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December 21, 2020

Winter Vehicle Maintenance: Refrigerated Van 101

Wintery conditions can prove to be a great pain and challenge for drivers in the UK. Wind, rain, snow and cold – drivers are forced to face all of the elements and must be prepared for things to change on a knife-edge. Sometimes, there’s no warning with a change in weather and things can intensify in a matter of minutes. 

Not only must you be prepared for the worst, but your vehicle must be too. Regular maintenance should be carried out to ensure that your refrigerated van can continue to help your operations run smoothly and safely – even in the most extreme wintery conditions. Quite often, taking the correct precautions is foolishly overlooked. 

Don’t worry if you’re not sure on the correct checks that you should carry out – in this post, we’ve compiled a list of the necessary winter vehicle maintenance tips for you to easily follow. 

We’ll cover: 

  • Check Oil Levels and Keep Fuel Topped Up
  • Regularly Clean Your Lights
  • Often Test Your Battery
  • Don’t Ignore Warning Lights
  • Assess Your Tyres
  • Check Wiper Blades and Top Up Windscreen Wash
  • Top Up Your Antifreeze
  • Keep On Top of Services
  • Always Check Your Brakes
  • Always Be Prepared

Check Oil Levels and Keep Fuel Topped Up

Throughout the year, you should always check that your oil levels sit between the minimum and maximum line on your vehicle’s dipstick. If your oil level is too low, you run the risk of permanently damaging your engine or increasing the chances of breaking down. 

Always check your oil level once the vehicle has warmed up – cold vehicles give a false perception. Too much oil is as much of a risk as low oil! 

Keep your fuel levels topped up. While it may be cold and nasty outside, braving the elements for five minutes to refuel is a lot better than being stranded in the cold on the side of the road, isn’t it? Eeking the last few miles out of your petrol may please your wallet short-term but you’ll only end up having to pay more if you break down and need assistance. 

Regularly Clean Your Lights

Wet and gritty roads cause your vehicle to become dirty during the winter months – and quickly too! While you may be blindsided by the dirtied colour of your exterior, you should focus on your lights too. Dirty lights aren’t as bright as clean ones and this could be the difference between spotting small hazards in the dark wintery conditions. 

Keeping safe on the road should be the main priority all year round – however, extra caution needs to be taken in winter months. Keep yourselves, other road users and pedestrians, safe by cleaning your lights and ensuring that the visibility of your vehicle to others is maximised. 

Often Test Your Battery

Flat out or faulty batteries are the number one cause of breakdowns. With that in mind, battery health and charge levels are particularly at risk in cold temperatures. We’ve all been there, you set about your day and head out to the car, only for the engine not to turn on and you’re going nowhere fast, right? 

You should often test your battery. That way, you’re aware if there’s a fault with it or whether it’s on it’s way out. You can then arrange to change the battery in your vehicle and avoid any delays to your operations. You should aim to change your battery approximately every three years anyway to be on the safe side. 

Don’t Ignore Warning Lights

Ignoring warning lights is common – “it’ll be fine, it’ll go off” or “I don’t know what that means so I’ll just leave it and hope for the best” are two very foolish but common responses to warning lights. You should always address them – after all, that’s exactly what they’re there for. 

They’re indicating that there’s a potential issue, you should tend to it before a small problem becomes major. Warning lights can pop up due to several reasons – from deflated tyres to a problem with your engine. Don’t ignore them! Familiarise yourselves with what each warning light means, that way, you can be sure of the issue and resolve it as soon as possible. 

Assess Your Tyres

Thin tyres with no tread are seriously dangerous – but this danger is maximised in snowy, wet and rainy conditions where your stopping distance is increased. You need as much grip as you can get so that you can respond instantaneously to what’s happening in front of you and reduce the risk of an accident. 

Tyres need a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm by law – however, you can increase this to 3mm to be completely on the safe side. Plus, ensure that your tyres are adequately pumped up. Flat tyres can cause you to run less efficiently and consume more fuel. Also, they can increase the chances of dangerous driving – which isn’t ideal for your business’ operations. 

