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#4713277 - 04/01/18 01:58 PM Fire Trucks and oil changes
otis24 Offline


Registered: 10/30/05
Posts: 1652
Loc: South Dakota
My brother-in-law is a volunteer firefighter. His town, like scores of others across the country, has a 1941 fire engine. I asked him about oil changes and he said that they tried to change oil about twice per year. If you think about it, how much mileage do these vehicles see each year? I'm guessing that these vehicles would be the perfect candidate for a once every ,2 or 3 years OCI. Also, wondering about the lubrication needs of these vintage vehicles and how well they are served by modern lubricants. Any other fire fighters that have experience with this?


Edited by otis24 (04/01/18 02:00 PM)
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#4713287 - 04/01/18 02:08 PM Re: Fire Trucks and oil changes [Re: otis24]
JohnnyJohnson Online   content


Registered: 10/22/09
Posts: 2394
Loc: Wet side WA
Cheap insurance its a beach when your fire truck breaks down on the way to the fire!
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#4713314 - 04/01/18 02:59 PM Re: Fire Trucks and oil changes [Re: otis24]
FFeng7 Offline


Registered: 06/01/04
Posts: 371
Loc: Va
The department here does annual oil changes and complete preventive maintenance on all the trucks. Mileage is probably way under the recommendation from the engine manufacturer.
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#4713326 - 04/01/18 03:20 PM Re: Fire Trucks and oil changes [Re: otis24]
AVB Offline


Registered: 05/20/12
Posts: 1145
Loc: Georgia
I serviced the fire engines for a small vfd at my last job. We did an annual service when the DOT inspections were due.

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#4713329 - 04/01/18 03:22 PM Re: Fire Trucks and oil changes [Re: otis24]
Linctex Offline


Registered: 12/31/16
Posts: 5718
Loc: Waco, TX
I once served on a VFD in the early 90's that had a 1947 Chevy truck with 19,000 original miles.

You could eat off of any part of it!
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#4713340 - 04/01/18 03:30 PM Re: Fire Trucks and oil changes [Re: otis24]
CT8 Offline


Registered: 10/09/14
Posts: 10555
Loc: Idaho
Tell B.I.L. thanks I appreciate the volunteer firemen more than can be shown.
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#4713344 - 04/01/18 03:32 PM Re: Fire Trucks and oil changes [Re: otis24]
knerml Offline


Registered: 04/05/05
Posts: 455
Loc: NE Ohio
I am sure they use hour meters, especially the amount of idling those engine do...
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#4713356 - 04/01/18 03:40 PM Re: Fire Trucks and oil changes [Re: otis24]
PimTac Offline


Registered: 03/04/17
Posts: 3490
Loc: Soviet State of Washington
In this case with the op in So Dakota the climate must play a role. Imagine sub zero temps and then start up and run. Iím sure they have block heaters but still these engines do get abused, no doubt.

In the USCG, our lifeboats had warmers running year round on the Detroit Diesel engines that were onboard but going from zero to 2800 rpm in winter with the intake water near 40F or less where we were gave the engineers heartburn. Those engines held up very well.
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#4713369 - 04/01/18 03:51 PM Re: Fire Trucks and oil changes [Re: otis24]
Chris142 Online   content


Registered: 06/05/03
Posts: 16534
Loc: Deplorable in apple valley, ca
Racing to a fire with a 218 cuin flathead. LoL
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#4713386 - 04/01/18 04:15 PM Re: Fire Trucks and oil changes [Re: PimTac]
simple_gifts Offline


Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 11869
Loc: Middlesex County CT
Originally Posted By: PimTac
In this case with the op in So Dakota the climate must play a role. Imagine sub zero temps and then start up and run. Iím sure they have block heaters but still these engines do get abused, no doubt.


We had an adequately heated firehouse in NH when I was a volunteer; You realize pumpers have 500 gallon water tanks?

Needless to say, riding on the back (1980s) was discouraged in the winter lol
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#4713402 - 04/01/18 04:36 PM Re: Fire Trucks and oil changes [Re: Chris142]
eljefino Offline


Registered: 06/15/03
Posts: 32384
Loc: ME
Originally Posted By: Chris142
Racing to a fire with a 218 cuin flathead. LoL


I live within earshot of a 55 MPH 2-lane highway with 4-way stop and a mild uphill grade. The Harleys get to bang up through the gears. Fire Engines just make a BLAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH noise and don't pick up any revs. LOL

I think my town still has a 60-year old Six-by for a forestry vehicle. I cannot imagine it having speed.

