Equipment and Maintenance – December 2003

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Although ArvinMeritor’s Easy Steer Plus front axle includes advanced features – such as a permanently assembled, sealed and lubricated, unitized hub, and high-tech bushings that live longer and reduce steering effort – it, like all steer axles, must still be inspected and maintained to ensure performance and longevity.

Steer axles have come a long way in terms of durability and reduced maintenance, but don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. “For example, some front non-drive steer axles feature permanently assembled, sealed and lubricated hubs,” notes Robert Rosenthal, national sales manager for Arvin-Meritor. In addition, Rosenthal says, a unitized hub, bearing and seal assembly make wheel bearing, seal maintenance and wheel-end adjustment unnecessary. And because the hub unit is pre-loaded, endplay is virtually eliminated.

But while it’s true that these components are more durable than ever before, Rosenthal cautions that they must be properly spec’d and maintained to provide optimal performance, and he offers the following tips.

Spec’ing considerations
When selecting steer axles, make sure you have the right component for the job. The correct axle will offer drivers a smoother, safer ride and ensure peak vehicle performance. When spec’ing, keep the following in mind:

Payload requirements. Don’t overspec. Take the time to carefully calculate payload.
Operation. Consider the places a truck will deliver to and make sure it has the proper turn angle and clearance.

Driver features. Pay attention to issues that will affect driver comfort, such as steering effort.

Maintenance requirements. Don’t make a decision based solely on sticker price. Factor in the recommended service and inspection intervals to determine the true cost of annual maintenance. And know exactly what is and isn’t covered under warranty.

Inspection points
Aside from checking tires for abnormal wear and aligning the wheels as necessary, here are some steer-axle-specific areas that should be periodically examined:

  • Linkage – Examine the tie rods and ends for damage, tightness, wear and adequate lubrication. Next, check the steering arms for damage, wear and connecting nut torque. Also look for damage, play, wear and adequate lube in the drag link. Finally, check the pitman arm for connecting nut torque and timing position.
  • Steering sector – Check for play at the steering wheel that is outside of manufacturer’s recommendations. Adjust the bearing preload, if necessary. Also check the steering gear for box-to-frame mounting bolt torque.
  • Steering shaft – Make sure the steering driveline, universal joint and steering linkage are adequately lubricated. Check for damage and wear in the moving parts and also check shaft alignment.
  • Steering knuckle – Check for worn or damaged kingpin seals, bushings and bearings, and lube parts that need it.
  • Steer angle – Adjust the steer angle if necessary.

Remember, advises Rosenthal, the key to an axle’s lifespan is not just how highly engineered it is, but also how well it’s maintained. In short, the basics haven’t gone away.

Dana Corp. is developing an air-ride, independent front suspension (IFS) for heavy trucks. Advantages, the company says, include improved ride and handling due to the air ride, a reduction in unsprung weight and the fact that road irregularities at one front wheel do not

Dana Corp. is developing an air-ride, independent front suspension (IFS) for heavy trucks.

affect the location or attitude of the other. The suspension also will offer better vehicle stability, especially under hard braking, thanks to the anti-dive properties inherent in wishbone-type control arm suspension designs. “It will really allow us to reduce some of the harshness input to the driver,” says product manager Mark Davis.

Don’t look for the IFS right away. “After talking to fleets and OEMs, we think that, to be able to build enough of the units to be cost-effective, we’re looking at five or more years,” says Davis. And from added-cost as well as packaging perspectives, “upcoming emissions regulations could affect the timetable,” he adds.

That’s not to say that Dana isn’t already gleaning on-road experience with the system. “We’ve been supplying predecessors of this unit to the coach market,” he says. “And even though we’re not currently producing an IFS for heavy trucks, we’re still finding ways to improve the product.”

Radlinski and Associates (RAI) was acquired by Link Engineering this fall. RAI founder Dick Radlinski will play an active role in Link-Radlinski, Inc., the new business entity. Over his 38-year career, Radlinski established himself as an authority in heavy duty brake technology and systems. He has developed close relationships with vehicle manufacturers, brake suppliers and government agencies. “We have worked closely with Link Engineering for quite some time, and are excited about being part of the Link team,” Radlinski says.

RAI, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, has been a leader in the development of ABS diagnostic tools, and end-of-line test systems. The company has conducted countless brake tests on heavy trucks, trailers, buses, and motorhomes, and has helped many vehicle manufacturers to certify their brake systems.

SEATTLE MAINTENANCE CONFERENCE SLATED FOR MARCHThis year’s Vehicle Maintenance Management Conference (VMMC) will be held March 22-24 at the University of Washington and March 25, at South Seattle Community College. VMMC is celebrating 53 years of sharing technical information among technicians, supervisors, managers, distributors, owners, educators and manufacturers.

For more information on registration and exhibits, contact Engineering Professional Programs, 10303 Meridian Ave. N. #301 Seattle, Wash. 98133. Phone (206) 543-5539, fax (206) 543-2352, e-mail or visit

The Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) will hold its 2004 Annual Meeting and Transportation Technology Exhibition March 15-19 at the Broward County Convention Center, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The meeting will feature programs on both maintenance and information technology/logistics disciplines. A second Diesel Engine Emissions Summit will be held on Tuesday, March 16. For registration, or additional meeting or exhibit information, contact TMC at (703) 838-1763; or e-mail: Online registration is available at:

Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FLCC) rolled out its 100,000th chassis at a celebration at the company’s Gaffney, S.C., plant.

Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FLCC) rolled out its 100,000th chassis at a celebration at the company’s Gaffney, S.C., plant. FLCC makes chassis for walk-in vans, school and shuttle buses, and motorhomes. It also assembles the Sprinter van for Freightliner and Dodge.

The FLCC plant, which employs more than 800 people and has 255,000 square feet of manufacturing space, was purchased by Freightliner from Oshkosh Truck Corp. in 1995.