Late fall is the perfect time to check your fleet vehicles and perform regular maintenance to ensure they're ready for winter. Prepare for impending cold temperatures by checking the engine, battery, tires, and other vehicle functions to ensure safer working conditions for employees. The following checklist contains everything you'll need to get your vehicles winter-ready and make certain your drivers remain safe.
- Perform engine maintenance. Check the engine belts and hoses, and replace them if they show signs of significant wear and tear. This is a relatively easy and inexpensive fix that can prevent serious problems. Be sure to check the glow plug operation if your fleet runs on diesel fuel.
- Check the battery. Battery-related issues can happen in any type of weather but the majority happen in the cold, especially if the battery is past its prime. Test all vehicle batteries at the beginning of the winter season, and clean all terminals and connections thoroughly. Don’t hesitate to replace the battery if you’re concerned with its reliability.
- Consider the fuel. The type of fuel you put in a diesel vehicle matters when temperatures drop below 10 degrees. The best type of fuel for cold weather is ASTM D-975 Grade 1 diesel fuel, an ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel meant for cold weather conditions. Aside from choosing the right fuel, you should also check the fuel filter and drain the water separator regularly to ensure it doesn't freeze.
- Change or fill the coolant. Check the date of your last coolant replenishment. Antifreeze can dissipate over time which can lead to overheating your engine. Regular fleet maintenance calls for old coolant to be flushed out and replaced every two years.
- Check the heater and defroster operations. These functions are essential to your employees’ safety and comfort when driving fleet vehicles in the winter, allowing them to stay warm and alert and improving visibility in icy conditions.
- Maintain wipers and windshields. Good visibility is a key to safe driving. Winter conditions such as snow, slush, mud, and salt can create additional hazards. Check all windshield wipers to ensure they are in good working order and are not damaged. Check windshields for cracks, pits, and chips and have them replaced or repaired, as needed. Frequently check windshield wiper fluid levels to ensure they are full. Use de-icing or low-temperature fluid in winter to prevent freezing.
- Check tire traction. Having proper tire traction is vital year-round, especially in the winter. To avoid or minimize sliding on snow and ice, maintain at least 5/32-inches of tread thickness. A thicker tire tread helps the tire chains work effectively. To maintain proper traction, check tire pressures when the temperature begins to drop. The pressure will drop as the weather gets colder.
- Provide essential safety items in each vehicle. Each vehicle should be equipped with a first aid kit, bottled water, road flares, a blanket, and jumper cables.