When it comes to driver comfort, two key selling points for any truck are space and visibility. But big interiors and lots of window glass add to the demands placed on another critical driver-comfort item: the truck’s heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system.
The truck manufacturer works closely with climate-control system engineers to make sure the HVAC components, ducts, vents, and controls are well suited to the vehicle’s interior and expected use. However, today’s sophisticated HVAC systems still offer good opportunities to upsell.
“Talk to your customers about features that can improve the accuracy of temperature control and prevent premature failures of critical components,” says Gary Hansen, vice-president of engineering at Red Dot Corp. in Seattle. Red Dot designs and builds original and aftermarket climate-control systems for commercial trucks and vehicles in other demanding environments. He offers three HVAC system enhancements not to overlook:
1. COMPRESSOR PROTECTION.
Compressors are the No. 1 warranty-cost item in an air-conditioning system. “If you can add a device that prevents a compressor failure, that investment will more than pay you back in reduced maintenance costs and downtime,” says Hansen. An example is Red Dot’s ProTecht, which monitors refrigerant pressure and shuts down the system in case of refrigerant loss, excessive overcharge of refrigerant, or a system malfunction.
Integrated system protection may be required if your customer wants an extended warranty that covers HVAC system components. Consider a protection system that has built-in diagnostics and communicates with the SAE J1708 serial bus. This helps technicians efficiently troubleshoot problems.
2. AUTOMATIC TEMPERATURE CONTROL.
ATC uses a small computer and sensors to monitor temperatures and humidity levels inside and outside the vehicle, at duct outlets, and at the evaporator. It can fine-tune the temperature inside the vehicle automatically, controlling which ducts the hot or cold air blows out of as well as the fan speed and the position of the recirc door. If you call for 72 degrees F, ATC is designed to produce an even, consistent 72 F.
Some ATC units have separate controls for the cab and sleeper area, but that better systems allow the driver to control either system from a switch on the dash. If the truck buyer can have ATC in only one “zone” inside the vehicle, says Hansen, it probably should be the sleeper. “There’s nothing worse than waking up and the sleeper is an icebox or a sauna,” says Hansen. “ATC can maintain the temperature at a pre-set point.”
Watch out for low-cost systems, Hansen adds. They may lack the sensors or computing power to maintain a consistent temperature.
Fresh-air intake filters not only improve the air quality for the driver, they trap dust, dirt, and other airborne particles before they reach sensitive HVAC components.
Most commercial trucks have one or more filters are made of pleated paper, the same type of media you’d find on the air filter in an engine. Dirt and debris settle deep in the pleats and build up from there. However, talk to your customer about other options. HEPA filters, or High-Efficiency Particulate Air Filters, are made of high-density pleated paper and capture extremely small particles that might be harmful to people with allergies or asthma. Charcoal impregnated filters can help trap particles from cigarette smoke and neutralize the odor.
Regardless of the filter spec, says Hansen, remind your customers to follow the recommended inspection and replacement intervals. It’s work they can do themselves—or can have bundled into the regular service your shop might perform on the truck.