It is no secret that harsh winter conditions and freezing temperatures can be hard on any vehicle. For fleet vehicles, which can be on the road for up to 12 hours per day, wear and tear are greater. For that reason, winterizing your fleet is crucial before the first snows fall.
The good news is that a little bit of maintenance can go a long way. Being prepared for the winter months does not take a major investment in time or money. There are a few things that you can do before the temperatures start to fall to ensure that your fleet will be best equipped to handle the harsh conditions to come.
Preparing for the Winter
Proper fleet maintenance is not rocket science. With a little bit of foresight and preparedness, any fleet can be ready to tackle the frigid winter months. A few items should be on any winter maintenance checklist, all of which will give you peace of mind.
The investment is minimal, both in time and money. Considering the headache it can save, investing in maintenance and preparation is crucial, particularly when winter is right around the corner. Here are a few of the most beneficial and important ways in which you can prepare for the frigid months to come.
Replace Filters and Drain the Water Separator
Any water in your vehicle’s systems can harm injectors and fuel pumps when temperatures drop below zero. Failing to take these precautions can lead to potential engine startup issues in the cold.
Many fleet owners assume this is something known as “fuel gelling.” The real problem is that water icing over within the filtration and storage systems eventually causes blockages in the filters when the weather starts to turn.
Simply replace any of the water-absorbing filters in the vehicles and make sure that you have the water separator drained regularly. Both take no time at all and can save a lot of hassle throughout the winter months.
Winterized Fuel is Your Friend
Two common complaints are usually tied to colder weather. The first is a lower fuel economy. The second is a failure of the vehicle to start when temperatures fall below zero. But some of that can be dealt with by using seasonally enhanced fuels.
These fuels are meant to be used at low temperatures, some even as low as -30° F. Some have a cold filter plugging point (CFPP) that can get as low as -55° F. Combined with an additive package, fuel economy and horsepower can see an increase of up to 5% during the most frigid months.
Increasing fuel economy and horsepower can be a great way to keep fuel costs down during the coldest months. Where other fleets struggle, yours can stay ahead of the game during the winter.
Check Those Fluids
Don’t just assume that any oil used in a fleet vehicle is the same. It could wind up being a costly endeavor. Using the wrong oil, especially during the winter, can wind up creating far more unnecessary wear on the engine than you realize.
For instance, heavier oils can be a little too viscous and struggle to achieve the necessary lubrication that is required for lower temperatures. Making a move to a full-synthetic oil, one that has a lower temperature viscosity, can help with cold startup and cranking.
When in doubt, check out the owner’s manual to find out what the viscosity for cold weather is. Check coolant, brake, power steering, and windshield washer fluids as well, topping them off where necessary. It is those little things that can have a large impact throughout the winter months.
Keep Up with Maintenance
No matter what time of year, maintenance can go a long way toward keeping your fleet running optimally. Cold weather, in particular, can play hell on the average engine’s various wearable components.
Remaining proactive with maintenance can help keep ahead of that wear and tear. Checking and replacing worn hoses, belts, and brake pads can wind up saving you major bucks on repairs down the line. Not to mention the time wasted in the shop undergoing those repairs.
For diesel models, there can be some variations to be aware of. For instance, it is imperative to check the glow plug operation as well, ensuring a smooth operation throughout. The small things add up over the life of the vehicle.
Keep Drivers in Mind
While all of the focus heading into the winter can be on protecting the vehicles and preparing them for the tough months ahead, it is all too important to keep the drivers in mind. After all, without them, the vehicles in any fleet would be essentially useless.
When the winter months roll around, it is crucial to ensure that defrosters and heaters are working properly. Moreover, make sure that each vehicle has been properly prepped with road flairs, emergency kits with water and rations, a solar blanket, reflective triangles, jumper cables, a fire extinguisher, and more.
For both fleet managers and drivers alike, winter can be a major challenge. Taking these small steps can add up, having a significant impact on the way each vehicle runs. Keep yourself and your fleet prepared with a few basic steps.
Don’t Let the Weather Get the Best of Your Fleet
With winter coming, you don’t have to be at the mercy of Mother Nature. With a few simple maintenance steps, you can ensure that your fleet is ready to keep its schedule even in the face of harsh conditions and temperatures. Don’t be caught in an untenable situation because of a lack of preparation. By taking action now, your fleet will be able to hold up better through the toughest months of the year, all of which means holding schedules and keeping unpleasant surprises to a minimum.