By James Girards

When an 18-wheeler has caused a major crash, the first thing that the attorney you hire and his experts will do is secure the truck and arrange for a thorough inspection. This is the most important reason to retain an experienced trucking attorney as soon as possible after a collision because the evidence that can be obtained by inspecting the truck as soon after the collision as possible is critical to the case, and may be lost or destroyed if not secured immediately. Frequently, the inspection is arranged with all the lawyers involved and all of their expert consultants so that everyone is assured nothing is damaged or altered during the inspection.  The inspection will involve, among other things, an inspection of all parts of the truck that should have been inspected by the driver during the pre-trip inspection in order to see if there was some reason the truck should not have been on the road in the first place.  Frequently, we see poorly maintained trucks causing collisions because of worn or damaged parts in the engine compartment that fail and render the truck difficult or impossible to control or stop safely.  This article is devoted to inspection of the engine compartment, only.  

First, the fluids and their levels are inspected.  There are typically four fluid levels in the engine compartment to be checked: a) engine oil, b) power steering fluid, c) coolant level, and d) windshield washer fluid. 

From there all of the belts are inspected looking for cuts, fraying, cracks and proper tension.  The belts should move no more than about ½ inch when pushed midway between the related pulleys.

Following the belt inspection, the engine components that are driven by the belts are inspected. These include the alternator which is inspected to assure it is securely mounted and has no missing, damaged, or broken parts.Likewise, the water pump is inspected for leaks and any missing, damaged, or broken parts, and that it is securely mounted.  The power steering pump is similarly checked. 

All electrical wiring under the hood is checked for frayed, loose, or broken wires as well.

The air compressor is checked for any missing, damaged, or broken parts and that it is securely mounted. Some compressors are gear-driven so be sure to look carefully.  

All of the hoses in the engine compartment must be inspected, including the upper and lower radiator hoses, and heater hoses. Check them for wear, cracks, leaks, or rubbing on other engine components.

Then the steering box is checked for missing or damaged components, that it is securely mounted and the hoses are in good repair and not leaking.  The steering linkage is inspected to assure the connecting arms, links, rods, bushings, joints, and sockets are in good repair, are not cracked, are secure, and free from damage.  Don’t forget to check the inside sidewalls of the steer tires to assure the steering components are not rubbing the tires at any point in their movement.


The suspension components are then checked to assure that all springs are attached properly, are not bent, cracked, or distorted, are secured properly with no missing bolts or mounting brackets, and are properly secured to the frame and axle. Check to assure all bushings and rubber components are in good repair.  If the tractor unit is equipped with torsion bars or torque arms, assure they are secured properly and are not bent, cracked, or damaged.  Check all air-suspension components for cracks, other damage, or leaks.

With the wheels chocked and the brakes released, check the slack adjusters to assure they do not move more than 1 inch when pulled.  If greater movement is seen the brakes will apply unevenly and should be adjusted. Check for any missing, damaged, or broken parts,  The angle between the pushrod and the adjustor arm should be slightly more than 90 degrees with the brakes released and slightly less when the brakes are applied.  

Check the brake shoes and linings to assure there is no oil or grease on the linings and there are no missing, damaged, or broken parts.

Check the steer axle brake drums to assure there are no cracks, dents, or holes.  A cracked brake drum should be put out of service. 

Check each wheel to assure that they are not bent, damaged, cracked, and have no welds that are not factory welds. Non-factory wleds are not allowed and will place the truck out of service until the wheel is replaced. Check each lug to assure it is present and properly tightened.  Check for rust that may indicate a loose nut.

Chek the hub and axle seals for leks.  Check the level of oil if the seal is transparent.

Check each shock absorber to assure it is securely mounted, the bushings are in good condition and that the shock absorber is not bent, damaged, or leaking. 

Check the hose and couplings to the brake chamber on the steering axle for any cracks, wear, or leaks.  Check the brake chamber for leaks, cracks, or missing or damaged parts and assure it is securely mounted. 

In a post-crash inspection, you will also want to check and document fuel levels in the tanks and fuel filters – especially if there is a concern about the condition or level of fuel at the time of collision.

After completing this portion of the inspection, you are ready to move on to the rest of the truck.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed as a result of a trucking collision, let our team of lawyers help you today. Call Girards Law Firm at 888-897-2762

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