Experiencing breakdowns can be catastrophic especially if your van is the lifeblood of your business operations. Regular maintenance will save you the hassle of business downtime and expensive costs for rectifying problems with your van.
While vehicle maintenance can seem a little taxing to keep up with, in the long run, can help your van serve you for ages. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or not, keeping up with your van maintenance is essential. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take a look at essential maintenance tips to keep your van in tip-top condition.
Tips for Efficient Van Maintenance
Besides taking your van for a professional check, there are plenty of DIY activities you can do to ensure your van is in optimal condition. The maintenance tips should be done before any journey commences and after. By performing routine maintenance, you can identify potential problems and plan for rectification before they become major issues.
When we talk of maintenance, what comes to mind is checking the engine oil and other mechanical issues. But rarely is cleaning thought of, even though it’s equally important. The best way to keep your van in good condition is to ensure it’s cleaned at the end of the day. Regular cleaning keeps rust at bay, but it is also vital to prevent contamination of your products. It also gives you the chance to spot damages that occurred without your notice.
The key van cleaning tips should include washing, scrapping dirt, and airing. When washing, empty the van and use a pressure jet washer to clean the interior. Wipe down the door seals, ceiling, walls, and floor. Scraping is essential for removing difficult stains while airing out dries everything properly. If not dried out properly, the dampness could lead to the growth of moulds that could damage perishable goods or products.
Routine Tyre Check
Vans that are constantly on the run with heavy loads tend to have the tyres wear out faster. So, regularly checking the tyres ensures that you’re not caught off guard by a tyre burst. Inspect the tyres after every use for bulges and cuts. If you spot any damage, repair or replace the tyre right away before the next use.
Check the treads to ensure the tyres can give your van substantial grip on the road. The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm but if you want your tyres to serve you well, the thread shouldn’t be lower than 3mm. In some vans, there are tread wear indicators (TWI), which are tiny raised lines in the grooves, to help you read the depth.
Most importantly, check the pressure of the tyres to ensure it’s at the right level. Under or over-inflated tyres can cause problems and may pose potential safety risks such as poor handling and braking. It may be tempting to overlook tyre pressure especially if you’re between deliveries. However, maintaining optimal pressure can help keep the vehicle off the garage.
Also, check the wheels for proper alignment. It’s not possible to identify misaligned wheels by simply looking; this may require you to do a driving test to notice. Ensure that the van also has a spare tyre and tools for changing the tyre during emergencies.
How often do you check the level of coolant or engine oil? Keeping these fluids at optimal levels is the first step to preventing major damage or breakdowns from happening. The coolant is vital in cooling down the engine; if overheating occurs, it could lead to a cracked engine block and consequently oil leaks. Engine oil lubricates the moving parts of the engine while also preventing corrosion. Driving with reduced oil levels or dirty oil could lead to hazardous breakdowns.
Other essential fluids you should keep in check include brake fluids, power steering, and screenwash. Most vans have manuals on how to check these fluids and maintain them at optimal levels. Ensure that you do a fluid check every morning before starting your day.
Check the lights
Driving with faulty lights is not only illegal but can also compromise your van’s visibility on the road. So, this check should be done after every use in the evening to ensure the indicator, brake, reverse, hazard, and beam headlights among others work optimally. To perform light checks, switch them on and off while a colleague monitors their behaviour. Any faulty lights should be replaced before your next van use.
Check the battery
The fact that the vehicle ignition can start doesn’t mean the battery is safe and sound. Inspect the battery and ensure it’s well secured. Check the terminals to ensure they’re working as required and that there are no leakages.
If you notice the van’s ignition is taking longer to kick in with intermittent failure to start, it could be a sign that the battery is failing. Measure the voltage to ensure it’s 12V and if not, replace the battery before your next trip.
Watch out for exhaust smoke
When your van’s exhaust smoke becomes noticeable, it’s an indicator of an unhealthy combustion. Using the wing mirrors, check the back to see if you can spot any smoke. Whether black, white, or blue, the presence of exhaust smoke should be a warning sign of an impending problem.
Exhaust smoke could be an indicator of several underlying issues. It could be due to overheating, resulting from engine block heated residues, faulty wire casings, or overheated liquids. Your van’s coolant system may also be faulty or the engine may be running low on lubrication. It’s not easy to tell by just visually checking the smoke. Have the van inspected by a mechanic before using it again.
Inspect the windscreen, wipers, and mirrors
Some cracks or chips can be too tiny for you to spot easily. That’s why it’s crucial to inspect the windscreen regularly for these damages. No matter how tiny a crack is, it shouldn’t be overlooked as it can pave the way for other bigger and costlier problems.
Check the windscreen wipers to ensure they can move freely and wipe the windscreen as they should. If you notice problems, it could be a sign that you need to replace the wipers.
Inspect your mirrors, both driving and side mirrors to ensure they’re in good shape. In addition, check the window control system for faults.
Inspecting your van’s interior has everything to do with comfort just as much as safety. Apart from checking the air conditioning, ensure you have a well-stocked first aid emergency kit. Check the different gauges on your dashboard, fan, and seat belts for enhanced safety.
Insulation and bodywork inspection
How often do you inspect your van for corrosion and damage to the body? If not spotted on time, these problems could progress to affect the vehicle’s performance and its internal cooling system. If you transport chilled goods, you may eventually start noticing problems. This could also affect your chances of fulfilling customer needs and satisfaction.
Any holes, bumps, corrosion, or damage spotted needs to be sealed correctly using the right sealant. Better yet, you should consult professional help to have the issue inspected and rectified for good. If you overlook these issues, they may progress to cause further problems in the long run and increase your van downtime.
Check your van insurance
While not necessarily part of maintenance, without your van’s insurance being up to date, you can attract the long arm of the law your way. So, it’s also good to ensure your van’s insurance coverage is up to date. Also, ensure that any modifications to the vehicle are within what’s permissible so that cover isn’t breached.
Know when to upgrade
If you’ve had a van for several years and the frequency of breakdowns is getting out of hand, the right thing to do might be to replace it with a new one. When the cost of repair and maintenance is becoming too much for you to bear, explore the various van financing options to help you upgrade to a new model.
Getting Ready for MOT Inspection
Like regular cars, your van needs to go for an annual check by the Ministry of Transport (MOT) to ascertain that it’s roadworthy, especially if it’s older than three years. Besides doing your van’s regular maintenance, ensure you’re up to date with the paperwork.
Keep records about fuel consumption, tachograph, road tax, and annual tests. Have an organised system of records to ensure important information about your van is up to date. If you have a fleet of vans, you can benefit from fleet management software to keep all details legally compliant.
To ensure your van passes the MOT check, it’s crucial to have professional van service carried out when it’s due. Generally, manufacturers have a recommended guideline on when the service should be done, either once or twice every 12 months, or after a certain number of miles.
Timely professional maintenance ensures your van is set for the MOT and is also in excellent condition so your business doesn’t suffer from unnecessary downtimes. In the long run, it’ll also help you save money on costly repairs.
Final Thoughts on Regular Van Maintenance
Carrying out regular maintenance on your business van is the key to its longevity and your business enjoying downtime-free operations. While it may be tempting to keep postponing rectification of a minor issue, doing so for long could welcome more problems. In the end, you may have to foot a huge bill and further ruin your business operations.
Swiss Vans recommends performing routine checks at least every evening and morning to ensure nothing goes amiss. Depending on how frequently you use the van, it’s advisable to have at least one professional inspection every quarter of the year. This will not only help identify looming problems, but it’ll save you the hassle of incurring higher costs in the long run.