Winter is Coming: Performing Proactive Maintenance

Posted by Stacey Papp

If you are one of the 10.7 million people who tune in to “Game of Thrones” to see who’s is losing their life (or their clothes) on a given week, then you’re intimately familiar with the hierarchy of the world in which the show takes place. 

The balance of power is based on the medieval feudal system, which kept most of the power concentrated in the hands of the king and a few über-rich land-holding lords, and everybody else in varying levels of servitude to the class/classes above. There are several “Great Houses” on the show, which are the most powerful nobility, and one of the ones you’re supposed to root for is House Stark (no spoilers on how many Starks are still actually living).

The “words” (or motto) of House Stark are “Winter is coming.” Hailing from the cold dark north, their words basically mean to be prepared, because summer ain’t gonna last forever and you’ll be freezing and snowed in soon enough.

These words really couldn’t be more appropriate for field services companies, especially at this time of year. For businesses in any climate that gets gnarly winter weather – whether that’s snowstorms, ice storms, hailstorms or torrential rains – it really pays off to start thinking about what should be done about truck maintenance now rather than waiting until the bad weather’s started.

So what can you do to prepare your fleet for winter before it actually is here? Here’s your checklist.

1. Check spark plugs and replace any that are worn.

2. Test the battery to avoid breakdowns.

3. Check and top off any low fluids.

4. Check and replace any worn wiper blades. In areas that get heavy snowfall, consider switching to heavy-duty blades, which can cut through ice buildups (to an extent). 

Check headlights and consider storing spare bulbs in trucks. An out headlight in a snow squall can be a real safety hazard. They’re easy enough to pop in and out, so keep some spares in your trucks and make sure drivers check the lights before they drive off each day.

6. Check tire pressure – often. Tire pressure can change because of extreme temperatures in winter, and improperly inflated tires can’t grip the road as well – which is crucial on icy, snowy winter roads.Check tire treads for wear and sidewalls for dry rot. 

7. Consider winterized fuel. It’s common to see a drop in fuel economy as the temperatures likewise drop. Some seasonally enhanced diesel fuels can operate in temperatures as low as -30°F, and some additive packages increase horsepower and fuel economy up to five percent.

8. Drain the water separator and replace filters. Water in the fuel systems can damage fuel pumps and injectors in sub-zero temperature, creating issues when starting up a cold engine. This may be because water is icing up in fuel storage tanks and filtration systems and can be avoided by replacing water-absorbing filters and draining the separator.

9. Clean and wax the exterior before winter, and wash trucks regularly during winter. A good coat of wax will help protect the body from snow, ice and salt, and regular washes help to remove the salts that can cause rust and body damage.

10. Check and replace any worn belts, hoses and brake pads. 

OK, so that’s … a lot. How are you going to keep track of what you’ve done, what you still need to do and what kind of new schedule every single truck is on once you’ve done stuff like changing out brake pads?

GPS vehicle tracking software makes it easy to keep track of truck maintenance schedules – whether you’re managing a fleet of two or 200. Maintenance alerts can be set up to inform fleet managers when vehicles are due for specific maintenance, preventing breakdowns or non-starts, even on frigid winter mornings. Alerts can be set based on calendar time, engine-on-time or mileage, depending on the service. And keeping better track of maintenance schedules isn’t the only benefit (think better customer service, better visibility, higher productivity and on-point safety as well).

Unlike in “Game of Thrones,” our winters and summers fortunately do not last for years – but even four to six months of bad weather can seem like forever when you’re trying to keep up on maintenance. Do yourself a favor and get it done now – and make sure you have a way to keep track of everything you do.

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To get yourself through the winter and to stay ahead of maintenance, download our eBook on why vehicle maintenance really does matter.