Protocol to winterize fleet vehicles
Source: FleetAnswers It is not too late to winterize fleet vehicles. A business that relies on a fleet of vehicles must maintain a constant vigilance where preventative maintenance is concerned to protect their assets. There are several avenues of approach to keeping operating costs to a minimum while maintaining the highest dollar per mile average possible.
The immanent onset of adverse weather requires a schedule of vehicle preparedness to reduce the chances of vehicular failures and costly downtime. The vehicle maintenance necessary to winterize the fleet is one side of the equation.
The flip side is employee adherence to cold weather procedures upon returning to the base of operations. This relates to washing the salt from the vehicle, filling the fuel tank to prevent condensation from forming, checking tire pressures, plugging in block heaters and the like.
The use of a vehicle check list is recommended where the operator must have items checked off before parking.
Consider ‘Live GPS Tracking’ devices. They offer a very rapid return on the investment and protect your assets-both vehicle and customer alike. They provide vehicle tracking with 5 or 10 second updates, ignition status, turn by turn tracking, comprehensive playback, start and stop reporting, idle times, speed, maintenance alerts and so on.
The advantages are numerous. It allows for better route planning, increase productivity, reduces labor costs and increases fuel economy as well. The employee’s awareness of the on-board GPS tends to discourage unproductive activities. As a bonus, it lowers insurance rates due to the ability to monitor activities in real time.
Maintenance Workflow for Winterizing Vehicles
1. Check the date on the side of the batteries. If the battery is 3 years or older replace it with a battery with no less than 650 cold cranking amps (CCA).
2. Use a carbon pile to check the battery to ensure that there are no bad cells. Clean or replace any corroded terminal connectors or cables.
3. Monitor the alternator-charging rate.
4. Inspect the belts for cracking or fraying.
5. Check the water pump for leaks at the front bearing.
6. Check the clutch fan for proper operation.
7. Open the radiator cap and check the antifreeze concentration with a hydrometer. Add a 50/50 mix of water to antifreeze as necessary to achieve the proper level. Fill the coolant reserve bottle.
8. Change the oil and filter. Use 5/30W oil for the cold weather.
9. Replace the windshield wipers with heavy-duty blades.
10. Measure the tread depth in the tires. Replace any tire with less than 4/32 of tread left. Install tires that are appropriate for the anticipated weather, snow tires if appropriate.
11. Ensure all vehicles are carrying the following:
- Set of chains
- Jumper cables
- Spare tire and tools for changing the tire
- First Aid kit
12. Inspect the brakes and inner and outer tie rod ends. Make repairs as necessary.
13. Top off the fuel tanks. Keep them topped off at the end of each work cycle to prevent accumulation of condensation that can freeze in the fuel lines or damage fuel injectors.
14. Fill the tires on all vehicles with nitrogen. If it isn’t available on-site, most service facilities offer very inexpensive nitrogen fills. Nitrogen is unaffected by temperature and maintains the tire pressure much more effectively than air. The return is in the form of a reduction in tire wear by 20%.
15. Inspect the interior heating system. Make sure the heater control has the ability to change vent operations from defrost to floor and so on.
16. Install oil preheaters (inexpensive electrically heated dipstick). Use of the preheaters over night or an hour before starting the vehicle which results in significant fuel savings from shorter warm up periods and far less drain on the battery.
17. Wash and wax each vehicle thoroughly for protection from the elements. Wash the salt from all vehicles before parking them when appropriate to prevent premature rusting.
Heavy Diesel Winterizing Tips
In addition to the above winterizing steps, employ these tips for big rigs.
1. Switch to winter D1 or D2 with the highest ‘Cetane’ rating possible at the pump. The higher the Cetane rating the less the tendency to gel in cold weather.
2. Replace the water filter and drain the water separator. Keep the water separator drained on a daily basis to prevent freezing.
3. Replace the ‘air dryer’ between the air compressor and wet tank. This filter is responsible for removing contaminants and moisture from the air brake system.
4. Inspect the block heater cord and heater operation.
5. Test intake heaters and glow plug operation.