Aerials, Apparatus, Chassis Components, Ciampo, Features, Pumpers, Rescues

Fluids, Lubricant Charts and Information Placards on Fire Apparatus

By Michael N. Ciampo

With all of the mechanical equipment (auto-lubrication systems, hydraulic ladder racks, telescoping light towers, etc.) and gizmos and gadgets on many newer fire apparatus, it can be overwhelming for the chauffeur/engineer or driver of the rig to keep all the information in the forefront of his mind. When getting a new apparatus or even running a spare, loaner, or reserve rig, fluid levels could be different, may have changed, or there might be new types of fluids that must be added. Keeping those quantities and types straight can sometimes be a nightmare—especially if you have to pull out the operator’s manual and search for them. Sure there’s newer technology like smart phones and tablets where we can “Google” the information quickly, but is that always possible while on the apparatus floor, repair shop, or broken down on the side of the road? In addition, if mechanics are dealing with numerous types of apparatus from different manufacturers in their fleets, quantities, capacities, types, and sizes can always be different. Plus if any apparatus was to get a flat tire and the chauffeur wasn’t sure what number to relay to the repair shop, it could make a simple tire change turn into a dilemma. NFPA 1901 requires such information to be placed on the apparatus. To assist the apparatus operators and mechanics, some departments have created a “Quick Information/Lubrication Guide Chart” to take some of the guesswork out of remembering all those numbers and capacities while also making it easier to retrieve the information quickly.

One of the first things to consider when you are creating this chart is where you want to locate it on the rig. It must be easily visible and accessible for the chauffeur to locate it and use it. Don’t affix it to the rear of a compartment wall where other equipment is going to block it or the equipment vibrates up against it while the rig is traveling over the road and wears off the information. If the chart is affixed to a compartment door, make sure that either a protective layer of Plexiglas covers it or that it is made up of a rugged material to withstand being brushed up against while removing equipment. On some of the newer FDNY apparatus, the plate has been attached to the lower panel of the interior of the cab’s front step panel on the chauffeur side. (photos 1, 2, and 3). There is a step light nearby so the chart can be viewed easier in areas with limited visibility. If this area is chosen, ensure that the chart isn’t mounted low because the chauffeur’s boot could hit it while climbing into and out of the cab and cause damage to it over a period of time.

While looking at other types of apparatus, the chart has been found to be on the driver’s sun visor so it is easily viewed and usually isn’t susceptible to damage because it is out of the way and the visor isn’t repeatedly used (photo 4). Another consideration is to make the chart’s background bright with letters that stand out for easy viewing. The Orlando (FL) Fire Department’s fleet of Stuphen fire apparatus has a few different charts on the apparatus depending on the type of apparatus it is. The new heavy rescue has the chart placed up against the lower front wall of the rig on the engineer’s side by the steering wheels shaft way. Underneath this chart, the body manufacturer has also installed two information charts on the left front wall of the step (photos 5 and 6). On its new tower ladders, the main chart is located in the same position, and just beneath this chart are two aerial data charts mounted near the front step to provide a reference for a host of material that deals with the apparatus’ aerial functions (photos 7 and 8).

Most of the charts have a wealth of information on them, including the following fluid types, amounts, or capacity levels listed:

  • Motor oil
  • Engine coolant
  • Transmission fluid
  • Drive axle fluid
  • Power steering fluid
  • Fuel tank capacity
  • Hydraulic generator fluid
  • Aerial hydraulic fluid
  • Windshield washer fluid
  • Diesel exhaust DEF (urea fluid)
  • Diesel fuel tank capacity
  • AC compressor oil
  • AC refrigerant
  • Cab tilt fluid
  • Pump transmission fluid
  • Hydraulic oil
  • Hydraulic ladder rack fluid
  • Auto lube system grease 
  • Filter types, part numbers
  • Belts and hoses-type, part number

Additionally, the chart may have some standard information on it such as: the VIN number, date of manufacture, serial number, engine type, gross vehicle weight, tire sizes by axle and their loads and pressures, maximum tire speed, and chassis exterior paint colors. The chart also reminds mechanics and apparatus operators that there are points needing lubrication that are not serviced by the auto lube system. Many times these points include the driveshaft, upper steering shaft, lower steering shaft, turntable bearing, and platform pivot pins. Many apparatus may have a more specific chart on them specifically for the type of rig it is. For example, a tower ladder may have different information than a standard pumper may have on it. One example is that the engine may have pump size and pressures on it whereas an aerial may have the type and size of the hydraulic pistons/cylinders on the rig.

These new updates to apparatus may seem simple but the real benefit is that, when it comes to repairs and the information is needed quickly, it is readily accessible to those who know the location of these charts. Remember, we are dealing with fire apparatus—the longer they are out of service the less capable they are to save lives and protect property.

MICHAEL N. CIAMPO is a 30-year veteran of the fire service and a lieutenant in the Fire Department of New York. Previously, he served with the District of Columbia Fire Department. He has a bachelor’s degree in fire science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. He is the author of “Compartment Corner” on www.fireapparatus.com. He is the lead instructor for the FDIC International Truck Essentials H.O.T. program. He wrote the Ladder chapter and co-authored the Ventilation chapter for Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II (Fire Engineering, 2009) and is featured in “Training Minutes” truck company videos on www.FireEngineering.com.