Check Wiper Blades and Top Up Windscreen Wash

As we’re all too familiar, we’re not short of much rainfall in the UK. Torrential rain can wreak havoc in driving conditions, so you need to make sure that your wiper blades are fresh and in full working order. Otherwise, rather than clear the rain and enhance your vision, they’ll smear the windscreen and impair it even further. 

Give your wipers a gentle clean with a cloth now and then to make sure that they have no tears or holes in them. If they do, you should repair them as soon as possible so that you can be safe on the road.

Windscreen wash is vital in the winter – you’d be surprised at how often you’ll use it to clear your windscreen. It’s handy and saves you having to pull over to clean the windscreen. Not only is it inconvenient to have no fluid in the washer bottle but you’re breaking the law too.

Top Up Your Antifreeze

Antifreeze plays a vital part in stopping the water in your engine’s cooling system from freezing over. So, you need to make sure that this is adequately topped up. Otherwise, you’ll encounter several problems when it comes to running your vehicle. Something as simple as this can lead to major problems and disruptions in your overall service. 

Depending on your vehicle and the type of coolant required, you should aim to change your Antifreeze every 2-5 years. 

Keep On Top of Services

Booking your vehicle in for interim and annual services can be a pain for businesses for several reasons. Firstly, if your van is in the garage, it’s not out on the road carrying out your operations. So, you may experience periods of downtime in which your business isn’t making money. However, it’s required by law and necessary to prevent future issues.

Depending on your vehicle, services are recommended every 12,000 miles or every 12 months – whichever comes first. Every van is different, so you should consult the owner’s manual and handbook to find the relevant recommendations and guidance. 

Don’t leave it to the last minute when booking a service – garages aren’t guaranteed to fit you in. You don’t want to have your vehicles out of action for longer than they need to be, do you? Plan and get it booked in – you’ll reap the rewards sooner rather than later. 

Always Check Your Brakes

In winter, your brakes are more important than in any other season. When the road is wet, stopping distances are naturally increased. So, your brakes need to be in tip-top condition to make sure that you can stop in time and keep yourself safe on the road. Plus, if you’re driving in icy conditions, you need to be able to react in time to keep yourself and others safe. 

If your brakes squeak, feel as though they’re weakening, grind or just don’t feel right, take them to a garage immediately and get them checked. Don’t shrug it off and ignore it. If your brakes fail, you’re taking lives into your own hands on the road and one wrong move can be fatal. And it’s not just lives at risk either, your vehicles and the stock onboard can be affected. 

Always Be Prepared

As the old saying goes, “fail to prepare, prepare to fail” – and it couldn’t be more true in this scenario. If you fail to prepare your vehicle properly for the testing winter conditions, don’t be surprised if something crops up and causes an issue for your vehicle and business. 

If you, unfortunately, do break down, make sure you’ve got the right equipment with you to keep you safe until help arrives. You should always have: 

  • Ice scraper and de-icer.
  • Warning triangle.
  • Warm clothing and a blanket, rug or sleeping bag.
  • Practical footwear like wellies.
  • Torch and batteries.
  • Mobile phone and charger.
  • Shovel (in snowy conditions).

Choose the Right Vehicle Fleet For Your Business

During the winter months, you need a vehicle fleet that you can rely upon more than ever. Vehicles are more prone to issues cropping up in cold temperatures and poor driving conditions, so you need to make sure that your fleet stands up to the test. 

At CoolKit, we’re experts in providing our customers with the right vehicle to meet their needs and requirements. We work tirelessly alongside you to ensure that the right vehicles are provided for your service. That way, you can be sure that you can rely upon your new fleet to get the job done every time. 

For more information on how we can help you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! Our expert team is on hand to answer any questions and queries. Plus, we’ll alleviate any worries that you may have. We look forward to speaking with you.