Winter is hard on all kinds of vehicles, so it should come as no surprise that fleet vehicles have comparatively high failure rates during the coldest months of the year. Fleet managers should not despair, though. Just follow these tips on how to keep company vehicles running efficiently in the cold to keep them operating at peak performance even in harsh, northern climates.
Start developing a winter maintenance plan well before the first frost. Purchase fluids in advance and come up with a schedule for checking tire pressure, fuel filters, batteries, engine belts, and hoses, many of which will be more prone to failure under extreme weather. Make sure that all vehicles remain covered by auto insurance for businesses, even if they won’t be in constant use.
Keep Vehicles Well-Fueled
Don’t let fuel levels in any of the fleet vehicles drop below half a tank. When the weather is cold, water vapor can collect in the bottom of fuel tanks, where it can be drawn into the lines and prevent engines from starting. This is especially important for gas vehicles, although diesel fleet managers should also play it safe and ensure that their drivers know to keep their fuel tanks topped off.
Some fleet managers also purchase gas-line antifreeze for their vehicles. This product simultaneously absorbs water that would otherwise become trapped in the fuel lines and lowers its freezing point to keep fuel flowing better for cold-weather starts.
Keep Fluids Topped Off
Oil changes should always be performed according to the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications, but this is especially important in the winter. Consider using a lower-viscosity oil, as well. Make sure that all the fleet vehicle’s other fluids are topped off prior to the start of winter and keep a careful eye on levels of coolant, power steering, brake fluid, windshield washer fluid, and especially anti-freeze.
Check Tire Pressure Often
Check the tire pressure on all company vehicles at least several times a month. If the temperature has been fluctuating significantly, check the pressure even more often. Precipitous drops in temperature can lead to pressure changes, which can leave drivers without the grip they need in already difficult driving conditions.
Maintain Good Visibility
Fleet managers should consider switching their vehicles’ windshield wipers to heavy-duty blades before the first heavy snow. While ordinary wiper blades are fine for summer rain, they won’t do much against serious snow and ice storms.
It’s also important to check each vehicle’s lights periodically throughout the winter months, as visibility can also be impaired substantially by failing headlights. Make a point of cleaning off the headlights at least once a week and change out any bulbs that are growing dim. Ensure that all drivers receive adequate training on how to drive in the snow, including using low beams in traffic and using the right edge of the road as a guide to combat the effects of glare.
The Bottom Line
Winter can be a difficult time of year for drivers and fleet managers alike, but with proper preparation and maintenance, it doesn’t have to be. Keep fluids topped off, especially fuel, and switch to a lower viscosity motor oil. Make a point of changing out the blades and keeping a careful eye on things like tire pressure and headlights and the vehicles should stay in good shape, keeping their drivers safe even in the toughest driving conditions.
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