., Which provides a wide range of emergency lighting. for vehicles, reflectors, antennas, mirrors and others. some products.
While there is no requirement to perform scheduled preventive maintenance on the Defender system, there may be different circumstances that warrant certain maintenance steps being taken.
“Never disassemble the modular harness plugs from the distribution module unless diagnostic or repair is required,” Geoffroy said. “If it becomes necessary to remove the clamp from the module, the technician should perform full maintenance on the three connections on that side of the module.”
First, before disassembly, use compressed air to remove as much debris as possible from around the spark plug heads. Once cleaned, remove the caps by pulling them straight out, then remove the silicone gaskets. Thoroughly clean all open module ports. Carefully inspect each plug and orifice, looking for signs of damage or corrosion. “If corrosion is detected, it will be necessary to remove and replace the distribution module and all affected harness components,” said Geoffroy. “Remove any debris or contaminants from the face of the remaining Defender plugs.”
Once the necessary inspection and repairs are done, it is essential to install new silicone gaskets. Add dielectric grease to the pin terminals. “Keep in mind that there are two types of pliers,” Geoffroy pointed out. “If the old-fashioned clip was removed, reassemble it using the new splash-reflective clip cover. Use only stainless steel bolts with nylon thread blocking patches. “
When replacing the distribution module, bolts and gaskets will be supplied with a new module. It is imperative that the clamp bolts be tightened to 60 inch-lbs. “Excessive tightening of the clamping bolts will damage the distribution module and require its replacement,” Geoffroy warned.
Another problem a technician might encounter is a poor connection to the SAE J560 receptacle, which transfers electrical power from the tractor to the trailer. This is usually because the cap warps and does not fully lock in place, which promotes wear and deterioration. “The Defender’s receptacle is now 3/8-inch deeper, which helps reduce sway and helps lock it in place in a more positive way,” Geoffroy pointed out. Thus, there is no reason to open the nasal cavity unless required by system diagnostics.
“In the event that disassembly is required, carefully remove the nuts from the mounting bolts,” Geoffroy said. “Do not try to force the frozen fasteners to loosen. Doing so could strip the carriage mounting threads. If a nut seizes up, use a nut separator to remove it. “
Every time you open the nose box, Geoffroy said it was a good idea to add dielectric grease to the ring lugs and the included female terminals for the J560 receptacle. Also be aware that the nose box can be fitted with a felt or rubber gasket. “If the old-fashioned felt gasket is present, replace it with a new reusable rubber gasket,” Geoffroy said. “If the J560 receptacle itself is damaged and needs to be replaced, it can be replaced without further disassembly. Just be sure to use a replacement Peterson plug. “
When closing the nose box, the connector retaining nuts and nuts around the perimeter should be tightened to 80 lb-ft. “Applying excessive torque can cause irreparable damage to the nose box components,” Geoffroy said.
Much like the Defender Modular Wiring Harness, Geoffroy said that the LumenX lights themselves do not require any scheduled preventative maintenance. On that note, connections should never be disconnected unless repair or replacement is required.
“When working with LumenX lights, don’t grease the sealed silicone connectors,” Geoffroy said. “Greasing the terminals will prevent the silicone gasket from fitting together properly, which will lead to loss of corrosion. On the other hand, you must apply dielectric grease to the .180 bullet connectors every time they are disconnected and replaced. “
Sensors and telematics
Interior trailer maintenance, which includes lighting systems, can be facilitated through the use of a trailer telematics system. Various sensors strategically positioned in a trailer can help fleets access real-time information that helps them take a more proactive approach.
One example is Clarience Technologies’ Advanced Road Ready Trailer Telematics System. Road Ready is an agnostic solution that communicates with other sensors already on board a trailer, such as ABS and TPMS, regardless of brand. Additionally, Road Ready offers its own suite of sensory devices to monitor such things as interior cargo volume, trailer temperature, door open / close events, and light failures.
“Lighting is one of the biggest CSA issues for semi-trailers,” said Paul Sniegocki, CTO at Clarience Technologies. “Our trailer telematics system can detect electrical problems throughout the trailer circuit. Fleets can even remotely check the overall condition of a lighting system if they wish. If the sensor signals that all is well, the fleet knows the electrical system is healthy. If all does not go well, the fleet knows they have a maintenance issue to solve – and they can now fix it more proactively. “
Road Ready sensors can be wired into a trailer’s electrical system. Fleets can also opt for a replaceable battery option. Either way, Sniegocki said the installation was easy. The sensors are installed using proven industrial grade VHB tape – the same type of tape used to secure automotive bumpers.
Communication between the sensors and the Road Ready MCU (Main Control Unit) is performed using wireless technology, which can provide benefits from a maintenance point of view.
“When you think of the many systems in a utility vehicle, there are a lot of maintenance issues related to the connections,” Sniegocki said. “With wireless sensors, you don’t have to worry about those potentially troublesome connections.”
Road Ready wireless sensors operate on replaceable batteries. Depending on how often a given sensor is asked to collect and report information, a given battery often lasts up to three years. Either way, a fleet gets a notification when a battery starts to fail.
Besides the sensors, the other key components of the Road Ready system are the MCU (aka the “brains” of the Road Ready system) and a SmartBridge Integrator (SBI). The SBI allows the Road Ready system to take information from partner sensory devices regardless of the communication protocol, i.e. the CAN bus, and transmit it to the MCU.
According to Sniegocki, the Road Ready MCU and SBI are maintenance-free and built to withstand harsh conditions. Installation is also straightforward.
“Using the same high-strength tape used to install the sensors, an MCU only takes about 15 minutes to mount on or in front of a trailer,” said Sniegocki. “The SBI is easily installed on the back of the trailer. It is completely sealed and uses automotive grade sealed connections. “
PetersonPULSE is another trailer telematics solution that has emerged in recent years. This wired system is designed to CAN bus specifications using lighter, more flexible, and easier to install wiring than traditional wiring. In addition, a back-up battery provides power when the trailer is unhitched.
In tandem with the technologies of its partners, PULSE detects in real time the status of many vital trailer systems such as ABS and TPMS. With regard to the interior of trailers, PULSE monitors the temperature of the cargo, the condition of the loading door and the interior lighting.
“PetersonPULSE can be installed on existing trailers or installed at the factory by an OEM,” said Cory Adams, vice president of engineering at Peterson Mfg. Besides the normal maintenance of the electrical system, PULSE is relatively maintenance free. When a technician wishes to interface with the system, he can do so via a portable device compatible with Bluetooth. “An app allows interfacing and interaction with the trailer to diagnose problems or update software, for example,” Adams pointed out.