Bugged By Lovebugs? Tips To Keep Your Semi Truck Radiator Clean And Cool

Driving a semi is a great way to travel about the country and get paid for it. While this type of lifestyle can be incredibly satisfying, it is a job that requires the driver to stay alert in order to prevent unnecessary damage to the truck they are driving. Part of every driver's duty is to monitor their rig and ensure it is operating correctly. If an issue develops, the driver must be ready to take appropriate action to ensure additional damage does not occur.

One frequent problem drivers encounter are swarms of insects that get caught in the fins of the truck's radiator. These bugs prevent the radiator from using the surface area of the fins to cool the engine, leaving it at risk of overheating. If the driver does not notice the engine is heating up, severe damage or even engine failure can occur quickly. 

Meet the Lovebug, Mortal Enemy to Semi Truck Radiators

Sometimes called March flies, lovebugs are winged insects that swarm twice each year as part of their mating ritual. These swarms usually occur in May and September and can contain hundreds of thousands of bugs flying close together. When motorists encounter these huge swarms they may experience issues including low visibility, damage to the vehicles paint, slippery roadways and cooling system issues. Semi trucks often fare worse that smaller vehicles because the surface area of their radiators are much larger and capable of collecting more of these insects.

Proactive Solutions to Prevent Damage

While lovebugs are a safety risk for motorists and capable of doing extensive damage to vehicles, little can be done to prevent them from swarming each year. Although there are more than two hundred types of this insect found around the globe, the two types found in the United States are actually beneficial for their role in helping to deal with decaying plant matter. Insecticides cannot be used as a method to control them because of the affects it would have on bees, and other beneficial insects. In addition, the application of insecticides could also endanger water supplies and crops.  

There are steps semi drivers and other motorists can take to minimize the damage to their vehicles during the swarming season of the lovebug. 

  • Avoid driving during the peak time for lovebug swarms to form, usually from the middle of the morning until dark
  • Wash vehicles frequently when you must drive during the swarming season to remove accumulated insect debris
  • Apply a coat of wax to protect the finish and make removing insect debris easier
  • Keep windshield washer fluids full
  • Carry cleaning solution and paper towels in the vehicle and stop frequently to clean the headlights and windshield to improve visibility 
  • Drive slower to lessen impact and help reduce the amount of insect debris that accumulates on the vehicle and in the fins of your radiator system
  • Monitor the heat gauge carefully and be prepared to stop and clean the radiator fins if the temperature begins to climb
  • Consider installing an insect screen or protective open-weave fabric over the grill of the vehicle to keep the radiator's fins functioning properly

When Damage Occurs

Drivers are often surprised by the sudden swarming of lovebugs, especially on the first day of the swarm. When this happens, there may be no time to prepare. Drivers who encounter swarms of these insects and find their vehicles overheating should stop immediately. Find a safe place to park and turn the engine off to prevent further damage. If possible, clean the fins of the radiator and see if the truck will resume operating within normal temperature ranges. If the radiator is damaged, it will need to be replaced immediately with a good quality semi truck radiator before driving further.

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