No matter how we may long for the warm days of summer, winter has arrived. Whether it's snow, sleet, ice or rain, you don’t want to be caught unprepared when it comes to your vehicles. A little effort on your fleet now can save you a lot of time and money down the road.
Even in areas where the climate does not fluctuate very much, it's still a good idea to take advantage of seasonal changes to keep the company fleet in good shape. Business owners and fleet managers who prepare their vehicles for winter can drive down costs while increasing the operating efficiency of their fleet. With routine maintenance, a company’s fleet can become one of the most controllable expenses, especially for companies with mid-size fleets that depend on every vehicle operating at peak capacity.
According to the experienced mechanics and accredited Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) technicians at Enterprise Fleet Management, a good place to start is by following some simple maintenance tips:
• Winter Check. Inspect wiper blades and make sure windshield washers are working and washer fluid reservoirs are full. Check each vehicle’s battery for load capacity and the electrical/charging system for proper operation to avoid getting stranded. Also, check all belts and hoses for softness and wear.
• Oil Changes. Most people know that a vehicle’s oil should be changed at certain mileage intervals. Intervals for vehicles that idle for long periods of time, such as service or delivery vehicles, should also be measured using hours of running time. For vehicles that spend more time idling than driving, a general rule of thumb is change the oil every 200 hours of engine operation.
Electronically controlled transmissions require more maintenance to continue operating at peak efficiency.
• Transmission Maintenance. Electronically controlled transmissions require more maintenance to continue operating at peak efficiency. A rule of thumb is to change the transmission filter and fluid every 30,000 miles or less for vehicles hauling heavy loads, pulling trailers, or doing mostly stop-and-go driving. Check the owner’s manual for specific intervals for your vehicles and always use the correct type of transmission fluid recommended by the manufacturer. Under certain conditions, such as a major internal component failure, it may be cost effective to replace the entire transmission with a unit remanufactured by the vehicle manufacturer. A remanufactured transmission generally offers better reliability and a longer warranty, and the vehicle can be taken to any appropriate dealer for the repairs, eliminating the trouble of seeking out a shop for future repairs.
• Warranty Repairs. Failing to adhere to specific use and preventive maintenance guidelines established by the manufacturer may jeopardize your warranty coverage. Check your vehicles owner’s manual to ensure you are keeping up with necessary preventive maintenance checks.
• Filter Changes. Replace the oil filter, air filter, fuel filter, automatic transmission filter and crankcase filter at regular intervals to prolong the service life of the vehicle and lower repair costs. Consult your owner’s manual or fleet services company for information on the correct intervals for specific vehicles.
• Tire Replacement. Match dimensions indicated on the tire information decal for new tires. This will help avoid inaccurate speedometer/odometer readings, ABS brake malfunctions and multiple engine and transmission errors. If a vehicle’s tires reach 3/32 of an inch or less in tread depth, it’s a sign to replace them. Some vehicles with all-wheel drive require replacement of all tires at the same time because of potential driveline problems. Consult your owner’s manual or fleet services company to determine if this is the case with your vehicles.
• Tire Maintenance. Use a quality air pressure gauge to check pressure at least once a week. Correct tire pressure helps extend tire tread life and gas mileage and contributes to good traction and handling. Incorrect tire pressure can lead to premature tire wear, lessened fuel economy or possible tire failure up to and including a blowout. Rotation of the tires, recommended every 10,000 miles, will also extend the tire life further. This is especially true for front wheel drive vehicles.
• Engine Oil. Always use equivalently rated API (Automotive Petroleum Institute) oil that is recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. This will ensure proper protection of vital engine components at all temperatures and running speeds, assist in starting on cold days and help you get the most from your vehicle.
• Gasoline Selection. The gas you choose can directly affect fleet cost and vehicle performance. When choosing a grade or octane of fuel for your company’s vehicle, consult your owner’s manual. Gasoline that is too low in octane can drastically affect vehicle performance, while gasoline that is too high in octane can drive up expenses unnecessarily.
Hollis Allen is the manager of Enterprise Fleet Management's National Service Department and works with Enterprise’s team of veteran mechanics and accredited Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) technicians to serve the fleet maintenance needs of businesses with mid-size fleets.
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Enterprise has been recognized with the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) “Blue Seal of Excellence” award for 14 consecutive years, an industry record. For more information, visit the company’s website at efleets.com, or call toll free 1-877-23-FLEET.
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