Practice makes perfect

Nov. 10, 2014
Failure to follow procedures can be costly

Over the past few years, I have had the privilege of serving as a judge for the SuperTech competition at the fall meeting of the Technology & Maintenance Council. For those who are not familiar with the event, it is a gathering of the nation’s top diesel technicians who willingly subject themselves to rigorous testing over a couple of days to determine a Grand Champion. SuperTech is not for the faint of heart nor the shade tree mechanic. Just qualifying for the finals should be considered a victory.

The tire and wheel station is definitely the most physically demanding because the competitors are required to install and remove a truck tire and wheel assembly. While that may seem to be a relatively simple task, there are numerous steps to the process and each one is given a point value. When you consider the fact that the difference between Grand Champion and runner-up can be determined by as few as 15-20 points, forgetting to do something as basic as inspecting the threads can be costly.

I have judged at 9 of the 10 SuperTech competitions and I am in awe of the professionals who choose to push themselves to the limit. These technicians must have a thorough understanding of each aspect of heavy-duty truck maintenance and repair in order to even make it past the first day. While they will be considered by many to be the “best of the best,” I have noticed a disturbing trend over the past few years. It’s obvious that too many of them do not use a star pattern when tightening wheel fasteners.

For the past couple of competitions, we’ve been using an electronic torque control system to record the number of fasteners that have been tightened. If a  technician tries to snug or torque the same fastener more than once, the system will catch it. In my opinion, there are way too many competitors who fail to receive points during these steps of the process.

To ensure that the wheels are properly seated on the hub or drum,  it is crucial to snug and torque the fasteners in a star pattern. It is also the key to making sure that the bolt tension and clamping force is evenly distributed around the bolt circle. There is no time to think at SuperTech, so the competitors who regularly used a star pattern to install wheels had no problems and received the points. But the ones who missed a fastener or tried to snug or torque the same one twice were obviously thinking about it. With the technology we had in place, it was easy for the judges to identify the technicians who did not practice it every day.

The trucking industry has made great strides to improve the level of precision when installing wheels. Torque control has evolved from stopping the impact wrench before the stud snapped to the regular use of torque wrenches and other tools that deliver the correct amount of force when tightening a fastener. But the greatest technology on the planet is wasted when the person using it does not follow all of the industry guidelines.

Wheel installation is like a recipe and torque is simply the setting on the oven. When all of the ingredients are in place with the correct temperature, success is almost guaranteed. But when something as simple as a star pattern is not used regularly, the consequences can be severe, so technicians must be constantly reminded of how important it is. And if they happen to compete in a future SuperTech, it will definitely score points with the judges.

Kevin Rohlwing can be reached at [email protected]

About the Author

Kevin Rohlwing

Kevin Rohlwing is the SVP of training for the Tire Industry Association. He has more than 40 years of experience in the tire industry and has created programs to help train more than 180,000 technicians.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of FleetOwner, create an account today!

Sponsored Recommendations

Leveraging telematics to get the most from insurance

Fleet owners are quickly adopting telematics as part of their risk mitigation strategy. Here’s why.

Reliable EV Charging Solution for Last-Mile Delivery Fleets

Selecting the right EV charging infrastructure and the right partner to best solve your needs are critical. Learn which solution PepsiCo is choosing to power their fleet and help...

Overcoming Common Roadblocks Associated with Fleet Electrification at Scale

Fleets in the United States, are increasingly transitioning from internal combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles. While this shift presents challenges, there are strategies...

Report: The 2024 State of Heavy-Duty Repair

From capitalizing on the latest revenue trends to implementing strategic financial planning—this report serves as a roadmap for navigating the challenges and opportunities of ...