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#4713403 - 04/01/18 04:41 PM Re: Fire Trucks and oil changes [Re: otis24]
FordBroncoVWJeta Offline


Registered: 04/16/16
Posts: 719
Loc: KS
My home town has a 1922 Stutz fire truck.
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#4713412 - 04/01/18 04:47 PM Re: Fire Trucks and oil changes [Re: otis24]
Traction Offline


Registered: 06/04/13
Posts: 960
Loc: iowa
I just acquired a 1950 Chevy 4100 fire truck with only 2300 miles on it. Got it running, and now need to deal with the brakes, and old tires. These old engines don't have oil filters either. Mine will be lucky to see 100 OCI.
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#4713450 - 04/01/18 05:50 PM Re: Fire Trucks and oil changes [Re: simple_gifts]
PimTac Offline


Registered: 03/04/17
Posts: 3490
Loc: Soviet State of Washington
Originally Posted By: simple_gifts
Originally Posted By: PimTac
In this case with the op in So Dakota the climate must play a role. Imagine sub zero temps and then start up and run. Iím sure they have block heaters but still these engines do get abused, no doubt.


We had an adequately heated firehouse in NH when I was a volunteer; You realize pumpers have 500 gallon water tanks?

Needless to say, riding on the back (1980s) was discouraged in the winter lol


Totally understand. I was just thinking of the engine oil. Referring back to the lifeboat scenario, we would unplug the shore power and take off bow and stern lines while the engineer down below opened the sea chest valve and set up the electrical and whatever else. When he hollered okay, I hit two buttons to start the respective engines. At that same time the deck crew threw off the lines. In a emergency situation as soon as I could clear the dock I floored both throttles. At that moment the effects of the heated oil and coolant in the water jackets disappeared as the cold water dropped the temps pretty quick. I would notice that after 1-2 minutes the engines ran much better. The initial throttle up produced some smoke as well.

In a normal call with no life threatening urgency we would take it easy for the first 5 minutes give or take. It depended on the weather and temps. On the PNW coast, water temps are pretty cold even during summer. I should also add that these Detroitís had turbos as well IIRC.
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#4713470 - 04/01/18 06:16 PM Re: Fire Trucks and oil changes [Re: otis24]
BrocLuno Offline


Registered: 09/06/15
Posts: 5240
Loc: Kalifornia Kollective
Yeah, but there are extenuating circumstances. I was a Fireman and then an Engineer (fire apparatus) for 7 1/2 years in my earlier life. Worked Forestry fire program and city stuff.

You have to understand the small and medium engines (the actual trucks, not the motors) are usually vacuum assisted brakes and they go from off stone cold to full RPM and full load accelerating out of the barn in like 45 seconds. The older trucks are carb'd and have manual chokes. They may run rich for up to a minute as they come up to temp...

The larger engines are air brakes, but they are hose hooked to the shop air compressor, so they do not have to wait to build air pressure. They also go from stone cold to full RPM in maybe a few seconds longer.

We changed oil at 500 miles, grease, brake adjust, etc. New air cleaner element or wash the oil bath after every fire outing. They can be pumping under substantial load in smoke and embers. Things get filthy quickly ...

Our trucks were mandated to run Delo 400 15W-40 unless they were at Susanville, Truckee, or some other very cold spot. Then they got 10W-30. This was before anyone heard of 5W anything ... No synthetic oils. All premium dinos. Even then the reasons were given for better (thicker) residual film strength on cold start. They sit in a big garage and never freeze, so it all works fine.

If we were on extended fire duty (like I did three fires in a row ending up in SoCal), we had to come off the line to get serviced at 1,500 miles - no questions. And we beat on those trucks mercilessly day in and day out. Stone cold to 70 MPH as fast as you could shift them. Runs from NorCal to LA on the governor the whole way. The only time they idled was between assignments. Maybe an hour here or there. Or, they idled all night long if you were on perimeter watch. Had to, to keep the batteries up and the radios hot ...

A fire trucks life is not as easy as it seems ... Yes, they would go over 100,000 miles if they did not age off the line first. A commercial truck on the same chassis would be expected to go over 300,000 w/o major engine work. We might roll a set of rods and mains in at 50,000 miles. Usually when they were getting clutches ...


Edited by BrocLuno (04/01/18 06:21 PM)
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