Keeping your cool
Experts offer their tips on ensuring that refrigeration investments pay off
You would have to look to Africa or the Middle East to find similar conditions that challenge on-road refrigeration and airconditioning that are a part of Australian life.
Sure the majority of the busiest parts of the road network are First World but enormous stretches are difficult and remote, meaning equipment here often has to function at optimum levels for longer than most other places. This puts the onus on owners to ease the strain on machinery in between service intervals.
With that in mind, ATN sought out two refrigeration service providers for their wisdom on how to get the best out of their systems.
Thermal Mark Transport Refrigeration, in western Sydney, provides refrigerated solutions for trucks, semi-trailers, utes and vans. Its MD, Marc Gauci, is in no doubt where transport operators are doing themselves a disservice.
“The main reason refrigeration units break down and underperform is from a lack of scheduled servicing and maintenance,” Gauci, experienced as a master technician in the transport refrigeration industry, tells ATN. “Preventative maintenance is always the best way to approach it.
“When a customer calls up or a unit comes in for diagnosing, we usually find the unit has been subject to extended periods of lack of servicing and or maintenance.
“During the scheduled servicing and maintenance program we provide at Thermal Mark, our master technicians can inspect the refrigeration units and report on any potential faults to be rectified before it reaches the costly stage of breakdown, loss of product/ payload, extensive repair or replacement due to failure.”
His company recommends regular maintenance of refrigerated trailers at 1500 hours, 3000 hours and 4500 hours annually.
Thermal Mark national sales and marketing manager Shaun Evans emphasises development of staff in service firms is crucial to a positive outcome for fleet operators.
“Our staff go through extensive training programs whether it be in sales or the technical department to provide our customers with the right information the first time,” Evans says.
“We understand that having refrigeration units fail or become problematic can add costs to companies’ maintenance budgets and, even worse, have the potential of losing a client themselves from having product spoil due to temperature- sensitive environments becoming unstable.”
Technical staff will be involved with “visually inspecting the unit, cleaning any oil spills, clearing debris, making sure air flow is
“Keeping the condensers clean of leaves, bugs and dirt will put a lot less pressure on the system”
unobstructed, rotating fan motors and blades, tightening any electrical connections and more”.
Few states have the extreme climatic differences that South Australia experiences, which is where Adelaide’s MooreAir comes in. Whether in the mostly scorching north or the temperate and often wet southeast, certain points are good for almost anywhere.
“Keeping the condensers clean of leaves, bugs and dirt will put a lot less pressure on the system, as well as regular checks that the fan motors are all running,” MooreAir service manager David Moore says.
“This is all you really need to do between services to make sure the system is looked after.
“A little trick people can do on the really hot days is water down the condenser coil with a fine mist; this will cool the air- conditioning or refrigeration system down quickly and keep it from going out on high pressure.
“Yes it is simple, but it makes a big difference as it cools down the cab or the refrigeration unit quickly by lowering the temperature of the refrigerant by the water evaporation off the external coil once it is cold, then the refrigeration or air- conditioning can cope much easier – it also helps with the initial fuel consumption.”
Moore is another keen on preventative maintenance. “Train the mechanics to look for any signs of oil on the airconditioning system parts. This is the sign of leaks, so repairs are needed,” he advises those who control fleets.
“The driers can vibrate to pieces internally on rough roads – this ends up blocking up the rest of the system, so they need changing regularly.”
There are certain points on the units that are prone to getting clogged, which are reasonably easy to check but tend to get overlooked.
“Clean the bugs out of the external radiator as this will lower the pressures and save you fuel,” Moore says.
“Make the system operates more efficiently; do not hit the radiator with a high-pressure cleaner as you will bend the fins and that is worse than bugs.”
Then there are times when a customer will notice a symptom of another issue that needs attention first.
“Normally you are told it needs re-gassing. But the gas has to escape through a leak before it needs re-gassing; under legislation, the gas cannot be reinstalled until the leak has been fixed,” Moore points out.
“Most people are in a hurry so they only want a quick fix, but, with airconditioning and refrigeration, until you have fixed the obvious things and undertake a performance check, you cannot tell what, if anything else, is wrong with it, [such as] blocked airflow, not getting cold due to blocked valves.”
Then there is the problem SA has in common with those areas that make up by far the greater part of the Australian land mass, along with Africa and the Middle East.
“Yes, dust is a big issue – it gets into the cooling radiator or evaporator, and because they are moist it forms hard mud in the coil, quite often blocking it up, and duct work quite often falls off, so the air is being delivered behind the dash and not to the driver,” Moore says. “This is usually an issue when other trades have had the dash to pieces for some reason.”
Above: Units come in many shapes and sizes Right: There is no substitute for examining the innards Below: Thermal Mark national sales and marketing manager Shaun Evans Opposite top: Trucking in Australia is tough on refrigerated equipment
Above: A condenser that has been knocked around, which led to the compressor failing