TRUCKS: Tips Of The Trade: Parts Analysis Hints For Fleet Mangers

Who's to blame when your refuse or recycling truck breaks down? Potential culprits include typical wear-and-tear, inadequate maintenance or a faulty component. To recover repair costs quickly and efficiently, fleet managers across the country are making comprehensive parts failure analysis a necessary part of their warranty programs.

Learning the proper procedures should be a priority for all fleet managers. When conducting a component analysis, managers should use the following five steps as a rule of thumb, according to a panel at a recent meeting of The Maintenance Council: * Be sure the problem is completely understood before any failed part analysis begins. Fleet managers should be aware of how components function both independently and as a system.

* Be certain the final analysis ex-plains all areas in which the system failed.

*Remove and carefully check the faulty component - too often a part submitted for warranty is in good operational condition. For some components and systems, this happens as much as 40 percent of the time.

* In addition to analyzing the com-ponent itself, conduct internal and external analysis; always consider the obvious first.

* Record all information gathered during the analysis and file it for future review.

To accomplish these five points effectively, the panel recommends some "do's" and "don'ts."

For example, managers should establish a failure analysis strategy. A written plan should state the purpose and define the expected results and responsibilities. Do-cumentation during the analysis should include serial numbers for each component and photographs when appropriate, according to the panelists.

Technicians should follow the same procedures and use calibrated test instruments. In general, as much information as possible should be collected and the complete unit should be tested whenever possible. Also, managers must be willing to go over known facts as many times as necessary to establish a complete chain of events leading to the failure.

For the "don'ts," the panelists warn against losing or destroying evidence; parts should be kept safe until analysis is complete. Man-agers also should never deviate from the written plan - even if the cause of failure appears obvious. Finally, don't fail to communicate pertinent analysis information to all appropriate persons.

The panelists also suggest that some of the best tools for performing failure analysis are the five senses. Sight, for example, can be used when examining fine details. Smell can detect an overheated unit and determine fluid types, while certain sounds can indicate misalignment or inadequate lubrication. Finally, touch can reveal roughness that would otherwise be detected only with expensive testing equipment.

In addition to determining whether a failed part is covered under warranty, a successful part failure analysis will help fleet managers to identify the failure's cause, solve the problem and avoid re-peating failures in the future.